South Sudan’s army began withdrawing troops from the capital, Juba, a key condition of a power-sharing deal between the government and rebels that seeks to end two years of civil war in the oil-producing nation.
Two companies comprising 250 soldiers left for Mogiri, on the Juba-Bor road, following a ceremony held at the presidential guard headquarters on Monday, army spokesman Philip Aguer said in an interview afterward.
“The process will continue until all the forces meant to be redeployed are out of Juba,” he said, without giving a timeframe. Logistical issues are slowing demilitarization plans, he said.
Fighting that broke out in South Sudan in December 2013 after a power struggle in the ruling party has left tens of thousands of people dead and forced 2 million others from their homes, according to the United Nations. President Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar in August signed an agreement to share leadership positions during an 18-month transitional period, which is due to begin Dec. 15 at the earliest.
Subsequent arrangements stipulate that the government and insurgents will both deploy security officers in Juba during the transitional period, while all other forces have to be stationed at least 25 kilometers (15.3 miles) outside the city, according to East African mediators and a rebel spokesman.
The UN aid coordinator in the country on Monday said violence and crime against humanitarian organizations is hampering their ability to provide assistance.
Workers were held at gunpoint during a raid by unidentified armed men on an aid group’s offices in Juba on Nov. 20, with “significant assets” stolen, the UN’s Eugene Owusu said in an e-mailed statement. Last month alone, relief groups reported 32 cases of attempted or successful robberies or lootings, including 15 in the capital, he said.