JUBA, Oct. 29 (Xinhua) -- Shortage of food and medicine is forcing opposition fighters to abandon cantonment sites across South Sudan, threatening the country's efforts to build a new army, the body tasked with monitoring a fragile 2018 peace deal warned on Tuesday.
Desta Abiche Ageno, chairperson of the Ceasefire and Transitional Security Arrangements Monitoring and Verification Mechanism (CTSAMVM), said at least five cantonment sites are being deserted due to lack of food and medicine.
"The lack of sufficient logistic support to cantonment sites - especially food and medicine - has not been addressed and CTSAMVM is observing many of those registered forces now leaving designated sites including MirMir, Kendila, Sue, Ngo Alimah and Pantiit," Ageno said.
The September 2018 peace deal provides that South Sudan must form a unified national army of 83,000 troops before a transitional unity government is formed by Nov. 12.
But the process has been marred by delays over lack of funds and logistical constraints.
Opposition leader Riek Machar, who heads the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-In-Opposition (SPLM-IO), last week threatened to pull out of the peace agreement if President Salva Kiir goes ahead to form the unity government without resolving the pending security reforms.
The peace monitoring body asked the parties to the agreement to step up efforts to complete the remaining security arrangements before the Nov. 12 deadline.
Cantonment is a critical foundation in enabling the security arrangements to be in place, but progress towards full cantonment before Nov. 12 is now far behind schedule.
South Sudan descended into conflict in December 2013 after President Salva Kiir sacked his deputy Machar, leading to fighting between soldiers loyal to both leaders.
The conflict killed tens of thousands and displaced millions both internally and externally.
A peace deal signed in 2015 collapsed after outbreak of renewed violence in July 2016, forcing Machar to flee the capital. Enditem
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