(From Various Sources - SSN) - South Sudan President Salva Kiir sacked his powerful, hardline army chief Paul Malong on Tuesday
, a government spokesman said.
General Paul Malong, long regarded as an ethnic supporter of Kiir’s majority Dinka tribe, was replaced by General James Ajongo Mawut, a close relative of the fired ex-chief. Not surprisingly, Malong has quickly made an about turn and is on his way back to Juba and possible reconciliation with president Kiir.
Not surprisingly to most South Sudanese, President Kiir chose to appoint another Dinka as Chief of Staff to replace the dismissed Dinka chief, a move seen by most other South Sudanese as a perpetuation of the tribal tyranny and domination as well as to continue with the tribal way currently being perpetuated by Kiir’s tribe against the majority.
Meanwhile, Ater Achuil Chol, representative of the Aweil leaders, thanked President Kiir for appointing James Ajongo as the new army chief.
“I am talking on behave of the leaders of Aweil. We thank the president for appointing our son James Ajongo as SPLA chief of staff, so we are very grateful, we stand behind our son to unite the forces to work for the unity of this country,” he said.
“The decrees are two: one for the relief of Chief of General Staff, General Paul Malong Awan, and another decree is for the appointment of former Deputy Chief of General Staff for Administration and Finance General James Ajongo Mawut as the Chief of General Staff,” Kiir’s spokesmen Ateny Wek Ateny told AFP.
Ateny said the move was a routine changing of personnel. “This is a position that can be held between two years and four years and Malong has spent three years so this is the prerogative of the president” he said.
In February several senior army officers resigned, accusing Malong of conducting an ethnic war against non-Dinkas and ruling with an “unqualified clique of friends and relatives”.
Among those who quit was Lieutenant-General Thomas Cirillo who has since announced plans to launch his own rebellion.
Malong is widely regarded as being the mastermind of fighting that erupted in the capital, Juba, last July killing hundreds and dashing hopes of a power-sharing government between Kiir and his former deputy turned rebel leader Riek Machar, a member of the Nuer tribe.
ECONOMY COLLAPSES: While critics say the economy of South Sudan has now “technically collapsed” and that no measures can rescue it, traders are calling for government intervention.
“The economy is now biting, people are suffering, prices of commodities have tripled. It’s only those in authority who can survive the current economic situation. Everyone in villages is crying out for help,” said Lojur Molu, a concerned South Sudanese.
Government officials in Juba, who earn about 1,500 SSP, cannot afford to feed their families and have opted to take their children and wives to refugee camps in Uganda, according to a senior Uganda police officer.
“In 2013, if a government worker was earning an equivalent of Shs700,000 as a salary per month, he would now earn only Shs2,000 if he continues to earn at the same rate,” the source told this newspaper last week, suggesting the crisis is compounded by the shortage of dollar.
“The government in Juba spent all its US dollars in the conflict,” the police officer said.
The Dinka and the Nuer are the two largest ethnic groups in South Sudan and have a history of bloody rivalry.
UN investigators were among those who blamed Malong for the bloody attacks in July in which civilians were killed and foreign aid workers raped.
The US subsequently failed to get Malong sanctioned and put on a UN blacklist, subject to an assets freeze and travel ban, for his role in the ongoing conflict.
South Sudan has been at war since December 2013 when Kiir fell out with Machar, accusing him of plotting a coup.
The conflict — characterised by brutality and human rights violations — has triggered famine in parts of the country, forced millions from their homes and killed tens of thousands so far.