What on earth is going on in Juba between Gen. Paul Malong and President Kiir?

Posted: November 9, 2017 by PaanLuel Wël in Commentary, Contributing Writers, Junub Sudan, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

By Deng Mayik Atem, Arizona, USA

paul malong

President Salva Kiir, Governor Paul Malong Awan (Blue suit) and Cabinet Affairs Minister Martin Lomuro (black suit) during the public rally in Aweil, NBeG

November 9, 2017 (SSB) — What on earth is going on in Juba? The forces loyal to President Kiir are now surrounding the home of General Paul Malong. Not long ago, these two men were not only allies but good friends. Malong had taken over the army replacing Nuer general James Hoth Mai. General Hoth Mai was replaced because of the growing tensions and fighting between the central government— and especially the Dinka members of the government—with the supporters of former vice-president Riek Machar.

The depth of the friendship between Kiir and Malong is so strong that even while their dispute has been raging, Kiir’s wife, First Lady Mary Ayen Mayardit, went to the Malong compound to cook for the family after the tragic death of Malong’s daughter, Alakiir, in a tragic fire at the boarding school in Kenya which she was attending.

Despite this sense of closeness, the conflict between these two one-time allies rages. Why? First, there is the belief that Malong wants to take control of the government. This belief has been fueled by the reports of Director of National Security Akol Koor. Director Akol, a long-time ally of President Kiir, has had problems with Malong since Malong took charge of the army. Quite simply, there has been a turf war between them.

A second reason for the growing conflict between Kiir and Malong has been the law that the head of the army can only serve for three years. Designed to keep a strong-man from emerging to challenge the civilian government, this rule means that Malong was required to step down from his office.

In his place, President Kiir appointed James Ajongo Mawut. One of the things that makes this new appointment particularly interesting is that President Kiir has gone outside the Dinka community to find General Mawut; he is a Luo-Jurchol.

At the same time, President Kiir has shown his willingness to compromise by appointing Mawut who is a relative of Malong. Of course, there is a third reason, the rebels under Riek Machar claim that no peace will ever be achieved if Malong is in power.

Presently, the government’s forces surround the Malong compound in Juba. The president demands that his long-time friend and ally reduce his security forces, surrender his communication devices, and stay under a form of house arrest. Malong and his friends reject these demands and claim that there is no reason for them. He wants to return to his home in Northern Bahr El Ghazal.

Obviously, it would be easy for those who wish to dispute President Kiir’s authority to rally around Malong if he leaves the capital. This is especially true because General Malong has made such great contributions in the war for independence and in the government since 2011and because he is a hero to so many of us, not only from his own tribe and region but throughout our nation.

Trying to relieve this tension, Uncle Bona Malwal, one of the true elders of our homeland, is trying to act as mediator. Of course, all those who love South Sudan wish him success. But, what would success look like? Besides an end to the friction between these two leaders, what should we be hoping for?

First, we need a national consensus that war within our borders should be avoided. Let us gather the leaders of every tribe and every region, including of course Kiir and Malong but also Nuer leader and national 1st Vice-President Taban Deng. Let all our people commit to a new era of peace. Obviously, this is an essential part of the national dialog that has been forged by the government and the international community to bring all our people together.

Second, we need all the leadership skills and knowledge that our country can muster to face the years ahead. To obtain the cooperation of all, it may be time to change the various jobs and roles. Akol Koor and Paul Malong have many skills. Hopefully, President Kiir can find new positions for them both, positions in which they are not likely to conflict.

Third, this needs to be a clear path forward for the country’s political process, a path that includes elections for a new president in a timely manner and one in which all factions, tribes, and regions can expect to have their proper representation.

Deng Mayik Atem, one of the “Lostboys of Sudan,” is currently Secretary General of the South Sudanese Community Association in Arizona. A graduate of Arizona State University. He is currently writing a memoir” A Journey Across Worlds” and he’s an editor of an upcoming online Magazine “Ramciel. He is reachable at azdengatem@hotmail.com

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made are the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël: South Sudanese Bloggers (SSB) website. If you want to submit an opinion article or news analysis, please email it to paanluel2011@gmail.com. SSB do reserve the right to edit material before publication. Please include your full name, email address, city and the country you are writing from.

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