Opinion

Defusing tension on Gen. Paul Malong issue

By Salva Mathok Gengdit, MP

As leaders of this nation, we should aim to achieve national unity and development through the core values of tolerance, forgiveness, respect for the rule of law and justice. We have emerging society that envisions common principles of equality, respect for human dignity, democracy, solidarity and fraternity. South Sudan, according to our governing laws is founded on those values. However, we face huge challenges that require our collective selfless efforts to overcome them for the common good of our people.

In the last few days, the country was plunged into heated debate of a possible new front in terms of crisis. This was occasioned by removal of the Chief of General Staff of the SPLA, Gen. Paul Malong Awan. Keeping other factors constant, I wish to shed modest light on the reshuffle of the Chief of Staff and provide a positive discourse with the aim to diffuse tension and to aright wrongful thinking of some section of the public.

Relieving Gen. Paul Malong Awan is a normal procedure in accordance with section 14 of the SPLA Act.

It is a prerogative of the President to appoint and remove Chief of General Staff of the SPLA. Gen. Paul Malong is well aware of this constitutional prerogative as a leader and a law abiding citizen.

Gen. Paul Malong’s decision to go to his home village is as normal as removing a post-holder in the SPLA rank and files.  He is entitled to move to his hometown after removal from office and there is no need for alarm. When I was removed from the position as Deputy Minister of Interior, I had to go deep into my village and embarked on farming on large-scale.

The intention of Gen. Malong could have been going to settle with his family and render his parental obligation, just like any family-man.

However, Gen. Paul Malong’s sudden departure without informing the leadership and without congratulating his successor may have caused avoidable tension.

The enemies and agitators against the government and people misinterpreted this sudden departure to mean revolt signal from Gen. Paul Malong. Those agitators always want the country to perpetuate into political crisis and military confrontation. It was misguided thinking.

Fortunately, the wishful thinkers were proved wrong by Gen. Paul Malong when he promptly heeded a call from President Kiir to return to Juba.

Gen. Paul Malong is a most wanted Army General by our enemies, internal or external. The telling example was laid bare when Gen. Olusogun Obasanjo report implicated Gen. Paul Malong, Gen. Marial Chanuong, Salva Mathok Gendit, and President Kiir himself to have been partly responsible for stoking the ongoing crisis. It was a politically motivated report and was rejected in totality.

It is our concern as government to ensure that Gen. Paul Malong is accorded adequate security guarantee in his house after removal from office, because real and perceived enemies are after him. He should be granted greater security.

Gen. Paul Malong is unduly targeted because of his decisive handling of 2013 crisis, which had threatened constitutional order of peace and security of the country.

The new development has it that Gen. Paul Malong had a quarrel with Gen. Akol Koor, the DG of Internal Security. It is rumored that their quarrel led to ultimate dismissal of Gen. Paul Malong Awan. However, the two Generals had nothing to fight over because they lead defense department and security department respectively. They served the same system with loyalty and commitment. I don’t know if their alleged disagreement is person or official, but I tend to believe that they have no problem and this allegation may have been engineered by our distractors who are on malicious intent to create chaos and instability within the system.

The relation between Gen. Malong and President Kiir is very cordial since the days of revolution up to this point in time. The two leaders have been working closely throughout the period and I don’t believe that there is ill intention on the removal of Gen. Paul Malong. The removal is a normal routine process conventional to all the armies’ world over.

I am confident that President Kiir will resolve this challenging matter amicably and promptly to disprove our enemies wrong. President Kiir will have to seek audience of his legal advisors who are neutral, with no interest in this issue to resolve the matter quickly.

I wish to advise Gen. Malong not to allow his removal to be influenced by our distractors to mean disrespect by the President. Gen. Malong will have to reflect on the cordial times with the President because I believe they still have much to do in the future.

On a serious note, Gen. Paul Malong originates from strong clan background which I am part of. Our clan is highly respected and doesn’t embroil in meaningless confrontation. The proud legacy created by Gen. Malong should not be eroded because of selfish doom antagonists.

We shall always endeavor, at communal level, to encourage unity in general. Unity is utmost and paramount and all energies shall be directed towards that goal. This endeavor will start with Gen. Malong issue, where people have to unite against the face of adversity. Since most people declared, Gen. Paul will have to stand firm to enjoy his proud legacy peacefully.

Lastly, I wish to congratulate the new Chief of General Staff of the SPLA, Gen. James Ajongo and wish him the best in his new assignment.

I advise him to cooperate and work closely with his Deputies and the Minster of Defense to set a positive precedent in our quest for national unity and prosperity.

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