By Staff Writer
Lieutenant General Paul Malong Awan Anei is the fifth Chief of Staff of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). President Salva Kiir Mayardit just renamed the SPLA as South Sudan Defence Forces (SSDF) when he restructured the army into three institutions, namely the ground force, air force and air defence and navy units. Each of the institutions will be overseen by a commander. The decree for restructuring the army was issued on Monday 15th May, 2017 evening in Juba.
General Paul Malong was appointed on 24th April, 2014 replacing General James Hoth Mai.
He served as the SPLA Chief of Staff since 25th April, 2014 until his replacement by Lieutenant James Ajongo Mawut on Tuesday 9th May, 2017.
Prior to the appointment of General Malong as Chief of Staff of the army, he was the governor of Northern Bahr el Ghazal state. He was elected as governor of Northern Bahr el Ghazal state in the April, 2010 Sudan General Elections.
Malong’s removal was received with mixed reactions. Some people welcomed his removal whereas others were unhappy as their food had been taken away from the table. To them, the removal of General Malong was like a sudden departure of a father who is the only bread winner for a family to Britain without leaving any assistance behind his family in Africa.
His removal has been long overdue. Some people even say it is too late. It happens when the country is virtually devastated. This is because the man used all his energy to displace the inhabitants of many citizens of this country. A place like Lainya has been displaced by forces loyal to King Paul. Some citizens are in the bushes. They are surviving on fruits as we talk. They use herbs for treating sicknesses like malaria, flu, measles, and worms among others. Other people are now in the refugee camps because they have been forced out from their own homes. They have left their cassava, groundnuts, dura and other crops to rot because of insecurity. Yei is mostly in ruins due to his forces. Most people of Yei are either in the bushes or in the refugee camps in Uganda due to insecurity.
Morobo County has been abandoned for the government troops due to insecurity. The relationship between the government soldiers and the citizens is very sour. It has become unbelievable that opposition forces or rebels had been relating better than the government forces. This is because the government soldiers who are supposed to protect civilians have been drilled wrongly. What is the logic of killing citizens yet a government is there for civilians. Who will feed the government soldiers with food and information if the citizens are forced out from their homes? In Yei, Voice of America reported two weeks ago that some government soldiers still continue to kill civilians in Mugwo and some areas outside Yei town. For how long will killing of innocent civilians come to an end in this country?
Kajo-Keji County just got distraught in January 2017. All fingers point to our government army having a hand for the devastation of this country. The fight started at Romogi village on 22nd January, 2017 when a force of the SPLA-IO forces loyal to former Vice President Dr. Riek Machar stopped vehicles coming from Kajo-Keji to Juba. Surprisingly, according to the locals and eyewitnesses, when the government forces pursued the SPLA-IO all in vain, they returned on the innocent civilians in the area. This incident including previous incidents that happened in Nyepo especially in Kansuk Boma prompted all the people to seek refuge in Uganda.
As we talk, people at the Displaced Camp in Kerwa, Logo Boma in Liwolo County is the only place where some South Sudanese who do not want refugee life could be found in Kajo-Keji. That area is not under the control of the government but people are said to be happy. Some of them are said to be cultivating normally.
Right from Obama village on Juba-Nimule Road up to Pageri, no inhabitants can be found in the area. Those who dare to return are either killed if they are men or raped if they are women according to Voice of America reports. When any killing or rape is reported, fingers always point at our government forces.
The latest Pajok attack in Magwi County did not leave our government forces without mention. Some citizens ended up being forced to refugee camp in Uganda. They left all their livelihoods behind. Reports are that their corrugated roofs are being removed by own government soldiers. Looting of household utensils is all alleged on our government army. This really surprises everyone. The SPLA Spokesperson denies all the accusations labeled on the government troops. It is difficult to believe whether citizens can really manufacture stories to ruin their own brothers in uniform.
The latest Wau incident could not leave our government forces alone. All the odds for the civil population were attributed to them. Can the natives who have their own brothers and sisters in the army, police, wildlife, National Security and wildlife really accuse them falsely? Absolutely no.
Leave alone the latest attack on Aburoc, in Fashoda State. According to UNMISS, 50,000 Collo who are the main inhabitants of Wau Shilluk were reported in danger of being targeted by our government forces. It is really unfortunate that whenever the government forces clash with the SPLA-IO or any other armed group, civilians become a target of the government forces. They always accuse the civil population of collaborating with the armed opposition forces. They forget the fact that civilians find themselves as victims of circumstances.
The introduction of what people call ‘Mathiang Anyor’ into the South Sudan Defence Forces has seriously tarnished and ruined the image of the entire National Army for this country.
Although the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan was signed in Addis Ababa and Juba on the 17th and 26th August, 2015, no ceasefire has been experienced in the country during the reign of General Malong as the Chief of Staff of the SPLA by then. Fight still rages on.
Possibly, if General Paul Malong Awan could have been removed much earlier, many fingers wouldn’t have pointed at the government soldiers the way it is now.
All were not grim for the government during the reign of General Malong. He was able to regain control of Bentiu, Malakal and Bor which exchanged several hands times between the government and SPLA-IO forces loyal to former First Vice President Dr. Riek Machar Teny.
Of all the four Chiefs of Staff who were relieved from their positions, there was peaceful handover to their predecessors. It was only General James Ajongo Mawut who was rather unfortunate that nobody handed power to him. He just assumed his office with a welcome and handshake exchange as a usual system of handover in most countries.
General Malong was already in Yirol on his way to Aweil, his home area when General James Ajongo assumed his office.
The Governor of Eastern Lakes convinced him to return to Juba so that he could officially go back to Aweil as he planned.
On Friday last week, President Kiir told journalists in a press conference that General Malong was responding to him in what he called ‘a fighting mood’ when he called him on phone.
On Saturday 13th May, 2017, he was flown back to Juba. President Kiir pardoned all his body guards who went with him up to Yirol.
President met General Malong on Monday 15th May, 2017 but the meeting was reported to have ended without any breakthrough.
As reshuffle in the army is a normal routine like in any government institution, South Sudanese are longing for lasting peace in the whole country.