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S. Sudan elders, clerics laud release of former military chief

November 13, 2017 (JUBA) - Elders and church leaders involved in the negotiations to break the standoff that existed between the government and former military chief of staff, General Paul Malong Awan have praised the decision President Salva Kiir took to allow the former travel out of the country for medical reasons.

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Former South Sudanese army chief Gen. Paul Malong Awan speaking at a Dinka Malual community meeting in Juba on 1 November, 2012 (ST)

The head of the elders described the decision as an exhibition of leadership.

“This is a very important step to end tension and renewing confidence between of the president of the republic, the command of the army and the general public. It is an exhibition of leadership. It shows what our leaders are capable of doing. The way it has been managed shows that our leaders can amicably resolve issues like this without external intervention”, Deng Macham Angui told Sudan Tribune Monday.

According to the official, withdrawal of the government troops initially stationed around the residence of the ex-army chief and resumption of movement signalled the return to normalcy in the life and tranquillity of the compound.

Brig. Gen. Lul Ruai Koang, South Sudan army spokesperson said the decision follows the “peaceful” resolution of misunderstandings between government and Awan.

“Armoured Personnel Carriers and security forces initially deployed around the residence of Gen Paul Malong have been withdrawn,” said Koang.

“[The] Withdrawal came about after Gen. Paul accepted the presidential order on a reduction of his bodyguards”, he added.

Awan, a former elected governor of Northern Bahr el Ghazal state, lost his position of army chief in May, and his movement had to be restricted.

The army spokesperson, however, said the decision to withdraw security forces from the ex-military chief’s home came after a security review reportedly showed the latter posed no security threats to the government in particular and citizens in general.

The spokesperson for the presidency, Ateny Wek Ateny said the president’s decision to free the former military chief was made on “compassionate grounds and to allow the former chief of staff travel to seek medical attention”.

Last week, attempts by government forces to disarm the former army chief’s bodyguards failed, prompting an uprising from some troops loyal to Awan. He warned of bloodshed should government disarm and arrest his guards.