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South Sudan’s ousted army chief warns detractors of appropriate response

South Sudan's former army chief Paul Malong addresses the media after returning to the South Sudan's capital of Juba, on May 13, 2017 (Reuters photo)
January 9, 2018 (JUBA) - The former South Sudanese army chief of staff General Paul Malong Awan warned on Tuesday he would be forced to respond with appropriate and proportional force should the government officials continue to launch false accusations against him.

In a press conference held on Monday, South Sudanese President Spokesperson described Awan as a rebel, saying he was responsible for a number of attacks outside the capital last week.

“Malong is a former chief of staff of the army but in accordance with the tape, he’s a rebel. The government and the security committee will come with an appropriate response,” said Ateny Wek Ateny.

The new accusations by the spokesperson of President Kiir angered the former chief of staff who backed Kiir when the SPLM leadership members said he was not apt to lead the country and when Kiir had to face alone the forces loyal to his former vice president after the event of 15 December 2013 in Juba.

Awan issued a statement on Tuesday titled "The Reason Behind Provocations" where he sought to say he was the target of the security agencies and presidential aides looking for a scapegoat to maintain tensions and war in the country, their only means to remain in power.

“Ever since I was relieved of duty as Chief of General Staff, there has been a target painted on my back by elements within the government who profit from war. In the aftermath of my being reassigned, these schemers immediately smelt blood. Instead of bringing back peace, the government is busy creating more frontlines, " he said.

"If these provocations continue unabated, then I would respond with appropriate and proportional force, and the blame would be on the government,” wrote Awan in a response to the government declaration making him a rebel.

President on 9 May 2017, decided to sack Awan from his position as the security agencies kept reporting that the then chief of general staff and his supporters were planning to overthrow Kiir considering him as unable to resist international pressures during the war with the rebels.

Following his removal, he fled to Aweil but he was stopped in the Laks region state of Yirol and forces to regain Juba. The security community in Juba at the time said he wanted to go to his home area in preparation for a rebellion.

Awan narrated events that have occurred following his removal from power, citing concoctions and circulation of rumours about him starting a rebellion that brought in the president.

“That is why when I attempted to leave Juba for Aweil, I was intercepted at Yirol with the promise to clear any misunderstandings that may be there with the president. I later learnt as you all did, that it was a trap that landed me in secret house arrest," he said.

" When my illegal and secretive detention came to light, the schemers shifted their intentions and now they had to get rid of me. That is why they cordoned off my residence and surrounded it with a battalion of soldiers, and heightened tensions around Juba in the runner-up to my release on the President’s orders. The schemers in J1 were desperately pulling every trick in their bags to paint me as a serious threat to the government, with the hope of securing a Presidential order to attack and kill me,” he further said.

The ousted general gave his own vision on all these "schemes" against him saying these "provocations are created by gooks around the President" whose survival is contingent on a protracted war in order to facilitate their continued control of the state.

"It’s an open secret that most of the Presidential advisors were our adversaries during the liberation war, and are there to destroy SPLM from within," he asserted.

South Sudanese presidential spokesperson Ateny Monday gave detailed information about the alleged audio recording of intercepted conversations for Gen Awan with several opposition leaders including Joseph Bakasoro, former western Equatoria governor and former national security in the office of the president Oyai Deng Ajak.

He further claimed that Awan spoke with his supporters in different areas across the country ordering them to rebel and attack strategic positions like Juba and Wau.

However, Ateny said the presidency called on Malong and his allies to relinquish violence and join the peace process, adding that the government is ready to welcome Malong to Juba.

“We express our commitment to the ongoing peace revitalization process comes next month, we urge the officers who have rebelled on General Malong’s orders and all other opposition forces to refrain from violence activities and allow a peaceful solution to the political crisis in the country”.

The Dinka Elders Council has reportedly kept contacts with President Kiir and his former chief of staff in a bit to contain the situation and prevent further frictions within the Dinka groups.

Nonetheless, observers in Juba wonder if the reconciliation efforts between Kiir and Awan would succeed pointing that the latter is now in an open conflict with the establishment particularly the presidential entourage and the security community.

They agree that any escalation between the two sides would have a negative impact on the IGAD forum to ensure the implementation of the peace agreement of August 2015.