South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Friday accused the former chief of armed forces of failing to hand over office peacefully and being antagonistic in a telephone conversation after his hurried departure from Juba three days ago.
Speaking at a news conference held at the presidency in Juba to dissipate fears of a new armed conflict in the troubled country between him and Malong, President Kiir said citizens should cease from “inciting fear through the spread of unfounded rumours through social media.”
“I am aware that this change of command [in the army] and the subsequent departure of the former Chief of General Staff [Gen. Paul Malong] have caused some apprehension across the country. I am here today to assure you that the security situation remains normal and all citizens are urged to continue with their daily routine,” said Kiir.
In response to prepared questions from reporters working for the state-owned TV and Radio, Kiir further said Gen. Paul Malong is defying a request to return to Juba from the Lakes State where he has been stopped by local authorities from continuing to his home region of Northern Bahr El Ghazal.
“Personally, I am in communication with the former Chief of Staff, General Paul Malong Awan and I have assured him of his safety,” Kiir said adding that the phone conversations were not cordial.
“He (General Malong) was not in a good mood. He was in a fighting mood. I tried to calm down but he was rather wild,” he said, referring to a telephone call with former army chief who is in Yirol on Thursday.
He further accused unnamed foreign hands of supporting Paul Malong to turn into unplanned problems.
“It is the concern of everybody and nobody wants Gen. Paul Malong to run into such unplanned problems. There are so many foreign hands that are now seen behind Gen. Paul pushing him,” he said
Kiir said Malong did not hand over the office to his successor Gen. James Ajongo Mawut and failed to congratulate the new army chief and “he did not call me (President Kiir) to thank me for the period he spent as SPLA Chief of Staff.”
Kiir added that it was a wrong decision for General Malong to “run away” without handing over the office.
It remains unclear on Friday if Gen. Malong will arrive in Juba after failing to board a plane sent to pick him on Thursday from Yirol to Juba.
However, the President issued a written statement pledging to protect him and to facilitate his return to Juba.
Also, Kiir praised the former SPLA chief of general staff as a liberator and commended his service to the people of South Sudan.
This article was first published on Sudantribune