By: Dickens H Okello
Feb 11,2016 Tension is simmering in the South Sudanese capital Juba as internal wrangles between three powerful government officials including the president escalates.
The inner impasse was primarily between the Minister of Defense and Veterans Affairs, Gen. Kuol Manyang and the National army (SPLA)’s Chief of Staff, Gen. Paul Malong who have not been at the best of terms over the last two years.
Sources closed to the Juba administration told this website that matters worsened this week when the Defense minister asked President Salva Kiir to reign on the army chief.
The minister according to the Transitional Constitution is superior to the Chief of Staff but Gen. Malong who hails from the same state (Bar el Ghazel) with the
president, practically wields more power.
Minister Kuol is from Jonglei state though he is a Dinka like the president and the army chief.
A source told Chimpreports that over the weekend President Kiir and Gen. Kuol held a meeting when the army chief was in the countryside with a number of other generals. The meeting reportedly ended with the president agreeing to sack the army chief.
“President Kiir agreed to remove Gen. Malong last Tuesday. Nothing has happened and we don’t know what happened later,” the source said.
On Thursday, information tricked in from diplomatic sources indicated that Minister Kuol tendered in his resignation letter to the presidency, though no independent verification has been made. The minister is apparently angered by Kiir’s failure to sack Malong.
In an interesting turn of events, it has now emerged that the Chief of Staff disappeared or escaped from the capital after getting the wind that a serious move was being made against him.
Gen. Malong is reportedly holed up at his home area in Bar el Ghazel state with a number of allying generals.
“Gen. Malong got the information and made a tricky decision. His escape from here (Juba) has made it very difficult for the president to take any action against him,” a different source who also cannot be named said.
“He is now aware that Kiir is slowly leaning to Kuol’s side.” The source added.
The two generals have been close to Kiir since the beginning of the internal war in late 2013 when the national army disintegrated into two factions between the president and the former vice president, Dr. Riek Machar.
According to a diplomatic source, Kiir made strategic decision to sacrifice Malong for Kuol,
“The president was initially torn between the home boy and the distant friend from a fickle area (Bor). To avoid losing Kuol to Dr. Machar, Malong had to pay the price.”
Bor which is the capital of Jonglei state is where Machar made his first base and built his force from. It remains a tricky place for the administration in Juba.
News, according to those who have been closely following this development will either be announcing the resignation of Kuol as Defense and Veterans Affairs minister or the removal of Malong as the army Chief of Staff.