General James Hoth Mai paid $1.5 million in cash for a Melbourne mansion.
September 15, 2016
A South Sudanese army general who paid $1.5 million in cash for a Melbourne mansion abandoned his suburban hideaway after local Nuer community members realised that the man in charge of government troops who murdered their friends and relatives was living in their midst.
The Australian can reveal that when General James Hoth Mai returned to Melbourne in 2014, a delegation of more than 20 community members gathered at the Dandenong police station to warn that his presence could inflame ethnic tensions among those who had lost loved ones to wartime atrocities.
Matter Machar, a Nuer community member and schoolteacher who was part of the delegation, said his community felt betrayed by General Hoth Mai, an ethnic Nuer, for not doing enough to prevent the slaughter of his own tribespeople in the early months of the civil war.
“The community has fallen out with James Hoth because a significant number of relatives of people who live in Melbourne were killed during the war,’’ Mr Machar said.
“In the initial stages of the war, the general was chief of the army. The community was outraged when he came back to Australia.’’
General Hoth Mai, a former army chief of staff to the South Sudanese President, Salva Kiir, was named this week in a report by an anti-corruption watchdog that alleges millions of dollars had been stolen, and in some cases invested in foreign property, by the fledging nation’s political and military elite.
The Australian has confirmed the general came to Melbourne after he was sacked by Mr Kiir in April 2014, about five months after the outbreak of civil war in South Sudan.
During his visit, General Hoth Mai inspected a luxury house he bought, mortgage-free, in the name of his son in Narre Warren, 40km south of Melbourne’s CBD.
The general’s wife and children are long-term Australian residents who settled in Melbourne as part of the Sudanese diaspora in the 1990s and 2000s. The son, who technically owns the sprawling Narre Warren property, is an Australian citizen.
Taban William Gany, a Sudanese refugee who arrived in Australia in 2004, said the general was reviled by Nuer people in Melbourne because of atrocities carried out by soldiers in the South Sudanese capital, Juba. “We all heard what happened back home,’’ he said. “We have got relatives there.
“They are knocking on doors. They are killing Nuer people, targeting the ethnic group.’’
The UN, Human Rights Watch and major media outlets such as the BBC and Guardian newspaper have reported eyewitness accounts of Nuer people being rounded up and murdered by Sudan People’s Liberation Army troops in Juba shortly after the outbreak of civil war in December 2013.
The reports include accounts of troops going door-to-door in search of Nuer men.
At the time, General Hoth Mai was the commander of the SPLA and living in Juba. He is not named in reports of civilian massacres and The Australian is unaware of any indictments against him for war crimes.
When South Sudan’s ethnic tensions threatened to spill on to the normally quiet streets of Narre Warren in 2014, Victoria Police officers were thrust into the role of suburban peacekeepers.
After receiving the Nuer delegation, police met with the general and passed on the community concerns.
He left Australia of his own volition a short time later.
General Hoth Mai has since returned to South Sudan and been exiled a second time.
His current whereabouts are unknown.