No National Army in South Sudan: A Lesson learned from Malong’s sacking

By: Daniel Juol Nhomngek, Kampala, Uganda, MAY/12/2017, SSN;

On May 9, 2017 South Sudanese national army (SPLA) Chief of General Staff Paul Malong Awan was fired by President, General Salva Kiir Mayardit and replaced him with General James Ajongo Mawut. Consequently, tension began to grow between the President and the sacked general.

In fact, the tension was more exacerbated due to the fact that soldiers were deployed on Juba streets and around the sacked General’s home while plainclothes national security agents drove in and around the capital telling people to go inside their houses (according to…/south-sudan-army-chief-sacked-2/).

As the government went on preparing for war as seen above, Malong was preparing for peace. Therefore, he left Juba with intention of going to his hometown, Aweil, the same night as a way of reducing tension. However, leaving Juba was another problem as the government began panicking.

That kind of hysterical behaviour shown by the Government stroke the nation with fear and in particular, those who were overwhelmed with fear were those along the path he was about to pass when he was going to his home area, Aweil. The places that he was about to pass through were: Yirol, Rumbek, Gok State, Tonji and other places he would have passed as going to Aweil.

Many friends of mine I talked with in Rumbek in respect to the same matter expressed the same fear of war breaking out at any time. This was made worse when General Matur Chut laid the ambush to attack General Malong if he had passed through Western Lakes.

Fortunately, the governor of Eastern Lakes, Bor Phillip and the goodwill of the sacked General saved South Sudan from bloodshed. For that reason there is a need to appreciate the two personalities for the good work they have done.

Nonetheless, the incidence exposed the weaknesses on the side of the government in Juba as it’s shown that it does not know how to handle the matter. The same weaknesses explains the outbreak of 2013 South Sudanese war, which is still ongoing now. Had the SPLM handled the crisis within it at that time, the war would have been averted like it is done now.

However, that was not my interest as my interest was not whether there would be war or not but my interest was to see the reaction of “South Sudan National Army.” I have put the word South Sudan National Army in quotation because in reality there is no national army in South Sudan.

The above assertion was confirmed by what happened during the present crisis as it has clearly exposed the true nature of the national army of South Sudan. In short, there is no national army as I will give the reasons shortly but first, what is the national army.

The term national army typically means the lawful army of the state as distinct from rebel armies or private armies that may operate there. For the army to be regarded as lawful, it must be established by law of a country duly passed by the Parliament. In that respect, the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan, 2011 in Article 151 establishes the National Army of South Sudan and its functions.

The functions of the National Army (SPLA) are to:
—(a) uphold the Constitution;
—(b) defend the sovereignty of the country;
—(c) protect the people of South Sudan;
—(d) secure the territorial integrity of South Sudan;
—(e) defend South Sudan against external threats and aggression; and
—(f) be involved in addressing any emergencies, participate in reconstruction activities, and assist in disaster management and relief in accordance with this Constitution and the law.

In order to perform the above functions, the national army must not be controlled by an individual person or it must not owe allegiance to an individual. The national army is other words must be there to protect the nation but not the interest of any person including the president.

This was proved by the Egyptian Army in 2011 when it asked Muhammad Hosni El Sayed Mubarak to step aside when people went on the street demanding for his resignation. The same army did the same thing with Islamist President, Morsi.

As explained above, where the army is national then it also strong army. In addition, where the army is strong, there is also strong law and rule of law. This has been observed by Niccolo Machiavelli in his book, the Prince, “the main foundations of every state, new states as well as ancient or composite ones, are good laws and good arms you cannot have good laws without good arms, and where there are good arms, good laws inevitably follow”.

I wished the President of South Sudan would read the Prince by Machiavelli and put it into practice and had he done that South Sudan would have had strong army and the good law.

It is also important to stress based on the above quotation that without strong army, no matter how good the laws are there will never be strong law. In simple term, strong army is the foundation of strong law.

Nevertheless, with regard to South Sudan, there is no national army and this is why there is no bad law. The weaknesses of the army of South Sudan are rooted in the fact that the army is highly politicized, polarized and composed of bunch of militias and auxiliaries.

Thus, it is the fact that has been exposed by the removal of Former Army Chief, General Paul Malong Awan which is troubling. The main lesson learned about the nature of the army we have in South Sudan in the recent incident is that our army is tribal army but not national army. This is because a national army defends the nation not tribe mate as seen in the case of General Malong.

When the army heard that Malong was sacked, many SPLA soldiers from Aweil took their guns and followed him, which shows that the SPLA from Aweil are not there for the interest of South Sudan but to protect personalities. What saved South Sudan, however, was Malong not National Army because the SPLA Army from Aweil was ready to shed blood if Malong had not changed his mind to come to Juba.

The incident has also proved what happened in 2013 when the conflict broke between Riek and Kiir. As soon as conflict started, all the SPLA members from Nairobi ethnicity deserted the government in defense of Riek. At the same time, Dinka SPLA members began targeting Nuer members because of their ethnicity and moreover, both sides have been accused of killing South Sudanese citizens because of their ethnicity.

In addition, the recent conflict between Bor and Murle and Bor and Mandari, exposed the same fact that SPLA is not a National Army. This was shown by the fact that the SPLA members from Bor Community supported Bor Youth in killing Murle forgetting that they have a national duty to defend South Sudan.

Defending South Sudan means defending citizens of South Sudan and all people inhabiting South Sudan including Murle are citizens of South Sudan. This further means that the SPLA has a duty to protect all citizens where their lives are under threat.

In the same way to show that there is no national army, it is not wrong to state from personal observation that almost all SPLM leaders including the President are guarded and protected by their tribe-mates.

In addition, people are appointed in the SPLA based on tribes not because a person desires to serve the nation called South Sudan. The SPLA has been turned into business and employment forum where generals employed their own people leaving tribes without any generals out in the army no matter how capable a person is.

Because of that the army is highly fragmented as all members have different agenda and expectations.

In summary, as one of my friends observed sometime back and which I have learned in the present crisis caused by the removal of General Malong, I can simply conclude that there is no national army in South Sudan.

What is there is not national army but something composed of militias, auxiliaries, businessmen and women, untrained individuals.

All the above groups are made up of different persons with conflicting loyalties and interests; hence they are always weak in protecting interest of South Sudan since they put their interests or interests of their tribe mates above the nation.

In order to have strong national army that puts the interests of South Sudan above their own interests, the Government should sieve the present army to find out who are really trained and who are not. Those who are trained should be reoriented to take up responsibility of protecting the nation not individuals. Then, those who are not trained must be sent to the field for at least three years to undergo intensive training.

If the above is not done, then, I am afraid, South Sudan will remain weak in everything and people will continue to suffer as they bear the brunt of negative force of bad governance caused by corruption, or which causes corruption as the two are symbiotic.

Therefore, if there were a strong army and good law, then, the bad governance and corruption would have been controlled and citizens lead happy lives. As a result, South Sudanese would have lived in justice, liberty and prosperity.

NB//: the author is Human Rights lawyer that can be reached through:


  1. False Millionnaire says:

    If Malong has every good intention to go home,that’s the best thing to do giving the gravity of the circumstances. The God’s foresaken likes of général Chut who terribly failed western lakes masses are the problem in opting to confront him with violence instead of accommodating and reasoning with him in appeal for peace like the intelligent masses of the great land of Issaiah Kolang Mabior named Yerol are doing.
    When the bad luck took Garang away,the least SPLM/A among the ranks understood the successor wasn’t fit to feel the vacuum. The blind intégration of the malitias with their high ranks sacrificed Garang’s well organized SPLM/A.One couldn’t be too wrong to say that that first mistake was the basis for the events of 2013.The temptation to try to ascend to the helm of power was too great for the likes of Dr Riek to resist giving the fact that it became easy to see that the SPLA had become 75 % nuers and that two hours’ fight would do the trick.
    It’s needless to talk to much but it’s very intriquing what’s to be achieved with this crisis giving the too many problems that are threatening to bring down the sky upon the masses who are sheltering miserably under a leaking roof with neither food nor security.Have the élites really understood the stragic position the Brits and the yankees have taken along the Nile and in the depth of the security concil?Why is this crisis now when RSS has already been played deep to the neck into a UN’s trusteeship formula?

    • Elhag Paul says:

      Misuse of the word ‘elites’. There are no repeat no elites in South Sudan. Please check the meaning of the word properly. What we have in South Sudan is a bunch of criminals: murderers, rapists, robbers, thieves, cattle rustlers, illiterate buggers deluding themselves to be political leaders. Their foolery is now catching up with them. The violence they are dishing out to others is now about to be turned inward on themselves. For decades we told them this thing called splm/a will destroy all of us unless it is disbanded. They refused to listen. Let them now prepare for the chicken coming home to roost.
      The most strange thing though is that False Millionaire is accusing General Matur Chut of irreasonableness. The question to ask is: have the Jieng ever been reasonable in South Sudan? Look and review all the political decisions taken by the Jieng system/regime, which one has ever been reasonable? Crap!!!

      • Force_1 says:

        Elites are group that are the leaders with undisputed power to the rest in terms of ability or qualities and just because you don’t like the elites in South Sudan; doesn’t necessarily change their true powers to anything else.
        You can never have a country without the elites who spearheaded its inception and that’s true about USA and the rest of the independent countries throughout the world. Second; just because the rat doesn’t like the lion and all its powers; does not change the name of lion and its powers but it just means the rat will never possesses the lions’ powers!
        Do you have the abilities and qualities of elites? The answer is no or else you wouldn’t be ranting on the internet every other day and that’s true of a dog barking at the passersby!
        Let me tell you something; “Chickens come home to roost to everybody” but we will see which chickens coming home to roast will be more painful than the other; it’s just a matter of time and I beg your patient!

  2. kolong says:

    good observation but baffled though that you are just seeing this now….! other citizens have known this for quite a while and there is nothing to hide.
    troubling issue though is that the President in subsequent clarifications pledged to allow Malong use his own security if he felt insecure after the axe, what that meant is anybody’s guess!

    • info@southsudannation says:

      What it means is that the so-called National Army aka SPLA is a deeply divided army, with the jieng carrying the biggest portion while the other tribes are just insignificant. Even General Thomas Cirillo had clearly unveiled this problem.
      As reported, Gen. Malong was able to move out of Juba with a big convoy of jieng soldiers armed to the teeth and nobody dare to impede or curtail his moving out of Juba.
      Where was the so-called National security or the police and army?

  3. Deng Deng says:

    Earlier, some of us wrote South Sudan is a failed state ruled by warlords, rogues and crooks. Unfortunately, it fell deaf ears. Civil servants feel they are indispensable, they can misbehave, loot, abuse power and authority and go scotch free without accountability. This has set wrong precedence. The president is the appointing authority. He has absolute right to hire and fire. I am wondering what is this fuss about. Gen. Malong! He should not behave to be above the law and unruly. If he dares, he must be arrested and the law takes its course period! Enough is enough!

    • Wechda says:

      Deng Deng,

      Before I delve into the point I wanted to put across, let me be clear that I am a member of the opposition group so what is taking place in your camp is none of my business. Kiir and Malong are the same from my eyes.

      With that clarify, if you intend to judge, at least judge objectively. It seems Malong is your detestable fruit here and that is fine. I want to let you know that it is Kiir to blame for all these since he is in charge and failed to control the game. If you are raising a child, what you do as a parent is more likely to be copied by your child. Kiir is the parent of Malong and to blame Malong for his daddy’s depravity is childish.

  4. Gatdarwich says:


    You’re a staunch supporter of the traitorous Jenges Nationalist, Murderer Malong. For the first time ever, you humiliatingly admitted that “South Sudan has no national army”. Truth denial persons like yourself(Juol) always and eminently acknowledges the truth when the shit hits home. Killer Nyankiier has meticulously assassinated murderer Malong both militarily and politically. Killer Nyankiir will and shall never give murderer Malong a chance to revenge against him because Dinka kingdom cannot have two equally powerful kings period. Survival of the fittest game is on between Killer Nyankiir amd the traitorous-Murderer Malong.
    Enjoy the show!

    • Daniel Juol Nhomngek says:

      It is misused of words, I have never been a stanch supporter but I am driven by my personal observation because I need to be independent not to go by what other people think. It is because you are one sided that was the reason you used to see others as not independent. This is because you do not have a third party in your struggle a person should either be for them or for you and no third party. Sorry for you.

  5. Mading says:

    Editor. Not every situation is confronted militarily, the way government handled that situation is the way any smart leader can do things. May be things would have been different now, if it was handle in the way you want it, but government waited until things cool down before it get in touch with Gen Malong, and thing went well. Thanks to Eastern Lakes state governor Bor.

  6. Roberto Kasongo says:

    Daniel Juol,
    It is so sad that you just learned there is no National Army in South Sudan. Most citizens including children knew long time ago that we have group of militias and each group fights for their leaders interests. If we have National Army in South Sudan, political, ideological, and cultural differences can be resolved peacefully. Just look at the way murderer Paul Malong reacted to his dismissal as Army Chief. He was allowed to leave Juba with his followers, he thinks he is untouchable and South Sudan is his property.

    Roberto kasongo ( Bana Equatoria )

  7. Okuc says:


    We have been saying for long time that the power base of Jieng is fragile and it is the matter of time it will start crumbling like a house its foundation buckled under force.
    The Jieng elites thought that by maintaining the former liberation army whose echelons are Jieng commanders they are 100% secure of their domination over the rest of none- jieng in South Sudan. The SPLA have been used as a tool by Jieng elites to suppress and up root the none- jieng from their ancestral lands in Equatoria, Upper Nile and West Bahr Gazal on the pretext of fighting rebels in those States.
    Your admission that there is no National Army in South Sudan is recommended because some of you, I mean your fellow Jiengs who deem themselves beneficiaries of Jieng regime in Juba through the abused of power by Kirr and his mentors so – call Jieng council of Elders(JCE), are panicking when the cracks are starting to appear on the power base of oppression in South Sudan.

  8. BILL KUCH says:

    It has been like that and is always going to be. Anyone recruits for personal choice and the recruitment never been based on tribal ideas. It has been about someone who is willing to sacrifice. So, it is an individual commitment. Therefore; we should be talking about something relevant.

  9. False Millionnaire says:

    It sounds like an old recorded song played over and over in an old tape player in an advanced age of creative modern communication technology.
    Criticising Kiir sums up all what has gone wrong in RSS if that’s too difficult to comprehend in so far as he is the man in the center of power around which everything revols.Elhag hasn’t understood yet that having failed to differentiate between Kiir with power and ordinary jieng without power,he has succeeded to set ordinary masses against each other in a miscalculation of suing to tople Kiir. The jieng view him now as an enemy preying on jieng in compromised security conditions. But does he understand himself having become à serpent whose head runs the risk of getting choped off in the thinking of the families whose relatives got lost in the hell?
    Now whose action is a crap,Kiir’s who is carcaterized as jieng’s King or the small time Elhag with a lunny king’s dreams who relishes the carnige he has masterminded upon the masses?

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