BY: Mayak Deng Aruei, USA, MAY/14/2017, SSN;
At a very young age, children are told to remember the Golden Rule: “Treat others how you want to be treated.” The headlines for the news outlets in South Sudan, and in the Region of East Africa was about the sacking of the SPLA (South Sudan) Army Chief of the General Staff.
For a country that celebrates nothing other than big names, the firing of General Paul Malong Awan caught millions South Sudanese by surprise. The actual facts as to what transpired on May 9, 2017 can be traced to fundamentals of security in the country.
Adding to the fading trust among the high-ranking members of the SPLM & the SPLA, the 32 federal states are proving something else.
It was a rumor until General Paul Malong Awan was relieved, his well guarded place couldn’t be infiltrated, all attempts thwarted and “he ran away to Yirol before handing over the office to the incoming Chief of the General Staff,” according to the President.
The loss of trust between the President and his former Army Chief of the General Staff has little to do with them as individuals, but rather with the inner circle which has a hidden agenda, and thirst for more recognition.
The term “scapegoat for the inefficiencies” was later authored to sugarcoat the rattling clearing of the thorny bushes. In South Sudan, the known facts and patterns make sudden change of command, and a rapid takeoff looked more than a preempted mutiny or rebellion.
For the records, not everyone can be bullied, harassed and humiliated without a price. The departure of the Elephant in the Room (Gen. Paul Malong) marked the end of political mockery in the Republic of South Sudan, and aspiring/young inexperienced politicians ought to re-examine their stances on national affairs.
First and foremost, General Paul Malong Awan should have been the last that President Salva Kiir could humiliate in the face of the struggling country, and the Government he helped stay in place.
Humiliation in the context of the sacking of the Army Chief has much to do with being relieved without prior consultations, and other options put on the table. Example, possible arrest as security assurances entailed.
In 2013, General Paul Malong Awan was quick to side with President Salva Kiir, at a time when political atmosphere was so cloudy, and when coalitions of political opponents posed a very serious threat to the President during the SPLM National Convention.
At the onset, General Paul Malong Awan, then the Governor for the defunct state of Northern Bahr El Ghazal organized a special session for the four states of Barh El Ghazal Region. The gathering of the Governors brought together leaders of Barh El Ghazal Region, and their citizens saw more years of President Salva Kiir in power.
In that meeting, Governor Nyandeng Malek showed little interest in such regional alliance, and Governor Paul Malong Awan called her out, pointing out that Governor Nyandeng Malek should have been the first to back President Salva Kiir since the two hailed from the same state (Warrap).
The gathering was a success, and the people of Barh El Ghazal stood shoulder to shoulder with the President, with some pledging unlimited support should South Sudan’s known patterns take their shapes.
Secondly, General Paul Malong Awan mobilized and trained the youths (Mathiang Anyoor) from his home state of Northern Barh El Ghazal, left Governorship at the dawn of rebelling forces, and became the Army Chief of the General Staff.
The fight was a tough race, and General Paul Malong Awan, nicknamed King Paul, kept on with the fight against Dr. Riek Machar of the SPLM-IO who declared Armed Resistance against the sitting president after his chances for running for presidency were demurred.
For more than three years, General Paul Malong Awan was the man of the people, Hero of all times, and the only General who had the guts to protect the territorial integrity of South Sudan.
As the dust settled down, the inner circle of President Salva Kiir closed their eyes, debunked everyone’s contributions, and put their own interests above that of the nation.
Thirdly, General Paul Malong Awan is a decorated General who has won the confidence of Jieng Council of Elders(JCE), an Advisory Committee made up of influential veteran politicians who served both in the old Sudan as well as in the Liberation Movement.
With all of that, the sacking of General Paul Malong Awan without proper consultations put President Salva Kiir in a very awkward position, and the Army became divided more than any time since the civil war erupted in 2013.
The challenges for the President intensified, and quite a number of active Generals reportedly left with General Paul Malong Awan when he reacted to his firing on South Sudan Television(SSBC).
The social media, a platform used by young literate South Sudanese and well established elites was jammed few minutes after the airing of the news.
Fortunately enough, the Army listened to the voices that called for calm, and General Paul Malong Awan took off with almost anything he wanted, and soldiers watched the convoys as they exited Juba.
It was one of the few recent times change of command where the Jieng Nation was asked to apply what make them unique among other communities.
The “wait a minute/let’s wait for more details” attitude, saved President Salva Kiir from being savaged by the most feared General of all times.
The term “Jieng Nation” does not refer to South Sudan as a Jieng’s nation, rather, it refers to Jieng’s society or society in the image of Jieng as a unique Group in South Sudan that has characteristics of a nation-state.
In their vast territories, Jieng have norms that are hard to be broken by their own people, they ask a lot of questions before starting a fight, and those compelled to go on their own become outcasts.
Three days into the military standoff, President Salva Kiir addressed news media, and had this to say: “So I am here to assure you, that the security situation remains normal and all citizens are urged to continue with their daily routine duties, because there is really nothing that people should worry about.”
With that being the rhetoric after the facts, there is a good reason to doubt the way and thoughts that led to the sacking of General Paul Malong Awan were put together and finalized into actual decision.
Some quarters, particularly the President’s inner circle, are illogically following the path not accustomed to by a politically fragile nation like South Sudan.
Like, seriously, why would people push the President to make such rushed decisions in the middle of the war that has taken unforgiving twists?
Those further attempts by the President to calm down the enraged General didn’t seem to help much: “Gen. Malong is now in Yirol, I didn’t talk to him this morning, I tried but I found that he was resting because yesterday his blood pressure shot up very high because yesterday when I talked to him, he was not in a good mood, he was in fighting mood.” This part explained something else in the mix of a murky military showdown.
On a final note, the sacking of General Paul Malong would have not made headlines had it been done logically and professionally, and without letting speculations move the desperate crowds.
The way it was done raised a lot of questions, and unearthed doubts that stemmed from behind the scene dealings.
The subsequent appointment of Gen. James Ajong’o Mawut was rushed, but nothing in the records to say something negative about the new SPLA Army Chief of General Staff. From the tone of the new Army Chief, the man is so logical, talked in a well organized manner, highlighted duties associated with his position, recognized the negative impacts of the ongoing war, aligned his tasks with those of other Army Chiefs elsewhere, and made important notes about the pending Peace Agreement.
The people of South Sudan should not be put into conflict for unknown reasons, and changes in the military, specially in wartime must be done professionally and ceremonies of outgoing officials must follow traditions expected in the military so as to avoid backlashes.
In ending this dreading piece, South Sudan’s ruling elites have lost integrity as the custodians of the new nation; they have tainted the founding principles, they have made it difficult for citizens to grow politically, they have derailed the smooth running of Government’s institutions, and they have impeded what should be normal transfer of servicemen from one branch to the other.
The sacking of General Paul Malong Awan is no different from cases where the political organizers/Ringleaders have been treated as Rebels, apprehended or pursued to the bushes.
Above all, those who are still in the game should be advised to avoid belittling, bullying, harassment and humiliation by surrounding themselves with trusted guys.
The coalition of community’s leaders, particularly Eastern Lakes state have saved the nation of South Sudan from irrational decision that would have ignited infighting within the ranks of the national army.
For another year, mutiny and rebellion would be meaningless to sycophants who have been mouthpieces for select groups. As a nation, South Sudanese need to deploy professionalism everywhere, approach political differences methodically, and free themselves from collusive partnerships.
©2017 Mayak Deng Aruei: He can be reached at Kongor.firstname.lastname@example.org