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South Sudan Unity State Governor Detained Notorious Special Force Commander Gen. Mathew Puljang

Maj. Gen Matthew Puljang Top, South Sudan's outgoing Commander of "Special" Division in Unity state. Gen. Puljang, a former rebel commander, has been loosely allied to Kiir's government for the last 7 years but he maintained command of his militias within his home county of Mayom, Unity State, since he joined the government in 2013 (Photo credit: unknown/supplied to Nyamilepedia)
Maj. Gen Matthew Puljang Top, South Sudan’s outgoing Commander of “Special” Division in Unity state. Gen. Puljang, a former rebel commander, has been loosely allied to Kiir’s government for the last 7 years but he maintained command of his militias within his home county of Mayom, Unity State, since he joined the government in 2013 (Photo credit: unknown/supplied to Nyamilepedia)

September 3, 2020(Nyamilepedia) — A notorious South Sudanese militia commander, Major General Mathew Puljang, who has been commanding a parallel militia alongside South Sudan army under the command of President Salva Kiir has been arrested in the capital, Juba.

According to the latest report from the Small Arms Survey, the Bul-Nuer politicians and generals are having their own internal power battle and Gen. Mathew Puljang is among the latest casualties as the recently promoted Lt. Gen. Joseph Nguen Manytuil continues to consolidate powers and overrides his opponents.

Gen. Puljang is silently serving house arrest in the same prison where the former General Stephen Buay Rolnyang served his house arrest and although he may try to reclaim power, the militia general is also battling an unknown illness.

“Puljang is now effectively under house arrest in Juba. Though he would like to reclaim his position, he is relatively weak politically, and medical conditions force him to undergo regular treatment in Uganda,” Reads the Small Army Report in part.

Since January this year, there have been several reports speculating on the rift between the three most powerful Bul-Nuer sons, Dr. Nguen Manytuil and Hon. Tut Kew on one side against Gen. Mathew Puljang that is loosely backed by his deputy Gen. Joseph Manyuat on the other side.

According to the Small Army Survey report, Dr. Nguen Manytuil made attempts in January, 2020 to arrest Gen. Puljang in attempt to consolidate powers while waiting for his reappointment as the governor of Unity State; however, that did not end successfully.

“In January 2020, five months prior to his appointment as governor, Nguen attempted to consolidate his powers in the state by ousting Matthew Puljang, the then SSPDF commander of the Special Operations force of Division 4 – which was based in Mayom county and comprised almost entirely Bul Nuer,” the Small Arms Survey reports continued.

When Manytuil failed to oust or arrest Gen. Puljang within his means, he then brought Hon. Tut Kew into the game but still Gen. Puljang managed to resist their attempts and as a result the power wrangle led to infighting between the two forces of Puljang and Manytuil creating division along sectional divides among the Bul-nuer.

“He was joined in this effort by Tut Kew Gatluak, Kiir’s Presidential Advisor on Security, but their attempt was thwarted by Puljang and led to fighting in Mayom.” The Small Arms Survey report confirmed.

According to the investigative reports, when the two bulldozers, Gen. Manytuel and Hon. Tutkew, failed to contain Maj. Gen. Puljang within their means, they played president Salva Kiir’s cards and as a result Puljang was recalled to Juba and stripped off his command of the Special Forces.

“In response, Kiir recalled Puljang and other leading Division 4 commanders in Mayom to Juba. On 24 April Puljang was removed as commander of his special forces unit.”

His militias were left in the cold and instead ordered to join the SSPDF Division 4 in Bentiu; however, majority of them declined the presidential order and ran away with their guns. This group is accused of being involved in cattle raids and inter-communal fighting in Warrap.

“It was then placed under the command of SSPDF Division 4 in Bentui.”

“However, following Puljang’s removal, his former forces, angry and feeling abandoned by Juba, have launched raids into Warrap. On 2 May eight people died in a cattle-raiding incident in Dam. These raids also have political consequences. Some of the cattle taken allegedly belonged to high ranking Dinka politicians. In response, Major General Rin Tueny
“Janafil” Mabor, dispatched armed military intelligence personnel to Warrap to tame Puljang’s renegade forces.” The report continued.

The report further detailed that although the alliance of Nguen, Tutkew and President Kiir has tamed Maj. Gen. Mathew Puljang and seemed to have consolidated power in the hands of Nguen Manytuil, the coalition has created another problem that is increasing death of civilians among the communities of Warrap and Bul-nuer commutinies.

“Despite the political morass and power vacuum caused by Puljang’s removal, Nguen and Tut Kew Gatluak have insisted that Joseph Manuat, Puljang’s deputy, not take his place as they fear this would recreate another independent powerbase outside of Nguen’s control. However, at present, no one else can effectively command the Bul Nuer forces.” The Small Arms Survey report concludes.

After dismissing and arresting Gen. Puljang, Hon. Manytuil has been seen constantly traveling back and forth between Juba and Unity State and within Unity State as he tries to consolidate power.

His attempt to establish authority over Gen. Puljang forces in Mayom have so far been met with violence; however, if he succeeds, Gen. Nguen will most likely take the full control of all forces in Unity State.

“Following Puljang’s dismissal, Nguen travelled to Mayom to establish his authority over Puljang’s forces, but he was met with a great deal of hostility from civilians and soldiers in Mayom town. He now faces the challenge of asserting control over Puljang’s forces. If he succeeds, there is little to stop Nguen from having effective command of all of Unity state.” The report continued.

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