By Isaiah Makuei Kulang,
Feb 24th, 2018(Nyamilepedia) —– Recent weeks and months, a lot has been spoken and written about General Malong Awan. It is quite unfortunate that most of what is written is a blatant fabrication of the truth while in other instances, a clear effort to portray him as the devil incarnate.
It is an undisputed fact that throughout his distinguished career in public service, by the sweat of his brow, Malong has tirelessly worked for the emancipation of his fellow South Sudanese since the inception of Anyanya II. Due to the work he did for and with his community, his popularity grew in leaps and bounds and ascended to stardom status. It is this popularity that eventually led him to being the first elected Governor of the then Northern Bahr el Ghazal State after the very first and only elections held in South Sudan.
When hell broke loose in the Republic, he was at the forefront speaking against using the barrel of the gun to gain state power. He spoke against individuals who were intent on forcing themselves onto the electorate and urged for patience and tolerance. After all, we were all South Sudanese. If we burnt our country, we were the ones to bear the brunt. After more than 3 decades of war that left our country completely desolate, it was time for us to rebuild, to mend fences and regroup. To abandon our guerilla tactics and embrace one another. It was time for us to build and fashion our country in our own image. The image our forefathers dreamt of and wished for but never saw. We now had an opportunity to do just that. Actualize that dream.
Fast forward to 24th April 2014. H.E. Salva Kiir Mayardiit in his wisdom relieved James Hoth Mai as the SPLA Chief of General Staff and in his place appoints one General Paul Malong Awan. This appointment was treated with a lot of exuberance and the air was filled with buoyancy. As is his nature, he took this job with the seriousness it deserved. He tirelessly worked for his President and his country as the loyal soldier he always was.
On the 9th May 2017, Gen. Malong was relived as SPLA Chief of General Staff. The same night he left Juba and set off for his village in Aweil. On his way, reports flew all over that he had left Juba armed to the teeth with 2 platoons ready to start a rebellion from his home-base area of Aweil. It was also reported that orders were given from Juba for the arrest of General Malong and his troops immediately they got to Yirol and be repatriated back to Juba. In his wisdom, upon Malong’s arrival in Yirol on 10th May 2017, the incumbent governor of Eastern Lakes State Hon. Bor Wutchok and his government held meetings to persuade him not to proceed to Aweil but instead to head back to the capital, Juba since there was perceived apprehension he was bound to rebel against the government he had been serving. At that point, Malong accepted to go back to Juba but unfortunately before he set off, the talks broke down.
When elders from Yirol who reside in Juba got the news that the talks broke down and that Malong would not to return to Juba, they opted to visit Amb. Telar Ring Deng’s house in Juba to speak to him since at the time he was in Juba on assignment at the Office of the President. The elders in their wisdom saw it fit to speak to Amb. Telar since he was a close friend to both H.E. the President and General Malong and therefore he was best placed person to help mediate a truce. They requested the Ambassador to make an urgent appointment with the President. The President was receptive to the idea and they set up a meeting with a few of the esteemed elders. These respected elders were:
- Prof. Moses Machar
- Gen. Andrew Makur Thou
- Hon. Job Dhuarai
- Hon. Gordon Matot Tut
- Hon. Dr. Awel Mawien Atem
On meeting the President, it is reported that quite a number of issues in relation to Malong were discussed. Key among those issues were:
- Ways and means of getting Gen. Malong to come back to Juba.
- The reasons for the relive of Gen. Malong as chief of staff.
On the 11th May, those who attended the meeting with the President formed a delegation that was to travel to Yirol to convey the President’s message to Gen Malong. Amb. Telar tasked to lead this delegation. They travelled to Yirol, held a series of meetings with Gen. Malong and all the officers with him. The talks were successful and Gen. Malong accepted to travel back to Juba with them. Upon arrival at the Juba International Airport, Gen. Malong was received by a huge gathering of people who all accompanied him to his house.
To the surprise of those who were spearheading this supposed reconciliation, from the day Gen. Malong set foot into Juba, he remained under house arrest for reasons no one has ever known or bothered to explain. The main reason as why the elders of Yirol persuaded Malong to go back to Juba was for the country to avoid any more bloodshed or any split within the party or the army (SPLM/A), particularly knowing that Bahr El Ghazal was the power base of H.E President Kiir and we didn’t want it to split. From this point on, those who persuaded Malong to come to Juba, and were working in the government, really suffered. A number of them were relived off their posts, the Governor of Aweil, the Governor of Gogrial, the Governor of Eastern Lakes and the Governor of Terekeka were all relived. To add to this, all military officers who hailed from Malong’s region were either dismissed or demoted while those perceived to be close to him mysteriously disappeared or met the gruesome effects of the notorious “unknown gunmen” and had their lives unexpectedly cut short.
On arrival to Juba, the regime suspected all those who mediated the truce were either Gen. Malong’s supporters or had their own clandestine motives yet all along they knew that they were working tirelessly for Gen. Malong and H.E Salva Kiir to solve whatever issue they had amicably. It is quite contradictory that they could be suspected of having any ulterior motives. At this point, when it had become abundantly clear that those within government circles had grown apprehensive of Ambassador Telar, he opted to resign since he no longer saw any value in representing his country as an ambassador yet his friend and boss had lost his trust in him. His continued occupation of the office he held had become an unfortunate contradiction of terms. After his resignation, the floodgates of decrees were opened. Several high ranking officials have been dismissed from their positions at supersonic speed.
At this very critical time in South Sudan, the Country needs all the friends it can get. It desperately needs all hands on deck. Being suspicious of people who have given there all for their country is the highest level of betrayal. At the end of the day, this will just turn into another circus. We all need to sober up. As Robert Burns succinctly put it, ‘suspicion is a heavy armor and with its weight it impedes more than it protects.’ How I pray that these words of wisdom ring true to the ears of those who need to hear them the most!
The author, Isaiah Makuei Kulang, is a law student and a concern citizen of South Sudan. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org