South Sudan president Salva Kiir insists the country’s former army chief of staff, General Paul Malong Awan intends to rebel, citing the warnings he allegedly issued in recently leaked audiotapes.
Addressing some members of the Dinka Council of Elders on Tuesday, Kiir said he was ready to talk in person to the ex-army chief.
“I am ready to listen to him [Awan]. I want to hear from him. When he left, he was going for treatment. This is what you [elders] and I know. As you talk to him, find [out] what happened after he met me in Nairobi?” I know Malong and from the tapes, you find see that he is asking people to attack Wanyjok, Madhol, Aweil and other places. What does this mean?” asked the South Sudanese leader.
The president also attempted to justify his decision in 2010 to approve Awan’s gubernatorial candidature, saying he knew if the latter was denied the governorship, he would have caused instability and conduct of a referendum in the area would be compromised.
“When I told Dau [Aturjong] to step down for Malong, it was not because I did not know the people of Aweil did not want Dau, but I knew Malong would not accept and this would have been a challenge for the referendum. So I decided to side with him for the sake of referendum. The people did not like it. That was why there were a lot of petitions and releases every now and then”, said Kiir.
Awan, according to the South Sudanese leader, had initially expressed unwillingness to work with defense minister, Kuol Manyang Juuk when he was appointed the chief of staff for South Sudan army.
“When I brought him [Awan] here, it became a big problem. He did not want to work with comrade Kuol Manyang who was is direct boss, the minister of defence. So there is really nothing Malong would say I did to him,” further explained Kiir.
During the president’s meeting with the ex-army chief, the latter reportedly raised a number of issues, which Kiir vowed to address.
“I told him [Awan] in Nairobi to relax and I will work on the issues he had raised,” stressed Kiir.
He added, “But what is he [Awan] doing now? If he has no intention to rebel, why give orders to officers who have rebelled to carry out attacks and asked some soldiers and officers still in the army to join rebellion or start fighting in some places like in Wau?”
The South Sudanese leader said although Awan is hard to manage, he made significant contributions during the country’s liberation struggle and his efforts cannot be under looked.
“I don’t want Malong to lose his life like others who did good things and they ended up on the wrong side. I don’t want this thing to repeat itself. I don’t want”, said Kiir, citing the late Kerubino Kuanyin Bol, William Nyuon Bany, Arok Thon Arok, among others, who were founder members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) in 1983.
The Dinka Elders Council has reportedly kept contacts with Kiir and his former chief of staff in a bid to contain the situation and prevent further frictions within the Dinka groups.
The former army chief of general staff on Tuesday warned that he would be forced to respond with appropriate and proportional force should the government officials continue to launch false accusations against him.