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Former South Sudan Army Chief of Staff Released from House Arrest

FILE - South Sudan's ousted army chief Paul Malong addresses the media after returning to the South Sudan's capital of Juba.
FILE - South Sudan's ousted army chief Paul Malong addresses the media after returning to the South Sudan's capital of Juba.

South Sudan’s former army chief of staff, General Paul Malong, who has been held under house arrest by the Kiir administration since May, has been freed.

His wife, Lucy Ayak, told VOA's South Sudan in Focus program that Malong was released Thursday. “My husband has been released and has been allowed to go for a medical checkup in east Africa,” she said.

Recently, dozens of tanks and troops were deployed along the road leading to Malong’s home in Juba after Malong refused a presidential order to release a platoon of 30 soldiers guarding him. Ayak told VOA on Monday that some of the men deployed to her husband’s home were police while some were from military intelligence.

“They came and surrounded all of the house,” Ayak said.

Ayak said she would hold President Salva Kiir responsible if anything happened to her husband. Ayak also said she had written Kiir several times pleading with him to release her husband, but received no response.

Lual Dau, the former deputy governor of Lol state, told South Sudan in Focus on Tuesday that most soldiers in the South Sudan army hail from Malong’s home area of Aweil and were not happy about the way in which President Kiir was treating Malong. Dau resigned his position in May after accusing the Lol state governor of being corrupt.

Talks continued all week to peacefully resolve the standoff between Malong and the Kiir administration. The U.S. Embassy in Juba on Monday posted a security alert on its web site to American citizens regarding the deployment of soldiers.

“Although there is an increased military presence in a number of locations, the security situation in Juba is unchanged,” read the message. But the embassy also advised U.S. citizens “to review your personal security plans, remain aware of your surroundings, and monitor local news stations for updates.”

Order to surrender bodyguards

On Wednesday, Information Minister Michael Makuei told reporters in Juba Malong was informed several days ago that he must surrender his bodyguards to authorities.

“When he came back here, he was allowed to go into his house and stay with his forces, but being a former chief of staff, you cannot be allowed to continue with your platoon in your house,” Makuei said.

At the same time, Makuei said he was confident the standoff would be resolved peacefully.

Garang defects

Meanwhile, Lt. Colonel Chan Garang said this week he has joined the SPLA-in Opposition, but a government spokesman says he left the army to escape prosecution for crimes including rape and murder.

Brigadier General Lul Ruai Koang said in Juba Thursday he learned of Garang’s defection on South Sudan in Focus.

“The news of his defection came to us not long ago. We heard about his defection on Voice of America,” said Koang.

Koang accused Garang of committing several crimes since 2003, such as murder and rape. Garang is accused of looting and cattle rustling. Koang says Garang was sentenced to death by firing squad in the past but escaped detention and later joined a militia under the command of Abdul Bagi Ayii in former Northern Bahr el-Ghazal State. Koang said when Garang joined the SPLA in 2006, he was given amnesty, but Koang said Garang continued to commit crimes, noting that fewer than two months ago, Garang stole a truck from a civilian.

“All these crimes he had committed reflected in the verdict and a decision was made that he would be dismissed from the SPLA without post-service benefits. He disappeared, only for us to hear on the Voice of America, South Sudan in Focus that he had defected,” Koang said.

Garang told the program earlier this week he defected because he believes President Kiir’s regime is unjust and has wronged many people.

Garang is said to be a close ally of Malong, but Garang told the program he has no connection with the former army chief.

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    John Tanza

    John Tanza works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is the managing editor and host of the South Sudan In Focus radio program.