South Sudan president sacks controversial army chief

South Sudan president sacks controversial army chief
2 min read
A South Sudanese commander whose forces were said to be behind the killing of hundreds in bloody attacks in July, has been sacked a government spokesman said on Tuesday.

The president sacked his army chief, Paul Malong [Getty]

South Sudan's President Salva Kiir sacked his powerful army chief Paul Malong on Tuesday, a government spokesman said, in connection with the killing and rape of hundreds of civilians last summer.

Kiir dismissed the hard-line military official General Paul Malong who was long regarded as an ethnic nationalist of Kiir's majority Dinka tribe.

The controversial commander will be replaced by career soldier General James Ajongo Mawut.

"The decrees are two: one for the relief of Chief of General Staff, General Paul Malong Awan, and another decree is for the appointment of former Deputy Chief of General Staff for Administration and Finance General James Ajongo Mawut as the Chief of General Staff," Kiir's spokesmen Ateny Wek Ateny told AFP.

He said the move was a routine changing of personnel.

"This is a position that can be held between two years and four years and Malong has spent three years so this is the prerogative of the president" he said.

In February several senior army officers resigned, accusing Malong of conducting an ethnic war against non-Dinkas and ruling with an "unqualified clique of friends and relatives".

Among those who quit was Lieutenant-General Thomas Cirillo who has since announced plans to launch his own rebellion.

Malong is widely regarded as being the mastermind of fighting that erupted in the capital, Juba, last July, killing hundreds and dashing hopes of a power-sharing government between Kiir and his former deputy turned rebel leader Riek Machar, a member of the Nuer tribe.

The Dinka and the Nuer are the two largest ethnic groups in South Sudan and have a history of bloody rivalry.

UN investigators were among those who blamed Malong for the bloody attacks in July in which civilians were killed and foreign aid workers raped.

The US subsequently failed to get Malong sanctioned and put on a UN blacklist, subject to an assets freeze and travel ban, for his role in the ongoing conflict.

South Sudan has been at war since December 2013 when Kiir fell out with Machar, accusing him of plotting a coup.

Tens of thousands of people have died and more than 3.5 million have been displaced as a result of an ongoing conflict - characterised by brutality and human rights violations - in the world's newest country.