S. Sudan seeks to avoid military clash with ex-army chief

Source: Xinhua| 2017-11-08 18:28:39|Editor: Zhou Xin
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JUBA, Nov. 8 (Xinhua) -- South Sudan said efforts were still underway to calm tension related to the detainment of the former Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) Chief of General Staff Paul Malong in the wake of his refusal to surrender his bodyguards, local media reported on Wednesday.

Minister of Information Michael Makuei told journalists on Tuesday evening that they were giving room for further contacts and intervention to avoid military confrontation in the capital.

"Talks are going on because we don't want this thing to be handled militarily. Under normal circumstances it would have been a question of moving in the tanks and the whole thing is over, but we don't want that to happen and this is why we are giving room for further contacts and intervention. We are optimistic this thing will be over soon," Makueit said.

He also denied reports of defection of some officers protesting the continued detention of the influential and controversial Malong who was dismissed by President Salva Kiir in May.

The United States Department of the Treasury has indicted and effected asset freeze for the former army chief and other two senior ranking officers.

"These are normal security hiccups and this is not new; these are things that happen in any country. Malong was allowed to stay with his forces, but of course being a former chief of general staff, you cannot be allowed to continue with your platoon in your own house," he said.

Makuei said the contested bodyguards are government soldiers who must be released so that they report to their respective positions.

He also moved to calm public fear and anxiety that has gripped Juba since Friday after Malong disobeyed the president's order.

"Tanks are not all over the town, they are in that limited part (Malong's home) only and that will be for a time being. Efforts are underway to have this issue resolved and things will be back to normalcy. People should not get frightened; tanks have ever been on the roads before and I don't know why people are getting frightened this time," he said.

Hundreds of soldiers on armored personnel carriers (APC) surround the former army chief's residence on the pretext he may escape from detention, amid ongoing negotiation to diffuse situation involving senior army officers and traditional elders from the general's home town of Aweil in the North West Bahr el Ghazal region.

South Sudan descended into violence in December 2013 after political dispute between President Kiir and his former deputy turned rebel chief Riek Machar led to split within the SPLA, leaving soldiers to fight alongside ethnic lines between the two major ethnic groups Dinka and Nuer of which the two rivals belong respectively.

The 2015 peace agreement to end the conflict was weakened after outbreak of renewed fighting in July 2016 caused the SPLA-in opposition rebel leader Machar to flee the capital.