South Sudan’s once powerful army general, Paul Malong, has agreed to take part in negotiations with the government of President Salva Kiir, Chimp Corps report.
Malong, fought side by side with Kiir in the bloody war that broke Sudan’s back, leading to the secession of South Sudan.
Malong, a revolutionary, would later serve in high profile military positions including Chief of Staff, before falling out with Kiir in 2017.
Kiir accused Malong of planning a coup against his government before relieving the General of his top position in the army.
It will be recalled that Malong played a key role in defeating Dr Riek Machar’s forces in many places in South Sudan including Juba.
Actually, Malong commanded the Special Forces operators who fought Machar’s bodyguards in Juba till the former Vice President fled the country.
It appears Malong’s growing popularity in the armed forces threatened Kiir’s hold onto power.
Malong was not only removed from the position of Chief of Staff but also put under house arrest by Kiir.
It took the intervention of elders and regional leaders to secure his release from South Sudan to seek medical treatment in Kenya.
IGAD announced Friday that Malong, who has lived in Kenya since 2017, is willing to hold talks with Kiir’s government.
“Pursuant to the directive of the IGAD Council of Ministers of the 66th Extraordinary Session of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the IGAD Special Envoy for South Sudan held discussions with South Sudan United Front (SSUF/A) led by Gen Pal Malong Awan in Nairobi, Kenya from March 11 to 12, 2019.”
The statement further said “following the discussion, the SSUF/A delegation led by Gen Malong expresses its willingness a d readiness to engage in the peace process through negotiations with the government of South Sudan to be facilitated by IGAD Special Envoy for Sudan (Dr Ismail Wais).”
Malong signed the declaration to engage in the South Sudan peace process on March 12.
The document was also signed by Wais and Amb Fre TesfaMichael for office of chairperson, IGAD Council of Ministers, Ethiopia.
The return of Malong to South Sudan would mark a major chapter in consolidating peace in the country.
South Sudan has since resumed oil production in areas largely affected by war.
Oil Minister Ezekiel Lul Gatkuoth said the country hopes to return to producing more than 350,000 barrels of crude per day by the mid 2020, up from current levels of just over 140,000 barrels per day (bpd) currently.