“Many believe that Malong is the one behind the last few days’ events and point to the fact that on 8 July,” writes Clémence Pinaud is an Assistant Professor at Indiana University’s Department of International Studies in her article “Who’s behind South Sudan’s return to fighting?”
Pinaud’s research focuses on the SPLA’s military history, predation strategies and marital practices.
Gen Paul Malong Awan’s dominance over South Sudan’s military, political and economic landscape is one that allies and foes alike cannot deny, writes Daily Nation.
Since the appointment of “King Paul” as the Chief of General Staff of the military in April 2014, he has become the real power behind the throne in Juba, according to multiple reports.
“I believe he is behind the mess in Juba. His forces are the ones who started the fighting at the presidential palace on July 8. He has been very vocal against the peace agreement and the formation of the transitional government,” Vice-President Riek Machar’s spokesman James Gatdek Dak told Sunday Nation.
A South Sudan blogger David Aoloch Bion writing on paanluelwel.com, suggests three reasons why Malong was nicknamed King Paul for waging the war without external help.
Malong fought single-handedly as Anya Anya Two leader in Bare el gazal region from 1978 to 1983.
At that time, Malong fought Sudan Army without any external support in term of logistics. Where did he get ammunition? Where he get food? No one knew, but, he fought for five years for the freedom of South Sudan until he joined SPLM/A in 1983, when all Anya Anya joined SPLM/A then.
Here , he never asks anyone like a King . King always never asks for help from any one because he has everything always.
The Defense of Boma: Malong defended Boma Garrison from being captured by Sudan Army from 1992 to 1995 till he was reinforced from Equatoria. He held out in Boma for 3 years.
Kapoeta at South of Boma was captured by Sudan army. Pochalla at the North of Boma was captured by Sudan army. He stood in the middle with gallant SPLA soldiers. Here, they called him a ‘’King of the Mountain’’, from mountain Boma.
His Generosity: Malong loves Humanity. Malong is a generous man. Malong is compassionate man when he was a Governor of Northern Bare el gazal State. He was dinning with poor men and women in the state. At that time, Malong would organize a dinner for the poor SPLA war veterans in the state. At the table, he would say ‘’ it is the nation that stress you, take some of your lives and you are suffering now. Enjoy yourself; one good day is worth 30 bad days Mr. Malong adopted this generous culture from European Royals.
In Europe, the poor waits to eat the King’s dinner every year. For example, on July 6, 1902, King Edward of England invited 456, 000 poor all over UK to come and eat dinner at his palace, writes Bion.
Charles Onyango-Obbo, Ugandan author, journalist, and Editor of Mail & Guardian Africa, quotes Uganda senior journalist Andrew Mwenda saying the SPLA Chief of Staff Malong has 38 wives and 127 children.
“[He] rents two buses to take his kids to school in Uganda,” Obbo tweeted.
“So true, the kids were in St. Lawrence Academy, Schools and College. They were picked in two buses,” A Kenyan tweep confirmed.
A “serious polygamist”, according to Nation, the South Sudan warlord walks in and out of Nairobi unhindered.
“He has a home in an upmarket Nairobi estate though the exact estate remains unclear with some suggesting it is in Muthaiga while others say it is in Gigiri. Some of his family members live there. His children school in some of the best private academies in Kenya, including a famous one in Machakos County.”
Pinaud says Malong is the one behind the last few days’ events and point to the fact that on 8 July, SPLA troops around J1, the presidential palace, were reinforced from both the area surrounding Juba and from Luri, a cattle camp where Mathiang Anyoor recruits stayed before the 2013 Juba massacre.
Malong did make a statement on 9 July saying the situation in Juba was under control, but this was done through an intermediary and it is not clear where the man himself is.
Some suspect he is in Uganda, others in Yei, and yet others say he is in Juba itself.
At any rate, it is difficult to imagine the SPLA could have decimated Machar’s bodyguards on 8 July without the top orders coming from its Chief of General Staff.
There are rumours that Malong intends to wreak havoc and maybe even take control of Juba.
He may also split from Kiir, but either way he will retain control over his Dinka militias, who are spread all over the Equatorias, as well as over some of the Bul Nuer fighters, who are based in Unity and have close ties with Khartoum.
Malong will also continue cultivating his popularity with Dinka communities who do not want to relinquish their desire for their own state, especially after Kiir opened Pandora’s box with his unilateral decree in October 2015 to replace South Sudan’s ten states with 28.
If Malong does intend to take Juba but fails to do so in the coming days, he may open up a new front, most likely from Northern Bahr El Ghazal.
If such a war were to begin, Kiir might break with Malong and be forced to mend fences with Machar’s IO as well as with the Shilluk, Fertit, Balanda, Zande, Moru and other victimised ethnic groups.
However, one cannot rule out the possibility that Kiir permits to Malong’s control of the SPLA but then sacrifices him if he has to yield to international pressure, writes Pinaud.
Born and raised in Aweil, Bahr el Ghazal region, the ruthless ex-independence fighter has gone up the military and political ranks to become President Kiir’s puppeteer, writes Nation.
“I have come to the unsurprising conclusion, as many South Sudanese have, that Malong is the one that holds the real power,” Pinaud said.
Gen Malong and President Kiir are Dinka, one of the major ethnic communities of South Sudan.
Dr Machar, on the other, is from the rival Nuer community, which has for centuries been at war with the Dinka over water resources, grazing land and competition for women, according to Jervasio Okot, a South Sudan national who previously worked for Juba in its Nairobi Liaison Office before the cessation in July 9, 2011.
Gen Malong is among the senior political and military figures from both sides of the conflict that the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in May 2014 slapped with sanctions for fomenting the civil war and holding to hard-line positions.
Before the civil war of independence broke out in 1983, he was largely unknown.
When the late Dr John Garang formed the Sudan People’s Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M) in 1983, the largely unknown Malong helped mobilise militia from his home area of Bahr el Ghazal and took them to Bilpam SPLA military base in Ethiopia.
A former Garang bodyguard who now lives in Nairobi and who worked alongside Gen Malong told the Sunday Nation that impressed by his efforts, Dr Garang rewarded him with a junior position within SPLA/M hierarchy. He was then sent for an operation in one of SPLA/M’s outposts.
Nation writes that at one time, locals reportedly rose up against Malong over his alleged high-handedness and brazen corrupt practices. He would demand that the people pay protection fees.
With the money, he started building his forces that immediately caught the attention of Dr Garang and the SPLA/M top brass who feared he could use the new-found wealth to establish a splinter group within the rebel movement.
As a result, then SPLA’s Chief of General Staff William Nyuon Bany in 1992 transferred him to Yei in South Sudan’s southwest.
In 2004, as the independence talks advanced in Nairobi, he seized his opportunity.
Around that time, there were reports that Dr Garang was planning to replace Kiir as the SPLA Chief of Staff.
Kiir and Malong joined forces with the latter providing militia, as well as substantial financial resources.
Even though the mutiny did not materialise, a long-lasting but complex relationship between Kiir and Malong was born.
Kiir had retained his position as the second in command of SPLA/M. Dr Garang died in a plane crash on July 30, 2005 shortly after the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA).
In 2008, Kiir, then the First Vice-President of Sudan appointed Malong the Governor of his home area of Northern Bahr El Ghazal.
According to Pinaud, it was Malong who convinced Kiir of the need to create a militia that would be loyal to them both.
“He took advantage of the economic disarray in his home region and began recruiting and training men into this new fighting force. Some members originated from Kiir’s home state of Warrap, but the majority were from Malong’s Northern Bahr El Ghazal. Malong was trying to position himself as the first leader from Northern Bahr El Ghazal with national stature.”
“The militia went by the name of Mathiang Anyoor (meaning ‘brown caterpillar’ in Dinka), but was also known as Dot ku Beny or Gel-Beny (meaning ‘rescue the President’). It was financed with the help of Ambrose Riing Thiik, the chairman of the Jieng (Dinka) Council of Elders (JCE),” writes Pinaud.
When the war broke out in December 2013, Malong reportedly let loose the militia who went on targeted killing of members of Dr Machar’s Nuer ethnic group.
In April 2014, President Kirr appointed Malong the SPLA Chief of Staff, a position he has used to great effect over South Sudan’s military, political and economic formations.
Attempts by the UN to impose sanctions on Gen Malong in 2015 for his role in the humanitarian crisis were thwarted by Russia and Angola who voted to block the proposed sanctions.