Former South Sudan chief of general staff Paul Malong has been released after five months of house arrest but he is under close watch lest he start another rebellion.
President Salva Kiir gave the release order last week on Thursday evening, after Gen Malong, who has been under restrictions since his dismissal in May, wrote a letter to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (Unmiss), complaining about threats to his life and seeking refuge in the camps.
The EastAfrican has established that Gen Malong is still in his house in Juba but he is likely to leave for a neighbouring country over fear for his security. But sources say that President Kiir has sent intelligence officers to all the countries in the region Gen Malong is likely to go to and they will be monitoring his movements.
The South Sudan permanent representative to the African Union, James Morgan, said Gen Malong is safer in South Sudan.
“The president gave no conditions and he can go anywhere but the head of state maintained that his bodyguards must go back to their units because the army does not belong to an individual,” he said.
Gen Malong was put under arrest because when he was sacked in May and replaced by Gen James Ajongo Mawut, he left in protest at night with a big contingent and artillery on his way to his home town of Aweil in Bah-el-Ghazal State, but was stopped at Yirol in Lakes State.
He was later persuaded by President Kiir to return to Juba but was immediately put under house arrest.
On November 3, President Kiir gave an order to reduce Gen Malong’s bodyguards from 35 to three and the rest were to return to the barracks, but the former chief of general staff refused. Government soldiers then surrounded his house with tanks and armoured vehicles.
On November 7, Gen Malong wrote a letter to the head of Unmiss David Shaerer, urging the mission and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad) to intervene to avoid bloodshed.
In the letter, Gen Malong asked that the Juba administration allow him safe exit to Uganda and that the soldiers that went with him to Yirol be released unconditionally.
On November 9, Unmiss said it would assist in solving the standoff between the government and the former military chief. Since the standoff began, retired generals of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army have been trying to persuade Gen Malong to let his bodyguards go with an assurance that they would talk to President Kiir to ensure that he was not harmed.
-Additional reporting by Joseph Oduha