South Sudan’s ex-military chief Paul Malong has formed a new rebel movement, further splintering the warring parties to the conflict but confirming long-held rumours.
On Sunday (8 April 2018), Malong announced in a statement that he was forming the South Sudan United Front to ostensibly bring democracy to South Sudan by ensuring citizen rights to life.
Once an ally of President Salva Kiir, Malong accused the Juba government of looting and maiming the citizens.
“Salva Kiir…has concentrated all his efforts, with the help of a small clique around him, to quite literally loot the coffers of our great country to total bankruptcy,” he said.
“Our movement is a just and urgent call to our compatriots and a struggle to first arrest the carnage that has befell our country, and secondly to steer us towards democracy and development, which are the cornerstones of nationhood”.
Malong, a onetime governor of Northern Bahar el Ghazal state was appointed South Sudan Chief of General Staff in 2014. Some observers say he became so powerful that he had to give an okay for the President to sign on the peace agreement reached in August 2015 in Addis Aba a but which Mr Kiir signed weeks later.
But the two fell out following a US push to sanction those perceived to be violating the peace agreement. Mr Malong and other South Sudan military and rebel chiefs initially survived a motion at the UN Security Council seeking to impose an asset freeze and embargo on the violators. But the motion was defeated.
But Malong, believed to be one of the wealthiest South Sudanese, fell out with Kiir in May last year and was replaced.
Fearing he could form a mutiny, authorities in South Sudan restricted his movement, including preventing him from coming to Nairobi to collect the body of his daughter who was among students who had perished at the Moi Girls School fire in Nairobi.
All along though, Malong had denied any bid to enter rebellions, insisting he wanted to live a private life.
On Sunday, he accused Kiir government of refusing to implement the peace agreement signed between Salva Kiir and Riek Machar.
“Salva Kiir’s regime has perfected the art of obstructionism and deceit. It is therefore impossible to entrust another agreement in the hands of the very same people who obstructed the implementation.”
The South Sudan United Front, he said, will now join the opposition alliance SSOA, which includes ten other movements but not Riek Machar’s Sudan Peoples Liberation Movement in Opposition.
The entry of Malong means the parties to the conflict have ballooned, further raising possibility of delayed resolution to the conflict that began in December 2013. While the former military chief says he will sign on the cessation of hostilities, Malong says he will not accept Salva Kiir to be involved in implementing a new pact, even as he demands that all parties be given equal opportunity to table issues at the negotiation table. Regional bloc IGAD is set to convene another meeting in Addis Ababa on April 26.
South Sudan fell into the current conflict after soldiers allied to Dr Machar, then a vice president, mutinied in December 2013, leading to a full-blown conflict.
Machar is currently under House arrest in Pretoria.