South Sudan’s capital, Juba went on lockdown in mid-May this year when General Paul Malong was sacked from his position as army chief of staff. Nervous Juba residents had already seen war in the heart of the capital in December 2013 and July 2016; they feared another fight for power.
Yet there was no violence in Juba; instead, Malong left with a retinue of bodyguards and senior officers and headed north toward Aweil, his home area. What were his intentions? Troops loyal to President Salva Kiir feared another rebellion and blocked Malong’s journey in Lakes State, midway between Aweil and Juba.
Days of negotiations followed before the ousted army chief was persuaded to return to Juba, where he has remained ever since and that has got people asking questions like, what is Paul Malong doing in Juba despite his numerous calls to be granted passage to go to his hometown, Awiel.
The request has always been denied and that kept people wondering is Paul Malong is under house arrest.
Recently during an interview with online investigative platform The Messenger caught up with Major General Akec Adim, head of the SPLA Military Police and a companion of Malong during the May crisis.
Akec alleges that Paul Malong is not allowed to move freely in Juba and his request to go to Awiel is not granted.
He says his movements have been restricted but his actual status as a detainee is not clear.
“since we returned our movement in Juba alone has been limited and we are not allowed movement outside Juba. We have families who need us but our requests have not been granted by relevant authorities,” said Akec.
According to Akec it is only the president who can authorise Paul Malong’s movement inside or out of Juba.
“We are told any movement outside Juba has to be approved by the president and we have not heard anything from him since we returned. He says he will do it and we should not worry but nothing has changed,” he added.
He said they are under a confinement and don’t know what this means. When we ask to tell us to know if we are arrested, they say no. So it is a total confusion. We are living in a hangup situation. Nothing is clear.
“When we ask to tell us to know if we are arrested, they say no. So it is a total confusion. We are living in a hangup situation. Nothing is clear,” Akec told the Messenger.