Former South Sudan army chief meets top Sudanese officials

March 20, 2018 (JUBA) – Former South Sudanese chief of army staff, Paul Malong Awan met and held talks with high ranking Sudanese officials, sparking questions on the purpose of the visit and meetings.

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Paul Malong arrives at Juba Airport 13 May 2017 (ST Photo)

Awan, according to family members and associates who accompanied him, arrived Sudan’s capital, Khartoum on 15 March through the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa from Kenya.

He met the Sudanese first vice president and Prime Minister Bakri Hassan Saleh and the country’s head of the National Intelligence and Security Service (NISS), Salah Abdallah Mohamed Saleh on 18 March.

The two officials reportedly agreed to arrange a day on which Awan would meet Sudan’s president, Omar al Bashir for further discussions.

No details about the meetings in Khartoum have, however, been made public.

The acceptance of the visit by an Awan associate dispel reports attributed to members of his family, who earlier claimed the former top military officer did not travel outside Kenya to any other country.

An associate accompanying Awan wondered why their visit to Sudan has become a public matter in South Sudan, questioning why no attention is given to his other predecessors roaming the world.

“What actually is the motive causing public concern? Everyone is asking and members of the press are contacting us and wanting to know the whereabouts of Gen Paul. Yes, we are in Sudan. Is it a crime? Those who were removed from the position of chief of general staff like General James Hoth Mai are roaming the world and no one is talking about him. Why Gen. Paul? There is something sinister and this sinister is what we and the South Sudan in general must nip in the bud”, an associate of Awan told Sudan Tribune from the Sudanese capital on Tuesday.

Several South Sudanese intelligence and diplomat sources also confirmed Awan is in Sudan, challenging those claiming presence in Nairobi, Kenya to produce any proof of his presence in the country.

“We are a government to do whatever possible to establish the facts. So when we talk about something, we say it with certainty and authority. So take from now on Paul Malong is Khartoum. He went to Khartoum on Thursday through Addis Ababa from Nairobi. If there are people who deny, let them prove now. Or you talk to Paul Malong yourself or let someone you know go and find out now,” a government source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said.

He added, “But we know is that they will not give you and evidence. All that we read in the media quoting some people is a political gimmick and public relations thing, which is ethically reprehensible”.

A government minister, however, told Sudan Tribune on Monday that the visit of the ex-army chief was organized by former ambassador to Russia, Telar Riing Deng, who first went to Khartoum in the name of visiting his sick father in law, Andrew Makur before he could die.

“The coordinator of his [Awan] visit was ambassador Telar Deng who went first to Khartoum in the pretext of his visiting his sick father in law Gen Andrew Makur Thou. Telar Deng while in Khartoum met the first vice president and Prime Minister Bakri Hassan Saleh of Sudan, NISS [National Intelligence and Security Service] officials and finally met president Omer Hassan Ahmed El Bashir. From there the going of General Paul Malong was blessed and now he is enjoying the state protection of Sudan and more violent activities will be sponsored by Sudan against South Sudan”, said the minister.

The circumstances under which Telar went to Khartoum has remains speculative, but family members and friends attributed the trip to attending preparations to return the body of war veteran Makur, who died last week.

Relations between the former army chief of staff and South Sudan President Salva Kiir deteriorated after the former was sacked from his post at the helm of the military in May 2017 and placed under house arrest for fear he would cause rebellion.

Awan was freed in November 2017 following mediation led by the Jieng Council of Elders. The agreement prevented him from going to his home-town of Aweil in Northern Bahr el-Ghazal state, but could travel to any East Africa nation.

(ST)