South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Friday accused the former chief of armed forces of failing to hand over office peacefully and being antagonistic in a telephone conversation after his hurried departure from Juba three days ago.
Speaking at a news conference held at the presidency in Juba to dissipate fears of a new armed conflict in the troubled country between him and Malong, President Kiir said citizens should cease from "inciting fear through the spread of unfounded rumours through social media.
"I am aware that this change of command in the army and the subsequent departure of the former Chief of General Staff Gen. Paul Malong have caused some apprehension across the country. I am here today to assure you that the security situation remains normal and all citizens are urged to continue with their daily routine," said Kiir.
In response to prepared questions from reporters working for the state-owned TV and Radio, Kiir further said Gen. Paul Malong is defying a request to return to Juba from the Lakes State where he has been stopped by local authorities from continuing to his home region of Northern Bahr El Ghazal.
"Personally, I am in communication with the former Chief of Staff, General Paul Malong Awan and I have assured him of his safety," Kiir said adding that the phone conversations were not cordial.
General Malong was not in a good mood. He was in a fighting mood.
I tried to calm him down but he was rather wild, Salva Kiir said, referring to a telephone call with former army chief who is in Yirol on Thursday.
Paul Malong Awan, former South Sudan’s army chief of general staff withdrew with his security guards to outside of Juba but is not planning for war, a spokesman for the SPLA army said.
He further accused unnamed foreign hands of supporting Paul Malong to turn into unplanned problems.
“It is the concern of everybody and nobody wants Gen. Paul Malong to run into such unplanned problems. There are so many foreign hands that are now seen behind Gen. Paul pushing him,” he said
Kiir said Malong did not hand over the office to his successor Gen. James Ajongo Mawut and failed to congratulate the new army chief and "he did not call me (President Kiir) to thank me for the period he spent as SPLA Chief of Staff."
Kiir added that it was a wrong decision for General Malong to "run away" without handing over the office.
It remains unclear on Friday if Gen. Malong will arrive in Juba after failing to board a plane sent to pick him on Thursday from Yirol to Juba.
Meanwhile, Ateny Wek Ateny, South Sudan’s presidential spokesman, confirmed that Paul Malong left Juba and that he is now heading to Aweil. “Malong is now in an area near Yirol and there are steps being taken to convince him to return back to Juba,” said Ateny.
He pointed out that that the former chief of general of staff left Juba with some of his bodyguards, while denying reports that Malong has decided to rebel against Kiir government.
But a former minister in Western Lakes State who preferred not to be named, claimed the state government had received orders to fight Paul Malong’s troops when they arrive in the state.
However, the President issued a written statement pledging to protect him and to facilitate his return to Juba.
Also, Kiir praised the former SPLA chief of general staff as a liberator and commended his service to the people of South Sudan.
Paul Malong has gone to Eastern Lakes to avoid further tensions, he is not planning to rebel, but people just want to cause problems, he is in contact with the SPLA leadership,SPLA spokesman Santo Domic said.
We are now in a bad situation waiting for Paul Malong and Western Lakes State is ready to fight him,” said the former official.
He also pointed out that Gen. Paul Malong left Juba on Tuesday evening shortly after being relieved from his position as SPLA chief of general staff by South Sudan President Salva Kiir.
The former state official stated that the former chief of general staff Paul Malong is now in a distance of one hour away toward Yirol town in a village called Panbaar in Aliab area.“We don’t know whether the authorities in Eastern Lakes will arrest him or not but we are waiting to fight him if he arrives Rumbek town,” he said.
Moreover, a military source confirmed that Paul Malong has rebelled against Kiir government, saying Malong rebelled together with top generals including Charles Dut Akot, Akech Adim, Marial Nuor, Jiel Mangok, Yel Deng Nguel and Riny Tueny Mabor.
The same source pointed out that Malong felt betrayed after his removal by President Kiir.