The leader of the rebel outfit, South Sudan United Front/Army, Gen. Paul Malong, has denied recently meeting the Director General of the National Security Service’s Internal Security Bureau, General Akol Koor, in Nairobi.
He said Gen. Koor did not fire a bullet against the enemy during the liberation struggle and insinuated that he lacked the temerity to convince him to abandon rebellion, leave his exile base in Kenya, and return to Juba.
Malong also said his movement has accepted an invitation by the Government of Kenya to participate in a new peace initiative to be mediated by President Willam Ruto but doubts that South Sudan will hold elections in December.
Below are edited excerpts:
Q: Have you received an invitation letter from the Kenyan government about the new initiative by President Salva Kiir requesting President William Ruto mediate peace talks between the government and holdout groups?
A: Yes, we received a letter about the new Kenyan initiative and we have responded to it detailing our position.
Q: When will the talks begin?
A: I cannot tell because the mediators are the ones who know when the talks will begin. We are waiting for them to announce the date.
Q: Did you accept the invitation as a movement or as a coalition?
A: What I know is that our movement (SSUF) and the Real SPLM led by Gen. Pagan Amum have accepted the invitation.
Q: What about other movements with you in the opposition coalition?
A: I cannot speak on their behalf. You can reach out to them and hear their opinion on that.
Q: We have been following the Rome talks which took quite long and up to now there is no tangible result. Do you think the Kenyan initiative will be fruitful?
A: Let us wait and see how the talks will begin. I am sure that even the media will be given a chance to follow and all of us shall see how will it goes. Regarding the Rome talks, indeed, it took a long time but we achieved a lot of issues. We reached some agreements and signed some documents.
Q: But you are still outside Juba?
A: I believe if we reach to a final agreement, I will be in Juba.
Q: Do you expect anything positive out of the Nairobi initiative?
A: What do you want us to do at this moment? Do you want us to stop?
Q: I am asking because you are going to be part of the talks.
A: Do not ask me because we have not yet gone for any talks. We will be called and things will be clear.
Q: So what are your expectations?
A: Any negotiation expects that people reach an agreement.
Q: There are rumors that you will soon be going back to Juba based on your recent meeting with the Director General of the National Security Service’s Internal Security Bureau, General Akol Koor. Is this true?
A: Did I meet with Akol Koor? You people, why don’t you seek the right information from the right people?
Q: That is why I have reached out to you for confirmation. Is it true?
A: I cannot answer such an allegation that I met with Akol Koor. You go and ask him if he met me.
Q: So you are not going to Juba unless you reach to an agreement with the government?
A: You guys understood the whole thing wrongly. I fought for 21 years in South Sudan. Who can come and convince me cheaply like that to go to Juba? Who is there better than me to come and talk to me cheaply?
Has the Akol Koor you are talking about ever heard the bullet of an enemy or has he shot at any enemy? South Sudan is full of rumors and it is being ruled by rumors but one day these rumors will come to an end. Even the president is now aware of the people spreading rumors.
Q: Does that mean Gen. Paul Malong will not go to Juba unless there is an agreement?
A: The issue is not about me alone. Where are you from exactly? Are you from Darfur in Sudan?
If you are a South Sudanese, you should know that I am not fighting for personal reasons. I fought for 21 years so that South Sudan is free and citizens have rights.
We are still sticking to the very message of the late Doctor John Garang and we want a country where there is a rule of law, freedom of speech, and fundamental rights, a secure country.
Q: There are reports by rights groups that you are one of the top military leaders who violated people’s rights when you were the Chief of Defense Forces. What do you have to say about this?
A: When I was in charge of the SSPDF, I was only implementing instructions and there were no violations. During my time in office in 2016, fighting broke out in Juba. Did you hear that any civilians were killed in Juba town?
I led fighting in from the frontline behind Jebel Kujur. Did you hear that a civilian was killed?
Q: Some reports implicate you in killings? Have you seen them?
A: Which report? When we fought in 2016 behind Jebel Kujur, it ended with the defeat of those who turned against the government. There was no report of civilians being killed. If you have any report about that tell me.
Let us differentiate between rumors and legal issues. If we go to an international legal process later, they will not show any evidence. For example, reports say I trained the Mathing Anyor militia when I was the governor of Northern Bahr el Ghazal State. However, Mathing Anyor was the result of recruitment in five regions. I was not the governor of the five regions. The Mathiang Anyor were trained in a center located in my state. This is a national training center. Even though I am no longer a governor, the training center still exists. And if you want to know more, ask about how many national training centers are there.
Q: How many training centers are there?
A: There is Pantit in Awiel, Mapel in Western Behr el Ghazal State, Rumbek in Lakes State, Pariak in Jonglei State, Owinykibul in Eastern Equatoria State, and Luri in Juba, Central Equatoria State. Do these centers belong to the respective governors?
Q: We are left with 11 months to the national elections. Do you think the elections will be conducted?
A: I do not see anything coming or happening.
A: You are also asking me why! I have already told you, I do not know because I am not part of the system and I am not in South Sudan. So, I should not be asked about the future.