South Sudan’s ousted army chief said he will return to Juba, two days after being dismissed and leaving the city in a convoy of vehicles, raising concerns over his next move.
General Paul Malong’s removal follows the resignations of a string of senior military figures who alleged ethnic bias in the army and war crimes had been committed as the civil war dragged on. Some of them also vowed to overthrow President Salva Kiir.
“I am just waiting for a plane and I will go back to Juba,” he told Reuters by phone from Yirol in Lakes state, where he spent Wednesday.
“I do not know what I will go and do in Juba. I will go and just hear from those who have called me to come back,” Malong said, adding he left the city because he wanted to rest.
Malong drove out of the capital with several vehicles heading for his home state of Aweil, leading to speculation he might begin some kind of armed revolt.
“Malong should come back, and if he wants to go back to Aweil and do his other things, he will do them after coming back so he does not make people feel he was protesting when he was relieved,” said Ateny Wek Ateny, the presidential spokesperson.
Ateny told Reuters President Kiir may meet Malong once he returns.
In a report, a UN panel of experts last year accused Malong of bearing “ultimate command responsibility” for a devastating military campaign in Unity state, where it said widespread destruction, targeting of civilians and violations of international law had taken place.
Malong dismissed the claims.
“I loved my people and my people loved me,” said Malong, an ethnic Dinka. “Nobody will intimidate me.”
The panel’s 2016 report also said Malong’s replacement as chief of staff, General James Ajongo, and other top military officials, worked with him and other top military officials to plan the offensive and “subsequently oversaw its execution.”