Tension rises in South Sudan

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South Sudan’s government wants to disarm bodyguards of detained former army chief Paul Malong fearing he might escape and launch a rebellion, his wife said, highlighting tensions within the leadership.

Malong – the man who has led President Salva Kiir’s campaign against rebels – has been under house arrest since May after Kiir sacked him following a string of military resignations by senior generals alleging abuses and ethnic bias.

Malong initially fled Juba for his home state Aweil following his dismissal – raising fears he might join opposition forces, before returning to the capital.

On Saturday, his wife told Reuters security officials arrived at their home on Friday with “specific orders” from Kiir.
“They came carrying the order from the president and told General Malong they had been ordered to disarm his bodyguards,” she said, adding they also tried to take his phone and said family members would not be allowed to visit.
“Government is thinking General Malong might take the country back to war. The tension is still high … we do not know if they might come back and arrest him if he resists.”

Residents in Juba told Reuters heavily-armed soldiers blocked the main road leading to his house.

Media outlets from Juba also reported a senior commander in the army allied with Malong has defected with the aim of launching a rebellion.

President Kiir’s press secretary Ateny Wek Ateny declined to comment, saying the “issue was purely an army matter”.

South Sudan won independence from Sudan in 2011 but plunged into civil war in 2013 after Kiir fired his deputy Riek Machar.

The conflict, largely fought along ethnic linesm, pitched parts of the oil-producing country into severe hunger, paralysed public services and forced a quarter of the population – three million people – to flee.