NAIROBI May 12 A showdown between South Sudan's
President Salva Kiir and his ousted army chief intensified on
Friday after the general failed to return to the capital Juba
following his dismissal amid a worsening civil war.
General Paul Malong, who has been leading Kiir's military
campaign against rebels supporting his political rival Riek
Machar, left Juba with a convoy of vehicles for his home state
of Aweil in the northwest on Tuesday, raising speculation over
his next move.
"When I talked to him (Malong) last, he was not in a good
mood, he was in a fighting mood," Kiir told reporters on Friday.
"I tried to calm him down, but he was rather wild."
Kiir said Malong should have thanked him and formally handed
over the command of the military to his successor instead of
leaving the capital. Kiir wants Malong to return, but so far the
general has refused.
"I have assured him (Malong) of his safety as soon as he
arrives in Juba. I have given the security organisation all the
necessary orders," Kiir said.
"It is the concern of everybody and nobody wants ... Malong
to run into such unplanned problems. There are so many foreign
hands that are now being seen behind General Paul as pushing
him," he said, alluding to unspecified foreign interference.
On Thursday, Malong said he had gone home for a rest but on
Friday he refused to board a plane that was sent to fly him to
the capital unless all his bodyguards accompanied him,
presidential spokesperson Ateny Wek Ateny said.
"He should not have more than four bodyguards by law," Ateny
told Reuters, adding that a committee of elders from Malong's
home state has been sent to "persuade" him to come to Juba.
Malong was not available for comment.
His sacking followed the resignations of several senior
military figures who alleged that there was ethnic bias in the
army and that war crimes had been committed. Some of them later
vowed to topple Kiir.
South Sudan won independence from Sudan in 2011 but has been
in a civil war since 2013 when Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, fired his
deputy, Machar, from the rival Nuer community.
The move triggered a conflict that has pitched parts of the
oil-producing country into famine, paralysed public services and
forced a quarter of the population -- 3 million people -= to
flee their homes. The United Nations has said the violence
amounts to ethnic cleansing and risks escalating into genocide.
(Editing by Aaron Maasho Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)