June 1, 2009 (JUBA) – Southern Sudan’s President and Commander-in-Chief of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), General Salva Kiir Mayardit, has issued a decree appointing the SPLA’s new Chief of General Staff and relieving a number of his deputies.
The move comes after the appointment yesterday of the former SPLA Chief of Staff, Oyai Deng Ajak, as minister of regional cooperation, the equivalent to foreign minister in the semi-autonomous government.
Major General James Hoth Mai, now promoted to the rank of Lt. General, has been appointed as the SPLA’s Chief of Staff, replacing General Oyai Deng Ajak, with effect from May 31, 2009.
General Salva Kiir Mayardit told the newly appointed Chief of General Staff that despite many achievements, there are still many milestones facing the SPLA that need to be passed. He said that the prime areas of concern include lack of discipline among the forces, desertions within the units and delay of salaries.
James Hoth Mai was born in Ulang County, Upper Nile State. He joined the SPLA in June 1983 and participated in various capacities including being the commando commander and chief of operations for Operations Jungle Storm between 1993 and 1995. He also participated in Operations Thunder Bolt. He served as the Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics in 2005.
Before his current promotion and appointment, Lt. General Hoth was the SPLA’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations.
He holds a Masters Degree in Public Administration from Fort Hare University, South Africa.
This is first change in the SPLA command since the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement in January 2005, which recognizes the former rebels as a conventional army of southern Sudan’s government.
Commanders and alternate commanders have taken on more conventional titles: colonels, brigadiers and generals. Also, the regional parliament in Juba authorized last year the establishment of an air force while other corps are being considered by its hierarchy.
However the SPLA, challenged with unsuccessful disarmament and resurgence of tribal fighting, is still facing some problems such as lack of discipline and integration of some thousands of former militiamen. The demobilization and the professionalization of the SPLA troops have been delayed since 2005 due to the lack of funds and fears that relieved soldiers without a profession or a job could create troubles in the south.
General Salva Kiir Mayardit also issued another decree relieving from their positions Major General Salva Mathok Gengdit, Deputy Chief of Staff for Administration and Major General Bior Ajang, Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, though the two outgoing deputies were promoted in rank.
No new appointments are yet decreed to fill the positions of the three deputies to the Chief of Staff for Administration, Logistics and Operations.
Kiir also issued other decrees promoting the SPLA Deputy Commander-in-Chief, Lt. General Paulino Matip Nhial to the rank of General (1st Lieutenant General), promoting Lt. General Oyai Deng Ajak, the newly appointed Minister for Regional Cooperation, to the same rank of General, and promoting Major Generals Salva Mathok and Bior Ajang to the rank of Lt. General.
The SPLA Commander-in-Chief also re-appointed Lt. General Salva Mathok Gengdit as Presidential Advisor for SPLA Affairs. No re-appointment is decreed for the former Deputy Chief of Staff for Logistics, Lt. General Bior Ajang.
(James Gatdet Dak contributed to this report)