June 16, 2014 (JUBA) - South Sudan’s new army chief of general staff, Gen. Paul Malong Awan paid an official visit to Nasir, a town in Uoper Nile state to assess and acquaint himself with the overall security situation and challenges facing government troops on the ground.
- South Sudanese army chief Gen. Paul Malong Awan speaking at a Dinka Malual community meeting in Juba on 1 Novemer 2012 (ST)
Awan, a close ally of president Salva Kiir, was accompanied by Lt. Gen. James Ajonga Mawut Ajonga, the deputy chief of staff for operations and the Sector II commander of South Sudan army (SPLA) in Upper Nile region, Lt. Gen. Johnson Gony Bliew.
His visit, the first ever conducted since government troops gained control of an area previously under rebel control, was seen as a move to boost the moral of the fighting forces in the area.
The commissioner of Ulang Nasir county, Dak Tap and the area commander, Brig. Gen. Kong Thow Kong welcomed and later briefed the new army chief on the security situation of the area.
The commissioner also told the visiting top army delegation that the rebel commander, Gathoth Gatkuoth and his forces left Mandeng village for Pagak.
Awan, however, assured the county commissioners and the chiefs from the area that the government forces were in the area to protect their lives and from properties from any threat.
“The primary mission of the army is to ensure national security and unity, defending the nation defending from external aggression and threats, and maintaining peace and security within its borders", the army reportedly said.
"It conducts humanitarian rescue operations during natural calamities and other disturbances like the current conflict and can also be requisitioned by the government to cope with internal threats”, he added.
The top army official said the conflict in the country was not between the tribes, but that it was a result of political differences, which do not have any connection with ethnicity.
“I would like to say we are a people created equal, free to think and worship as we feel. We in the army do not identify ourselves as tribe. We look at ourselves as all South Sudanese and this is why there are different people from other tribes in South Sudan", said Gen. Awan.
"Our mission is to defend the country so that our destiny is not determined by us. We must therefore reject tribalism. Our tribe should be our country”, he stressed.
The army chief, who recently replaced James Hoth Mai, said the military was subordinate to the people and must take effective measures to safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of developing the nation by enhancing security.
"First, it is imperative to foster a new security concept of featuring mutual trust, mutual benefit, equality and cooperation and fully respect the diversity of our people and seek consensus through dialogue, cooperation, through consultation and development through exchange of ideas” , he explained.
He assured community leaders that humanitarian assistance would eventually be delivered to conflict areas.
“The government has agreed with rebel to sign the cessation of hostilities and allow humanitarian organisations access to the areas which have been affected by this conflict", said Gen. Awan.
"We have accepted this agreement and implemented it. If other side respects it, the United Nations world food programme and other relief organisations will food items to Akobo, Waat, Nasir, Ulang, Maiwaut, Longichuk, Mangok, Pagak and all other areas which have been affected so that they don’t starve”, he added.