June 21, 2014 (JUBA) - South Sudanese president Salva Kiir has rejected the resignation of his minister of defence, Kuol Manyang Juuk on the background of tense relations with the new military chief of general staff, Paul Malong Awan.
- South Sudan’s defence minister Kuol Manyang Juuk, speaks after a cabinet meeting in the capital, Juba, on 17 January 2014 (Photo: Reuters/Andreea Campeanu)
Juuk presented the resignation letter to the president, saying he “wanted to have time off public life to dedicate enough time to looking after his family”.
The president in his reaction, however, acknowledged what he described as “serious” and “worrying” issues facing the ministry of defence, but said the timing of the resignation was not “appropriate” and could not accept the decision.
“Comrade Kuol, this is incredible decision to make and I cannot accept it. I know there are serious and worrying issues facing the Ministry of Defence but we must handle them with care and show of leadership,” president Kiir told his top security official.
“Resignation will not solve anything, so I do not accept your decision not because I do not respect your choice but this is not the appropriate time to make such a decision,” he cautioned.
Defence Minister Juuk last Friday submitted his resignation to President Kiir, saying he “wanted to have time off public life to dedicate enough time to looking after his family”.
Reasons for submitting resignation by defence minister remains unclear, although several cabinet ministers and members of parliament close to him have provided conflicting accounts of the events leading to the decision.
Close sources to the minister including his relatives claimed Juuk felt undermined by the monopoly of the security issues by the new chief of general staff, General Paul Malong Awan, who blamed the minister for allegedly failing to pay two months salaries to the government troops deployed to areas in Greater Upper Nile region to fight the rebels.
Malong blamed Juuk for concentrating on paying the Ugandan troops protecting the government in South Sudan at the expense of the South Sudanese army, resulting to defections and deserting of positions in many areas in Greater Upper Nile region.
General Malong, a trusted close ally of president Kiir who equally hails from Greater Bhar el Ghazal region, is also alleged to have direct communications with the president, sidelining the defence minister in decision-making processes.
“My readings are into two folds: one is the monopoly of the affairs of the ministry by the new chief of general staff, General Paul Malong Awan , whom I am told had blamed the defence minister for failing to instruct payment for two month salaries for soldiers fighting the rebels in the three states of the Greater Upper Nile region,” an insider observer told Sudan Tribune on Saturday.
“I am also told General Awan goes directly to the president, instead of going through the minister. He also does not show that he is under the command of the minister,” he further speculated.
He said the new army chief also intended to introduce changes in the army without consulting with the minister of defence.
A senior government official who spoke on condition of anonymity also on Friday confirmed that minister Juuk had of recent indicated readiness to resign from the position, claiming that the latter had confided in him personally that he would prefer working with someone who appreciated the importance of teamwork, than working with someone junior who monopolizes the affairs of an institution.
It is not clear whether or not minister Juuk will reverse his decision, which comes at the time when the government has been battling the armed opposition forces under the leadership of the former vice president, Riek Machar.