December 10, 2016 (JUBA) – South Sudan army (SPLA) chief of staff, Gen. Paul Malong Awan has warned diplomats in the country to avoid making unverified statements in relation to the military’s plan to launch offensives against rebels operating in Equatoria region.
- S Sudan’s President Salva Kiir is received by Chief of General Staff of the SPLA Paul Malong Awan at the airport in Juba March 6, 2015 (Reuters)
In a statement broadcast on the state-owned SSBC on Friday, Awan admitted the existence of new recruits being trained, but stressed that they were purely for professional purposes.
"The SPLA general command would like to issue stern warning to all those in the international community who are propagating fear and issuing the divisive statement in the country to refrain from such undertakings," he told reporters at the military headquarters in Juba.
The United Nations and United States have separately warned of possible escalation of violence in Equatoria region, especially in areas around Yei River state and Yambio. A U.N special envoy, for instance, said there was evidence of preparations for large scale conflict leading to genocide, a statement the government denied.
The army chief has admitted the existence of military training for 400 soldiers in Luri, the outpost of presidential guards known as the tiger unit, but insisted there is no law broken to professionalize the army.
"South Sudan as a sovereign nation has right and the capacity to protect its citizens and in doing so it must deal with both internal and external aggressors in order to maintain law and order in the country," said Awan.
"Some foreign diplomats accredited to the Republic of South Sudan, and who by virtue of their status can verify facts, have simply accepted live rumors (sic)," he stressed.
Meanwhile, the spokesperson of the army, Lul Ruai Koang described as “baseless” the alleged military buildup in Equatoria regions.
"Let me make it clear to the general public and the whole world that all those evidence they raised are false and baseless. [The evidences] are created by those who like to tarnish the image of the national army and also want this country to collapse and they take over," said Koang.