By Akol Ayom Wekdit
No doubt about it. South Sudan has, indeed, produced a hero and a leader only described in superlatives. On the continent and abroad, Gen. Paul Malong Awan, the SPLA Chief of General Staffs transcendences all that is petty, and flawed. He is a true definition of an impeccable character and heroism. After all, his records of imposing achievements speak for themselves. A list of such stellar accomplishments is in order.
First, Gen. Paul Malong Awan received an award from the Carter Center at Atlanta, Georgia in the United States of America in 2012. The Great Rift Valley Institute of Kenya witnessed this merited recognition. As deeds of Gen. Paul Malong traveled wide and far, the American Delegation arrived to former Northern Bahr el Ghazal to recognize his efforts which speak volumes about his role in maintaining peaceful co-existence between Rizegat, Messiryia and Dinka Malual along that volatile border. He observed this protective role of normalizing the border and nurturing neighborliness before and after independence of Republic of South Sudan.
I must add that the Carter Center Delegation at the time comprised many dignitaries from America, Kenya and Tanzania, among others.
Because his contribution to humanity never ends, Gen. Paul Malong received another significant award this month. Al Neelain University Center for Human Development Studies in the Republic of Sudan acknowledged Gen. Paul Malong for his unreservedly and relentlessly efforts in effecting of peaceful co-existence among the Rizeigat & Messiryia of Sudan and Dinka Malual of South Sudan. In celebrating this distinction, many South Sudanese marched on Saturday, January 7, 2017 to Crown Hotel in Juba. Thousands of people gathered to witness the conferral of an honorary degree on the SPLA Chief of General Staffs. Uncle Bona Malual Madut Ring who graced this occasion also attested to the efforts which Gen. Malong played during his time as a Zonal Commander. These enduring efforts include, maintaining peace along the border, keeping enemy at bay and determinedly leading his people.
To state the obvious, Uncle Bona Malual Madut—one of the widely known South Sudanese intellectuals— applauded the Sudanese University for acknowledging such unmatched contributions by Gen. Malong Awan. Uncle Bona went on to encourage other institutions in the country and beyond to emulate the same fashion and give credits where they are due.
On the same vein, H.E President Salva Kiir Mayardit also saluted unimpeachable contributions made by Gen. Paul Malong during the liberation. These contributions involve hardships that Gen. Malong faced during time of struggle. Gen. Malong fought tirelessly for the liberation of South Sudan and his efforts bear on the independence of South Sudan. The President emphatically stated that Gen. Malong was one of the committed commanders who fought with him during the war of liberation and he is still unconditionally defending South Sudan today both from internal and external enemies. Irrevocably, President Salva Kiir asserted that Gen. Paul Malong is a man of peace.
Yes, Al Neelain University has already made a wise decision: It will establish a faculty of Pharmacy in the name of Gen. Paul Malong. This is to immortalize him as a person who kept
peace with his neighbors, fought against Khartoum oppression and defended unity of South Sudan. This affirmation is fitting because Gen. Paul is a freedom fighter, a war and peace hero.
For starters, Gen. Paul Malong Awan Anei, was part and parcel of dissatisfied Anyanya I remnants who rejected 1972 Addis-Ababa Peace Accord. This is the accord that the current Anyanya I veteran, Joseph Lagu and Jaffar Nimery of Sudan signed to end the war. Gen. Malong remained in the bush and became part of the group known as Anyanya II. This group preceded founding of the Sudan’s People Liberation Army (SPLA) or its political wing Sudan’s People Liberation Movement (SPLM) in 1983.
Nevertheless, like other South Sudanese freedom fighters at the time, Gen. Paul Malong abandoned his own Anyanya II movement in Aweil area. He painstakingly mobilized and led thousands of new recruits to Bilpham, Ethiopia in 1984 to the new movement. In the pursuit of his national agenda, Gen. Paul Malong was passionately driven by loyalty and the love for his own country and people. He bitterly detested untold sufferings which South Sudanese people went through under the hands of northern Sudanese successive Arab governments.
However, during the war of liberation, Gen. Malong commanded and fought protracted wars against the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and other splinter groups armed in every corner of the then United Republic of Sudan. As the zonal commander of the forces, he fiercely managed and vigorously defeated SAF on several attempts to regain control of Jebel Boma.
Gen. Paul Malong with his abounding self-confidence, over the top well-informed and brilliant military experience, he managed to protect Jebel Boma in 1992 until he was transferred to NBGs with the same mission to protect civil population from barbaric constant raiding attacks from Muraleen (Arab cattle raiders) from 1990s up to the time of Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed by SPLM/A with Sudanese government under the National Congress Party.
Gen. Malong was the commander in charge of all the SPLA forces in Northern-Bahr El Ghazal, Raja and other nearby towns. Gen. Malong fought the bitter war with Mujaheeden and Muraheleen as well forces linked to Abdelbagi Ayii Akol Agany. He protected the civilians and personal property from the SAF until the signature of CPA. After the CPA, Gen. Paul Malong didn’t immediately opt to join politics but remained in the army as the country Deputy Chief for Security. The leadership posted him in Khartoum. He had a belief that the only virtuous option for South Sudanese to survive from socio-political domination and marginalization from the Northern Arabs is to vote for absolute secession. He doubled his efforts to gather all intelligence plans for the SPLM/A. However, Malong was appointed by President Salva Kiir in 2008 as a governor for NBGS. This appointment can be traced back to a popular demand by the people of that strategic border state. The four years that Gen. Malong spent in the gubernatorial office saw many outstandingly achievements in greater Mading Aweil state. Again, these deeds speak louder for themselves than for any one closest to him to narrate.
Certainly, Gen. Malong is a nationalist and superb military general. To prove unfailing loyalty of Gen. Malong to his beloved country, he has long embraced development, freedom, peace and progress in South Sudan.
Owing to his ascending national service, President Salva Kiir Mayardit conditionally appointed Gen. Malong to be the SPLA Chief of General Staffs in April 2014. His appointment was celebrated by all, except the inner circle which was linked to rebellion. Gen. Malong accepted the appointment and left his gubernatorial positions to take up a very daunting task of defending the country.
Upon taking over the gallant forces as the Chief of General Staffs , the inner circle of opposition ventured forward with wildest propaganda, all endeavouring to sway international community, regional and local allies on their side. Only people who see things beyond tribal lens applauded such damaging move.
Frankly speaking, Gen. Malong attitude reflects vision on national identity and social cohesion. He openly strives to protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of this great nation from both internal and external aggression.
Many South Sudanese nationalists firmly believe that the current state of affairs, nationhood and political stability in South Sudan exist to due presence of Gen. Paul Malong Awan as army Chiefs of General Staffs. To proponents, the appointment of Gen. Malong salvaged the SPLA from deep disintegration and eventually the new nation from political and social collapse.
Following his appointment, Gen. Malong tried his level best possible to transform and professionalize the SPLA into one national entity to safeguard the constitutional mandate vested upon it as per now. His fruits bear out this direction in the current professional army.
In conclusion, Gen. Malong has done so much over the years to defend South Sudan, including professionalizing the army and his developing state. These heroic deeds and sacrifices have earned him admiration and recognition among his peers. This is the genesis in which Al-Neelain University conferred an honorary degree upon him as recognition of his steadfastness to maintain peace and security along the border with our Sudanese neighbours. That a former Governor and an army general reached this far, should be appreciated and reckoned by all peace lovers not only in African continent but the world at large. In a nutshell, Gen. Malong is an embodiment of sacrifice, gallantry, peace, progress, and patriotism.
The author can be reached at . firstname.lastname@example.org