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South Sudan president assures former army chief of safety

November 13, 2017 (JUBA) - South Sudan President Salva Kiir has assured the country’s former army chief of safety, reducing panic and tension generated by the deployment of government troops around the latter’s home.

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S Sudan’s President Salva Kiir is received by former Chief of General Staff of the SPLA Paul Malong Awan at the airport in Juba March 6, 2015 (Reuters)

Elders and church leaders involved in negotiations to break the standoff between government and General Paul Malong Awan said the latter was now free to move and live anywhere in the country.

“The discussions we have had with the president have been encouraging. He is a man of peace and he wants the situation to be addressed peacefully. The issue of has now been resolved and Gen Paul Malong will choose where to go. The troops deployed around his residences have been withdrawn as part of the implementation of the outcome of the meeting and for confidence building," Deng Macham Angui”, chairman of traditional leaders told Sudan Tribune on Monday.

The president has given personal assurance of safety to Awan, he stressed.

Meanwhile presidential advisor on security affairs said the government decided to withdraw troops from Awan’s home after a review showed no security threat existed.

Tut Kew Gatluak said the withdrawal was done to reduce and eliminate uncertainty created by deployment of security forces around the residence of former army chief.

“There is no problem and there was no problem completely. It was just a misunderstanding. But it has been resolved peacefully. The forces have now withdrawn to build confidence between the Government and General Paul and to ease inconveniences caused to other road users," said Gatluak.

The official spokesperson for the South Sudanese army said the decision follows the “peaceful” resolution of misunderstandings between government and Malong.

“Armoured Personnel Carriers and security forces initially deployed around the residence of Gen Paul Malong have been withdrawn,” said Brig. Gen. Lul Ruai Koang.

“Withdrawal came about after Gen. Paul accepted presidential order on reduction of his bodyguards”, he added.

Malong, a former elected state governor, lost his position as army chief of general staff in May and his movement had to be restricted.

The army spokesperson said the decision to withdraw security forces from the ex-military chief’s home was taken for after a security review reportedly showed the latter posed no security threats to government in particular and residents in general.

He said government will on Monday officially issue a statement on the peaceful resolution of misunderstandings with the ex-army chief.

Last week, however, attempts by government forces to disarm the former army chief’s bodyguards failed, prompting an uprising from some troops loyal to Malong.

But Malong warned of potential bloodshed should government insist on disarming and arresting his guards.

The UN Mission in South Sudan earlier expressed willingness to assist resolve the standoff between the government and the former military chief of staff.

(ST)