A senior South Sudanese military general accused of orchestrating the July 2016 fighting in the country, has never re-ignited the conflict, and instead blamed former vice president Riek Machar.
Gen Paul Malong, the chief of general staff of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), told a team of visiting Ugandan and Kenyan journalists that Dr Machar, who is now exiled in Khartoum, attempted “a palace coup”.
“On that day (of the initial clashes), I was at Regency Hotel closing a media workshop and I got a call that there was movement of troops from Jebel towards J1 [State House] where (the) president was meeting Machar. Machar had also entered the meeting room with a pistol. We had to re-organise [and]stop them,” he said.
Machar’s spokesperson James Gatdet, without specifying, yesterday described Gen Malong’s claims as “lies calculated to serve a purpose.”
“The accusation of Dr Machar staging a coup is totally incorrect. The whole thing was planned by Malong himself and President Kiir, and they know it,” Gatdet said.
He added: “That day, (president) Kiir invited Machar to State House with a plot already hatched and with intentions of killing (him). Luckily, he escaped. How could he have planned a coup with only 70 bodyguards [that]he went with to the State House?”
The July skirmishes broke out at the presidential palace in Juba and some 304 mainly pro-Machar soldiers, including his bodyguards, were killed. The presidential palace fence remains riddled with bullet holes, three months later.
In yesterday’s interview at his office in Jebel, Gen Malong said they foiled a plot to eliminate president Kiir and that Machar’s sabre-rattling about waging war and marching on Juba, the South Sudan capital, is a “very big miscalculation”.
“He left Juba with the same miscalculation,” he said, “He first asked for ammunition and guns to go back to war. But this miscalculation is coming to an end. Machar is not a threat anymore.”
Machar had said, on that fateful day, he survived an assassination plot masterminded by Gen Malong, allegations the latter denied.
“I was instead given an order by the president to take him (Machar) to his (Machar’s) compound and that’s what I did,” he said in a rebuttal.
The renewed fighting, which prompted foreign nationals to evacuate, has stymied the implementation of the regionally brokered peace agreement.
Asked why two SPLA generals defected to the opposition last week if Dr Machar was weak, the SPLA chief said the defections too are “a miscalculation”.
Discussions are ongoing with regional and international partners about the planned deployment of a region protection after the South Sudan government grudgingly accepted the deployment of the force.
Source: Daily Monitor