Understanding Gen. Paul Malong: The Unfairly Maligned Savior of South Sudan

By: Simon Yel Yel

In Western diplomats’ imagination, doctor General Paul Malong Awan is a life-battery for President Salva Kiir’s presidency; Presidential wheel driver; dictator and the fanner of the war.

For Western sympathizers, cheapest he is the murderer of the Nuer, Dinka emperor who wants to build Dinka political hegemony, corrupt, antagonist and awaiting heir who will inherit the presidency once the president Salva Kiir retires or dies.

However, General Malong has risen and stood tall above these caricatural descriptions during the recent five days fighting in Juba.

Gen. Paul Malong Awan was in the bush long before the emergency of the SPLM/A in 1983. Like other war veterans, Malong abandoned his own Anyanya two movement in Northern Bahr el Ghazal and successfully mobilized and led thousands of youth to Ethiopia, Bilpham in 1984.

He was so passionate about the love for his country and detest the suffering that the people of southern Sudan were subjected to by the then Sudanese government.

During the liberation war, Malong almost fought in every corner of the then Sudan. He was the commander of the forces that had managed to vigorously defeat the Sudan Armed Forces (SAF) on several attempts to recapture Jebel Boma.

Malong protected Jebel Boma in 1992 until he was transferred to Northern Bahr el Ghazal to protect civilians from constant raiding attacks from Murahaleen.


From 1990s up to the time of CPA, Malong was the commander in charge of all the SPLA forces in Northern Barh El Ghazal, Gogrial, Raja and other towns. Gen. Malong fought the bitter war with Mujahedeen, Murahaleen and the forces of Sheikh Abdelbaki Ayii Akol. He protected the civilians and properties from SAF until the CPA was signed.

After the comprehensive peace Agreement was signed, Gen. Malong didn’t opt to joint politics but remained in the army as the country deputy Security chief. He was posted in Khartoum. He had a belief that the only viable option for Southern Sudanese to survive from socio-political marginalization from the North is to vote for secession and hence he has to make sure he gathers all intelligence plans for the SPLM/A.

In 2008, Gen. Malong was appointed by President Salva Kiir as a governor for Northern Bahr El Ghazal state on the request of the people of Northern Bahr el Ghazal. For the four years that Malong spent in the gubernatorial office, things he achieved in Aweil speak better for themselves than for me to explain them.

When Riek’s bloody quest for J-1 reached the highest peak of “shoot to lead” in Dec 2013, Malong unreservedly took his AK-47 and joined the SPLA forces to jettison out Riek’s forces in Juba and consequently dislodge him in Bor. He was the only leading high profile figure who fought in Bor liberation war from Riek.

In April 2014, President Salva Kiir appointed Gen. Malong to be the SPLA chief of General staffs on request of public. Malong accepted the appointment and left his gubernatorial position and take up a very challenging job of defending the country.

As he took over the work as the SPLA chief for General staffs, a remarkable enigma surrounds General Malong. Who is he? What does he want? How does he want to fight Riek’s rebellion and transform the SPLA?

Only people who see things beyond tribal line will dare not ask those questions because there are sufficient accounts of goals achieved by Gen. Malong. For those who were unable to watch Malong on Thursday night on SSTV a.k.a SSBC, his speech on that night serves as a useful guide and full definition of what human being he is and what is he up to.

Relaxed, reasonable, well-informed, nationalist, savior, the Malong who appeared on SSBC was far from the purported reckless murderer, dictator and Dinka emperor. On his Thursday night appearance on SSBC, Malong said “when I joined the SPLA liberation war in 1980s, my goal was to achieve this great nation and protect all the citizens regardless of their creed, tribes, faith, political affiliation and regions. There are those who would want to inculcate the fear in our people that I am in a planning to kill Equatorians.”

“I therefore want to assure the Equatorians and indeed all South Sudanese that my mission as the SPLA chief for General Staffs is to protect the sovereignty and territory of South Sudan from external and internal aggressions; protect the constitution and more importantly to protect the lives and properties of all South Sudanese from any danger or harm whether from inside or outside,” he added.

Watching Gen. Malong on that Thursday night feels like watching history being made. Despite the relentless propaganda aimed to maculate his reputation, his star continues to rise. When the political history of the post-independence and dark days brought upon the country by Riek Machar’s rebellion at the behest of the U.S.A and UN is finally recorded by our generation, Gen. Paul Malong will no doubt be recognized as a great hero who tremendously transformed the SPLA into disciplinary army and protected the civilians, constitution and sovereignty of South Sudan. Indeed, he will be remembered as a man who brought to end Riek’s political philosophy of “shoot to lead”

Gen. Paul Malong is following the same path undertaken by President Salva Kiir. When the SPLA bifurcated in 1991 and late William Nyuon who was the chief of General staffs rebelled, huge responsibilities fell on Salva Kiir as he assumed the role of Chief of Generals staff until 2005. Similarly, when the SPLA went into bad deep dichotomization in 2013, then quite unexpectedly, President Kiir put Gen. Malong at the helm in Bilpham in April 2014. Within a period of two years from now, Malong turned what was viewed as tribes’ army into a national army and indeed made SPLA to be one of the strongest army in the region.

I firmly believe that the current state of affairs, nationhood and political sanity in South Sudan will prove to be having been preserved as a result of sudden appearance of Gen.  Paul Malong. The strong military foundation mechanism put into place by Gen. Malong will one day prove to have salvaged the SPLA from disintegration and nation from collapse.

Under the stewardship of Gen. Malong, the SPLA has become the last and only front against the foreign exploitation; the only front against any individual who wants to use national army as a mean of ascending to J-1; the only front against external aggressions that threaten the existence of South Sudan as a nation and its prosperity as a people; the only front against any individual who wants to subject the lives of citizens into suffering to pursue his personal interest; the only front against foreign intervention into South Sudan’s affairs; the only front that protects the constitution and sovereignty of South Sudan.

In conclusion, I dare the reader to imagine what the political and military state of South Sudan would be like today without the existence of Gen. Malong in Bilpham and President Kiir in J-1. What Malong and his team achieved in Bilpham during these two years in my opinion are history’s turning points.

Simon Yel Yel
Simon Yel Yel

The writer is the Secretary General for the Center for Strategic and Governance Studies (C-SAGS), is a South Sudanese national currently residing in Juba, South Sudan, where he works as a political analyst for the C-SAGS. He is the co-editor of President Salva Kiir’ speeches and essential writings published as “Salva Kiir Mayardit: The Joshua of South Sudan


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