Who is General Paul Malong Awan?
You may not realize how many good reasons are there to try to find out more about the people around you including your leaders. After all, you have a right to know whether the people you surround yourself with are who they say they are. This goes double in any situation that involves your children and which not only includes your family members, but also your leaders and others.
Every person has a role to play in a society in his/her lifetime be it in his/her home village, hometown or in his/her country. This person whether he or she is a public figure or an ordinary citizen, there are those who will talk about him or her trying to know more about the person; be it in the role and contribution he/she does for the country if this person is in high ranking position in the country. One of those people or leaders in South Sudan is General Paul Malong Awan, who has sacrificed and dedicated most of his life for the freedom, liberation and the independence of South Sudan.
South Sudan’s struggle for independence started way back in 1820, with many people going to the bush and leaving behind their wives, children and families. The fearless warriors staked their lives for the sake of liberating Southern Sudanese from the pangs of suppression and oppression. This led to the signing of the Addis Ababa Agreement, also known as the Addis Ababa Accord in March 1972.
The agreement, signed by Sudanese President Jaafar Muhammad Numeiry and Joseph Lagu of the Anya Nya (a southern Sudanese rebellion movement), ended the First Sudanese Civil War. The agreement was a series of compromises aimed at appeasing the leaders of the insurgency in Southern Sudan, after the first Sudanese civil war proved costly to the government in the North. The agreement granted Southern Sudan autonomy, creating the Southern Sudan Autonomous Region.
However, Numeiry’s government in Khartoum dishonored all the peace agreements including the Addis Ababa Agreement, sparking the second Sudanese civil war.
This series of events is what eventually led to the formation of the SPLA/M in1983. The SPLM/A put up a spirited fight and refused to lay down their tools until the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed, ending the war in January 2005.
It had been a bumpy ride for South Sudanese from 1820, both for the military and civilians. In light of this, as any others who fought for the freedom and liberation of South Sudan, here is a profile of one of the unsung heroes of South Sudan, a man who has contributed immensely to the history, both of the pre- and post-independent South Sudan, “General Paul Malong Awan”.
Malong’s Early Life
Paul Malong was born in the early year of 1962 in Warawar, a village situated about forty-five kilometers north of Aweil town in the former Northern Bahr el Gazal State. He was born to Aluat (mother) and Awan Anei (father). His father was a paramount chief who governed his kinsmen in the Wun-Anei section of Abiem, situated in the current Aweil East State. The family is survived by four children. Malong’s older siblings are deceased. In the order of their birth (excluding the deceased), the children of Anei’s first wife, who is also Malong’s mother, are Agot, Amou, Malong and Atak.
As a young man, Malong attended basic schools in his home village. After his father was killed in the late 1965s, Malong proceeded to Muglad, where he completed his primary school in 1969 in the Sudan. He had his intermediate education at St. James in Khartoum, where he participated in the clandestine formation of the Anya-Nya 2 Movement in the Bahr el Gazal area.
Joining the SPLM/A
In 1983 a number of mutinies broke out in the barracks of the Sudanese army in Bor town of southern Sothern (Formally known as “Southern Region”. These mutineers would form the nucleus of SPLA. By June 1983; the majority of mutineers had moved to Ethiopia; on their way towards Gambella. The Ethiopian government’s decision to support the promising Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) by then was a means of exacting revenge upon the Sudanese government for their support of Eritrean rebels.
Paul Malong was instrumental in the formation of Anya-Nya 2, particularity in the Bahr el Gazal region. Thereafter, when he left to join the SPLM/A, arriving in July 1984 in Ethiopian, Malong, was transferred to the Steel (Hadit) Battalion of Koryom Division. He went to Officers’ Cadet and graduated with the rank of captain in July the same year. After his graduation he was transferred to Northern Upper Nile around the Maban area. During that time, Dr. John Garang created what he called the Axis Front, where the permanent members of the High Command (which was then the highest echelon of the SPLA command) were posted. The Northern Upper Nile is one of areas where the Axis Fronts were created.
Malong returned to Itang, which was then the second largest refugee camp in Ethiopia. After a few months of lull, he was recalled and commissioned to the rank of major in October 1985. He was then posted to Southern Blue Nile in the Eagle Battalion, where he spent three years at the battle front.
In 1988, Paul Malong was arrested while on leave in Itang on charges of insubordination and an apparent disagreement with Dr. John Garang on some policy issues. And was sentenced for more than two years in prison; while in prison at the small village of Pakeda, some of his infamous contemporaries at the prison included Kerubino Kuanyin Bol. Kerubino was Garang’s number two and had been put in indefinite jail for undermining the leadership of the movement.
When the Mengistu regime in Ethiopia collapsed in 1991, Malong, a prisoner at large, became a roving commander with no definite assignment. In 1992, after the dismissal of all charges, Malong was promoted to the rank of alternate commander. He was posted in Eastern Equatoria, which in the SPLA Jargon was named Eastern Nile Front. His theatre of operations included Latukei, Magwi and Pageri, among other towns. With the defection of CDR William Nyuon Bany, Malong was assigned to pursue him upon which he was wounded in the leg.
The SPLA started the reorganization of the fronts and Northern Bahr el Gazal in addition to Gogrial became Area Independent Command Zone. Malong was appointed its commander in August 1993. In the subsequent years, the area was designated as Division 10 with Malong as its alternate commander; it included former Northern Bahr el Gazal area, Gogrial and Abyei areas.
Like any other liberation movement, SPLA was not prone to reorganization. The intention was to help the movement plan strategically. In the process, Dr. John Garang created war fronts, which are more or less a replica of a conventional army setting. The belief then was that senior army officers couldn’t go to war yet the top leadership felt they could be assigned to the frontline like any other junior officer. In light of this reality, in the year 2000, Salva Kiir Mayardit was made commander of Bahr el Gazal front, which covered the former states of Northern Bahr el Gaza, Western Bahr el Gazal, Warrap, Lakes and Abyei area. He was deputized by Malong as head of administration and logistics. The headquarters were in Yith-kuel in the present day Tonj state.
After a successful liberation war in greater Northern Bahr el Gazal area, the SPLA front command leadership was reshuffled. Malong maintained his position as the deputy front commander under the leadership of Pieng Deng Majok, who took over as the overall commander of the sector. He maintained the position until the penning of the Naivaisha’s Peace Agreement (CPA) on January 9, 2004.
Comprehensive Peace Agreement (2005)
The prolonged civil war resulted in tones of sufferings. By the time the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed in Kenya, the populace of South Sudan was anxious and ready to embrace the peace agreement.
Malong was instrumental in the setup of the South Sudan Presidential Guards. Subsequently, he was made head of the Presidential Guards. As stipulated in the peace agreement, Malong was appointed in 2006 at the helm of National Security as one of the Deputy Chiefs for the whole country (Sudan). His main task was taking charge of South Sudan. He displayed military expertise during that process, including the building of the premises that house the current National Security offices in Juba. When the war between the South Sudan and Sudan was ignited by the tribal militias in South Sudan in December 2007, Malong was transferred to Northern Bahr el Gazal as the State Governor. The appointment was effected in February 2008. The reason behind this particular appointment was his peculiar relations with the grassroots, particularly in the North-South border divide. Eventually, peace prevailed. As a civilian governor, he still participated in the military affairs of the country because it has always been his field of expertise; he then won first general elections in April 2010 and became the First Elected Governor of Northern Bahr El Ghazal State, with Aweil as Capital, the position he held till February 24, 2014.
Back to the Military (SPLA)
At the advent of the December 15, 2013 crisis, Malong was shifted from his position as the State Governor of Northern Bahr El Ghazal and appointed back to the military as the Chief of General Staff of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) on February 24, 2014, a position he still holds to this day.
Malong as the second in command of the SPLA, and as a custodian of the security of the country, Gen. Malong main tasked was to command the war in defending the land against any aggressor. He makes sure the SPLA is more than ready to defend you, your land and your resources against any aggressor. Gen. Malong assures the people of South Sudan that SPLA shall continue to prove that it possesses the capability, the agility and the dignity to defend and protect this country and its people with pride under the able leadership of Gen. Salva Kiir Mayardit, President and Commander-in-Chief of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA).
Gen. Malong’s message to the people of South Sudan is “We in the SPLA stand firm and wary of anything that threaten the freedom and lives of our people. We stand on guard in defense of territorial integrity of South Sudan and the Interim Constitution of the Republic of South Sudan. We are very proud of you and always are at your disposal and ready to do what it takes to defend the country in totality if any situation dictates”.
Rare Cases (Good Samaritan)
In one of the rare cases, Paul Malong’s father was killed in the village when Malong was only eight years old. Paul Malong was raised by his mother following the demise of his father who was killed by a member of his community. The young Malong learned self-reliance as he tried to provide support for his mother. Currently, Malong is 100% the sole caretaker of the man who killed his father by providing him with shelter, food, clothing, healthcare and everything.
By Larco Lomayat