- President Salva Kiir, (L), accompanied by army chief of staff Paul Malong Awan, (R), waves during an independence day ceremony in the capital Juba, on July 9, 2015 (Photo AP)
Tuesday’s decree announcing the immediate removal of Malong did not cite any reasons.
Awan has been replaced by the deputy chief of general staff for administration and finance, Lieutenant General James Ajongo Mawut.
The relieve comes as the army have repeatedly been accused of gross human rights violations, rape, atrocities and war crimes on civilians in conflict-affected areas.
Awan who also recruited a notorious militia from his home region has failed to crack down on abuses by the SPLA soldiers.
In February, during a visit to Yei River state, President Kiir criticised soldiers accused of raping women and girls, stressing that this is not the policy of the government.
“I want the general chief of staff General Paul Malong and the defence minister to report to me from now on if anything like this (rape) happens. In such a case, we will shoot the person who did it,” stressed the South Sudanese leader.
On 3 May, SPLA troops were accused of attacking a UNMISS base in Leer town in the former Unity State. The Security Council condemned the attack and recalled that the responsible for such aggression “may be designated for targeted sanctions”.
The three-year conflict in South Sudan had driven more than one million children out of the country, the United Nations announced Monday, warning that the future of a generation is ‘on the brink.’
Also, President Kiir on 27 April cancelled a meeting at the army general while he was en-route to the SPLA headquarters and returned to the presidency after he was advised by the security not to attend, multiple sources told Sudan Tribune that day.
It was not clear why the president changed his mind mid-way to the military headquarters, sparking debates among government and opposition supporters.
“We were on our way to Bilpam but returned mid-way because the president was advised by the security to not go to the SPLA general headquarters. I don’t know the reason and I have asked nobody. The president was talking on the telephone and the driver turned the vehicle when he finished talking,” said a presidential aide who asked not to be named.
Kiir’s decision was linked to the tension between the ex-chief of general staff and the director general of the internal bureau of the security service, Akol Koor Kuc, both of whom have presidential ambitions.