South Sudan’s ex-military chief, Paul Malong Awan forms new opposition party

JOHANNESBURG — South Sudan’s former military chief of staff Paul Malong is launching a new opposition party to challenge what he says is the “corrupt” government and to take part in the country’s upcoming peace talks at the end April in neighboring Ethiopia.Malong announced the formation of the South Sudan-United Front, which he said aims to “arrest the carnage” of South Sudan’s ongoing civil war, he said in a statement released Monday.A former close ally of President Salva Kiir, Malong has been accused of controlling an ethnic militia that’s committed human rights atrocities against civilians. Last year he was sanctioned by the United States for undermining security amid South Sudan’s five-year civil war, which has killed tens of thousands, displaced millions and plunged parts of the country into famine.

Malong blamed Kiir’s government for running “a country where total impunity is the order of the day and the mantra is zero tolerance for the rule of law.”

The main opposition party, led by former Vice President Riek Machar, is welcoming the move saying that Malong’s presence will “expose the regime completely,” opposition spokesman Lam Paul Gabriel told The Associated Press.

The government was not immediately available for comment.

Malong’s is the 14th opposition group intending to participate in talks which have yet to yield results. A ceasefire was signed on December 24 but was broken hours after being implemented and recent talks in February were inconclusive.

Conflict experts say the growing number of opposition factions joining the peace talks has become a fragmented “alphabet soup of groups,” which is encouraging leaders to form their own parties rather than join together.

“This move is designed to gain a seat at the peace talks and protect his (Malong’s) interests in any future political settlement,” said Alan Boswell, conflict analyst for Small Arms Survey, a Geneva-based group focusing on armed violence.

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