South Sudan’s former army chief Paul Malong is currently being held under house arrest in the youngest nation’s capital Juba.
Defence Minister Kuol Manyang Juuk is quoted by Reuters Thursday as saying that Malong, sacked in May by President Salva Kiir, is being held for security reasons.
“He was not arrested, but he [is] confined. There are no charges against him,” minister Manyang is quoted as saying.
The oil-rich nation gained independence from neighboring Sudan in 2011. The world’s youngest nation plunged into civil war in 2013 when Kiir, an ethnic Dinka, fired his deputy, Riek Machar, a member of the rival Nuer community.
A peace deal between the two sides signed in 2015 collapsed last year amid fighting in the capital. Machar is now in exile in South Africa.
Malong, a former elected civilian governor, is a member of the Dinka ethnic group. He was not immediately available for comment.
The former army chief had left Juba, the capital, in a convoy of vehicles hours after he was removed from his post, sparking fears he might join a revolt.
The defense minister said Malong “was persuaded to come back” to Juba and is “now back in his house.”
He said government doctors will be provided in the event Malong needs medical care, and that he must see those doctors “before he decides to go anywhere outside the country.”
The minister also said the president had granted amnesty to Thomas Cirillo Swaka, the most senior officer to defect from the military in the last year. Cirillo, who now lives in Ethiopia, says his aim is to overthrow Kiir and accuses him of running a tribalist army and government.
“W hope he will respond to the amnesty by the president,” Juuk said. “If he wants, he can come and form his own political party and then we can develop our democratic system.”
East African leaders said in June they would push South Sudan’s warring sides to revive collapsed peace efforts and delay scheduled elections but did not set a date for that new process.
In July, donors from the European Union, the United States, Britain and Norway said they would offer no further support to implementation of the peace deal until regional leaders find a credible way of re-launching the peace process.