South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir has promoted an aide to a high military rank, causing mixed reactions and protest in the army command structures.
Kiir, in a note to the army Chief of Defence Forces, Gen Santino Deng Wol, promoted James Deng Wal Achien to Major General.
Achien currently serves as the Executive Director in the office of the South Sudanese leader.
Kiir later appeared next to the aide who was clad in military attire bearing his new rank, attracting him congratulatory messages from family members, relatives, friends as well as work colleagues.
It remains unclear how the South Sudanese leader decided to promote an aide, whose military background is being questioned.
Observers say Kiir’s close allies could have hatched a plan to have Achien promoted to pave way for the president’s son, Thiik Salva Kiir, who is deputy executive director in the president’s office.
However, while several army generals at the headquarters view it as an act undermining conventional practice, others have defended the president’s actions, saying it was his prerogative.
A South Sudanese army general told Sudan Tribune on Sunday that Kiir treats the army like a rebel movement operating without conventional practices on which institutional decisions are based.
“What has been happening since 2005 when Salva Kiir took the mantle of leadership is not only shocking and frustrating service men and women but the manner in which he makes his decisions these days are embarrassing and clearly demoralizing those who are still in service hoping things will someday improve”, said the military general, who preferred anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter.
He added, “I think the president still lives in this era because the way he does the things these days is exactly the way things were done back in the bush days of the liberation struggle”.
The general said appointments and deployments are now being politicized, citing the ways in which appointments they are made without involving relevant departments and institutional leadership.
“This has now politicized the deployment in the divisions and here at the general headquarters. Military assignments are now lobbied. I have never experienced this before, never in the history of the army that one will have to ask for a deployment to specific place. The command decides and deployment is rotated. Those eligible for deployment do not have to know,” stressed the general.
He added, “They are only informed. But today, people must know where they will be deployed and if they do not like they have to lobby where they would like to be deployed. This kills institutional spirit and undermine spirit of nationalism”.