President Salva Kiir sacks South Sudan army chief Johnson Okot

Johnson Juma Okot.

South Sudan Chief of Defence Forces Johnson Juma Okot. He has been sacked by President Salva Kiir.

Photo credit: Courtesy | SSPDF

South Sudan President Salva Kiir has appointed Santino Deng Wol as the country's Chief of Defense Forces, replacing General Johnson Juma Okot . Gen. Wol was also promoted to the rank to First Lt-Gen on Saturday.

This comes just 11 months after he had made similar changes to the country’s defence structure to accommodate new members of his unity government.

Gen Okot was on assignment when the changes were made. He was leading the South Sudan People’s Defence Forces (SSPDF) to address recent insecurity challenges that have caused a traffic pile up of trucks at the Nimule border with Uganda.

Drivers from Kenya and Uganda have been protesting at lack of safety, after their colleagues were ambushed, robbed, maimed and killed over the last one month. He will be heading to Belgium as head of South Sudan’s mission in Brussels.

In just under five years, President Kiir has had four military chiefs, replaced due to mistrust, political disagreement or forced by realignments in his government.

Gen Okot was supposed to lead a unification and professionalisation of the military, a programme to end the many armed groups that had later signed on the peace agreement in 2018. 

That agreement led to the formation of a government of national unity last February. The unification has, however, missed several deadlines.

Santino Deng Wol

New South Sudan Chief of Defence Forces Santino Deng Wol (left).  

Photo credit: Pool

In a separate decree, President Kiir also fired the Deputy Minister for Defence and Veteran Affairs Malek Reuben Riak and deployed him as Ambassador to Eritrea, South Sudan’s newest diplomatic mission.

Mr Chol Thon Balok replaced him at the ministry. Balok had been Deputy Chief of General Staff. The President also appointed Marial Benjamin to replace Nhial Deng Nhial as Minister for Presidential Affairs. 

Mr Benjamin, a former Minister for Foreign Affairs had been the government’s representative in negotiations with armed groups that had initially refused to sign the peace deal.

The groups met in Kenya last month and agreed to work on an agreement. 

President Kiir did not disclose the reasons behind the sackings apart from his constitutional right to make changes in his government.