‘Mr President, please let my husband go to bury our girl’
Wife of General Paul Malong (left) is pleading with President Salva Kiir to allow him go and bury daughter killed in Moi Girls inferno two weeks ago
The wife of a former South Sudan military chief has accused President Salva Kiir of lacking “humanity” for refusing to release her husband to attend the funeral of their daughter who died in the Moi Girls School fire tragedy three weeks ago.
Writing in the Sudan Tribune on Friday, Mrs Lucy Ayak Malek, the wife of General Paul Malong, now under house arrest in Juba, said President Kiir had declined to release her husband to travel to Kenya to help identify their daughter, Alakiir Malong, who was one of the nine girls who perished in the school inferno.
“On September 2, a fire that gutted a girls’ dormitory at Moi Girls School, claiming the lives of 9 students with many others critically injured, was another test and touching trial for my family,” she wrote.
“I had two students in this school, a 14-year-old and a 16-year-old. My 14-year-old survived the fire with minor injuries, thanks to her brave elder sister who managed to push her through the window before she was caught up when she ran back to save her friend,” Mrs Malong recounted.
“As my 14-year-old recovers in hospital, her elder sister is still unaccounted for and thought to be among the 9 who burnt in the fire. That unstoppably welled our cheeks with tears and engulfed us with unfathomable grief because, as a tradition, in death, a little relief comes from the ability to identify and bury the remains of our loved ones,” she went on.
She recounted how the news of the fire hit the family hard, only for the family to later learn that their daughter could be one of the victims.
“This grief was compounded more on the morning of 6/9/2017 when I called my husband to inquire whether he will be permitted to come and give a DNA sample to identify his deceased daughter and he sadly told me that President Kiir (well knowing our current predicament) has declined to let him come and help to identify his deceased daughter’s remains and arrange for her burial,” she said.
“Traditionally as Africans, life and death mean a lot and that is why the tragedy of death brings people together with none ready to mock the other because of power or whatsoever,” she wrote.
She added: “Unfortunately, the leadership in Juba seems to have lost this basic social element of our tradition and humanity to the extent that they deny Gen Malong the chance to mourn and bury his daughter.”
Like most influential South Sudanese, Gen Malong, a polygamist, has most of his family members spread out in Kenya and Uganda.
“My late daughter (Alakiir Malong) was a very cheerful, kind and humble girl who had a bright future,” Mrs Malek wrote in a tribute to their daughter.
However, she had nothing but contempt for the way the presidency has treated her husband, often portrayed as the harsh face of Dinka nationalism.
Mrs Malek said that her husband had earlier sought and was denied permission by President Kiir to travel to Kenya for treatment. She said that Gen Malong’s blood pressure shot up after President Kiir rejected his request to come to Nairobi.
However, President Kiir’s spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny told South Sudan’s media that Gen Malong had not been detained and is free to travel out for medical attention whenever he wishes, a statement that was hotly contested by Mrs Malek.
Gen Malong was the South Sudan’s People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) boss from 2014 until May this year when President Kiir sacked him and placed him under house arrest in his home in Juba fearing that the disgraced general might open up a new front in the country which has been embroiled in a civil war since 2013.
Former South Sudan military chief Paul Malong.