South Sudan military chief dies

FILE PHOTO: South Sudanese newly appointed army chief General James Ajongo speaks to the media after his swearing in at the Presidential Palace in South Sudan’s capital of Juba, May 10, 2017. REUTERS/Stringer

South Sudan military chief James Ajongo Mawut has died, the privately owned National Courier reports.

“South Sudan is in shock today as the untimely death of chief of defence force is announced – a man of immense integrity and courage with ironclad liberation credentials. General Ajongo’s death is a sad loss for the army,” the National Courier said in a Facebook post.

Gen. Ajongo was reportedly being treated for a kidney ailment in Egypt.

His death comes ahead of a new round of peace talks expected in May as a regional bloc seeks an end to the country’s five-year civil war.

Conflict analysts say the death will put pressure on South Sudan President Salva Kiir to make critical decisions regarding his fragile ruling coalition.

Alan Boswell, a South Sudan analyst for Small Arms Survey, says Kiir has pushed out former allies in recent months as he “concentrates power in fewer and fewer hands.”

General Ajongo was appointed head of Sudan People’s Liberation Army in May last year.

He replaced General Paul Malong, who recently rebelled against President Kiir.