South Sudan president names Gabriel Jok Riak new army chief

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South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir appointed General Gabriel Jok Riak as the new head of the army on Wednesday, according to a decree read out on State Television.

Riak’s appointment follows the death in Cairo last month of army chief General James Ajongo after a short illness.

Riak, from Jonglei State in the Upper Nile region, was the deputy army chief for operations and has been serving as the acting army chief.

“I..do hereby issue this Republican Decree for the appointment of General Gabriel Jok Riak Makol as the chief of the Defense Force of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA),” Kiir’s statement read.

South Sudan, which obtained independence from Sudan in 2011 and is the world’s youngest nation, has been mired in civil war since 2013, when Kiir fired his deputy. Tens of thousands of people have been killed in fighting often along ethnic lines, and much of the nation has faced dire food shortages.