Telar Ring Deng, South Sudan's ambassador to Russia, tendered his resignation Thursday in a letter to President Salva Kiir.
In an exclusive interview with VOA's South Sudan in Focus, Deng confirmed that he'd quit his job. "The letter is authentic. I read it and I signed it myself," he said.
Deng was appointed head of mission in Russia in 2014 after the South Sudan National Legislative Assembly rejected his first appointment, as minister for justice.
Deng declined to give reasons for his decision to leave his Moscow post. He said he would like to work toward peace in South Sudan as a private citizen.
"The subject matter is that I have resigned as ambassador representing South Sudan in Moscow. I still remain an ambassador, and I will go to the headquarters [in South Sudan]," he said.
South Sudan in Focus obtained a copy of a letter dated January 25 from South Sudan's Foreign Minister Deng Alor Kuol, recalling Deng to report to Juba within 72 hours for "consultations."
Deng said he resigned before receiving the letter.
"To be recalled to go to the headquarters [Juba] for consultations is not a sufficient reason for one to resign. In actual fact, I have been speculating to resign for a long time. So the two are not interelated,'' he said.
In June last year, South Sudan recalled its top diplomats from seven countries, but said the recalls had nothing to do with the country's economic crisis. The crisis, sparked by four years of civil war, has left South Sudan's government strapped for cash, and most of the country's envoys around the world have not received salaries for up to one year.
Deng said he had not been paid for many months. "We have not been paid for 10 months, but that is not the reason for my resignation," he said.
Deng has been Kiir's right-hand man since the country separated from Sudan in 2011. Kiir appointed Deng as his legal adviser in 2012.
"I will not turn my back to my country, I will utilize talents in other areas as a private citizen. I will work towards peace for our people. Our people have suffered for the last four years,'' Deng said.
He rejected rumors that he was joining the various rebel groups that have been battling the Kiir government since 2013. He called the president his "good friend'' and said he would continue to maintain that relationship.
"I did not discuss with him my decision to resign, but we will still be friends," Deng said. "We have been friends for a long time, since 1984.The fact that I pulled out as an ambassador to Russia does not destroy our relationship."
Deng said he would not join the various groups gathering in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for South Sudan peace negotiations. He said he would lobby for peace in his capacity as a private citizen.
"If I have contributions for the next round of talks, I will give them as a private citizen," he said.
Deng is the second top South Sudanese envoy to resign since the country gained independence. In June 2014, Francis Nazario resigned as South Sudan's deputy permanent representative to the United Nations, citing a failure by the Kiir government to amicably resolve the country's ongoing conflict.
A South Sudanese diplomat said Wednesday that his country's embassy in Londonhad been closed because of a failure to pay the rent since August. VOA's South Sudan in Focus reporter confirmed that South Sudan's embassy was closed Tuesday.
But a spokesman for South Sudan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs insisted his government had not received official notice from its landlord in London.
Source: Voice of America