James Hoth Mai (Gen), 51, chief of staff of Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA), has risen through the ranks since joining the movement, in 1983.
When the SPLA introduced conventional rankings, in 2005, he was assigned major general deputy chief of staff for logistics. At the end of 2007, he was promoted to deputy chief of staff for operations. In May 2009, he was appointed chief of general staff and promoted to lieutenant general, before being promoted to full general, in July 2010.
He holds a master’s degree in public administration from Fort Hare University in South Africa. While he had started work on his PhD, he stopped it due to the referendum, held last week, during which Southern Sudanese voted on whether to secede from Sudan or not, and his work load. However, the married father of eight plans to pursue his education after things have settled down following the voting. TESFALEM WALDYES, SPECIAL TO FORTUNE, sat down with Mai in his office at the SPLA headquarters, a.k.a. Bilpam, named after the place where the SPLA was founded, on Tuesday, January 11, 2011, to discuss the possible problems ahead for the region that is likely to become the world’s newest country in six months’ time.