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South Sudan minister defies condemnation of his allegations against international reporter

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August 10, 2012 (NAIROBI) – A prominent U.S. media house and an international NGO on Friday strongly criticized South Sudan information minister, Baranaba Benjamin Marial, for labeling the former’s Africa correspondent as a paid agent of rival Sudan, demanding a retraction that the official refused to give but fell short of directly repeating the accusation.

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FILE PHOTO - South Sudan Minister of Information, Barnaba Marial Benjamin speaks to journalists in Nairobi, Kenya, Monday, April 2, 2012 (AP)

Marial made the serious charge while responding, in an interview carried by Sudan Radio Service on August 6, to a report in which Alan Boswell, who is the Africa correspondent of the California-based McClatchy Newspaper, quoted a former U.S. official speaking on condition of anonymity as revealing that South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir Mayardit, had sent “an apology letter” to his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama explaining why he twice denied, during a meeting they held in December 2011 and a follow-up phone call weeks later, any knowledge of Juba’s support to the Sudanese rebel group the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement North (SPLM-N).

Boswell’s report, which was published by McClatchy on 2 August, one day ahead of a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Juba, cited “multiple sources with knowledge of the events” as indicating that Kiir’s denial angered the White House which had “strong intelligence” linking South Sudan’s army known as SPLA to the SPLM-N which fought under its insignia during the second Sudanese civil war which ended in 2005 with a peace deal that paved the way for South Sudan secession in July last year.

In the alleged letter, Kiir wrote that he did know about his army’s support to the rebels but could not admit that to Obama because his advisers were in the room and they did not know he was aware of that support.

The South Sudanese minister, whose country maintains that it had severed all ties with its former comrades-in-arms, went to great lengths to deny the existence of such letter, accusing Boswell of being “in the pay of Khartoum”

“It’s Alan Boswell; this is a guy who is completely in the pay of Khartoum who is just campaigning against us. It is not true what he is writing. He has never written anything in favor of South Sudan. We know him. Now, where did he get the letter written by President Salva Kiir to President Obama apologizing to him and accepting that we are supporting guerillas in South Khordofan? There is nothing like that. What has happened is that President Obama wrote a letter to President Salva Kiir which was handed in by the Secretary of State Clinton, who came here to Juba and I was there watching. But the contents of the letter have not yet been released by the President,” Marial who also acts as the government’s official spokesman said.

A day later, Marial held a press conference in Juba where he distributed a press release reiterating denial of the letter and slamming Boswell as “an enemy of peace” diluting his earlier accusation.

The McClatchy, a giant media house operating 30 daily newspapers in the U.S., including McClatchy newspaper, on Friday sent a strongly worded letter to Marial excoriating him for making “a reckless, baseless and dangerous charge.”

The letter, which McClatchy forwarded to Sudan Tribune, accused Marial of trying to “intimidate” Boswell and “perhaps solicit violence against him” on account of what it described as an accusation amounting to “being a spy for the enemy” in South Sudan.

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Alan Boswell, Africa Correspondent of McClatchy

“Suggesting that Mr. Boswell is in the pay of the enemy risks his physical well being” the letter warned, stating at another point that Marial resorted to “a course that is beyond decency for an official of a government that claims to respect international norms”

The letter was keen to point out that no official whether South Sudanese or American has contacted McClatchy or Boswell to clarify the events cited in his report. It demanded that Marial retracts the charge against Boswell immediately.

For his part, the South Sudanese minister issued a mildly defiant response to McClatchy’s letter, accusing Boswell of waging a “pro-Khartoum campaign” against South Sudan but stopped short of directly saying that the reporter is being paid by Sudan.

“We have noted the continuous negative campaigns in which Mr. Alan Boswell has been targeting the people and the Republic of South Sudan in all his articles that reflect a pro-Khartoum campaign” Marial said in a reply of which he sent a copy to Sudan Tribune. He later added that South Sudan’s “constitution allows the freedom of the press with responsibility”

The minister accused Boswell of describing the leadership of South Sudan as “rotten to the core” and “a bunch of idiots”. Sudan Tribune notes, however, that the minister inaccurately attributed those lines to Boswell while in fact they were said by the French expert of East Africa and critic of Khartoum government, Gérard Prunier, when quoted in a Foreign Policy piece written by Boswell last month.

In that widely controversial piece, entitled “the failed state lobby”, Boswell criticized South Sudan’s ruling party, the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM), for its “dismal governance” of the country ever since it gained autonomous rule within Sudan in 2005 and until one year after full independence, citing the government’s own figure that its officials had stolen 4 billion US dollars during that period.

Boswell also accused certain NGOs, namely the Enough Project of John Prendergast, of being among the SPLM friends whose effective lobbying prevented Washington from taking a stance on the alleged corruption of South Sudan’s leadership.

Marials’ accusation against Boswell has also been condemned by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New York advocacy group, whose East Africa reporter Tom Rhodes told Sudan Tribune on Friday that the government of South Sudan is often quick to discredit any critic as an agent of Khartoum.

“We have seen this before in Africa’s newest country – whenever a journalist criticizes the government of South Sudan they are accused of working with Khartoum” Rhodes said. “The government of South Sudan is so reactionary to criticism that journalists are often compelled into self-censorship”

Rhodes added that "anyone who has read the plethora of media reports that Alan has done in South Sudan would quickly see that this reporter could not be an agent of Khartoum —there are just too many reports critical of Sudan to make such an allegation completely implausible."

Similarly, Peter Martel, a former BBC correspondent in South Sudan, says the charge is hard to believe given his personal knowledge of Boswell.

“Alan Boswell is a fine journalist who I worked with closely. He checks his sources and he’s impartial based on the fact that you never see him showing any bias in favor of any side” Martel told Sudan Tribune on Friday.

Boswell himself, when contacted by Sudan Tribune on Friday to respond to Marial’s reply to the letter, said: “If the information minister chose to be responsible he would immediately retract the baseless charge against me. The report that they accused me of fabricating still stands as true and accurate. And as my newspaper wrote no official from any side has contacted us and demanded a retraction”

(ST)

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Kind regards,

The Sudan Tribune editorial team.
  • 11 August 2012 12:06, by Robot

    McClatchy, AFP are merely against the people of South Sudan, you cannot deny this, when the prisoners of war were brought from Heglig AFP went further saying "they were patients (POWs) and they were in stretchers"... Bowell’’s articles are citing negative reports against the people, well there is freedom of expression, South Sudan sovereignty must be respected.

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    • 11 August 2012 12:09, by Robot

      South Sudan has all rights to throw this agents (spy) out of the country.. this country is being taken for granted because our Government addresses issues damaging the image of a Country delicately... Bowell should leave the Country and they should stop playing us like marionette. there are thousands of spies in Juba.

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    • 11 August 2012 13:36, by Darkangel

      “We have seen this before in Africa’s newest country – whenever a journalist criticizes the government of South Sudan they are accused of working with Khartoum”
      This is the mentality of blind SPLM supporters in general against anyone, South Sudanese or foreigners. Its shows your primitiveness & ignorance. You idiots cheer America when it slams Sudan but call it & Obama names when they criticize U

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    • 11 August 2012 13:46, by Jimmy Taban

      "South Sudan minister defies condemnation of his allegations against international reporter but fails to repeat them" Sudan tribune, you should learn to be ethical and professional on how you edit your articles. This article lacks subtance and diretion. Salva is not president Obama’s toy but a president of a sovereign State. He can not & will never apologize to Obama.

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    • 11 August 2012 16:02, by mohammed ali

      Robot, but that was the truth.They were patients with their medical staff.They were not POW. The SPLA thieves had to release them immediately under the pressure of the UN & the international comunity. Do you want him to lie like your minister?

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    • 11 August 2012 17:09, by Mading Makuac

      Hello guys,
      this man called Boswell ,i think he is Bashir agent but one day S.Sudanese will teach him the lesson that he will
      never forget in his life time !!!

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    • 11 August 2012 21:35, by jjb south

      To Marial
      your a minister not a street fighter to talk provocatively,leave that part to us on the site. if your not fit to be a diplomat then resign b’se you are messing de whole country.in any allegation you react too fast making us a laughing stock.
      To save this country from being vulnerable to likes of Bowell & Khartoum,you must resign or we expect worst to come from your mistakes.

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  • 11 August 2012 12:53, by Xeno

    Robot,
    You are right on that. I totally blame Kiir and his SPLM boneheads for those infiltrations on our sovereignty. How will pple non-native to the country go aimlessly dissipating whatever news they look fit? and if this was done by southerner, he or she would be dead as we speak. This is pathetic! This bowswell thing must be thrown out of the country no matter what those freaks say.

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    • 11 August 2012 16:10, by mohammed ali

      Xeno, you are all living in " non-native" countory , they even feed & educate you in their counries! Let these journalist know the truth!

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  • 11 August 2012 12:54, by Grader

    Alan Boswel lives in Nairobi and this article was written in Nairobi ???
    Who does this trash think he is?

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  • 11 August 2012 13:05, by Gabriel KK

    Media freedom must be given a limit in this infant nation or else those in Govt.should study any report before rushing to denial, criticism or acceptance.

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  • 11 August 2012 13:07, by BM Bol

    Reporters are not immune from criticism as well. For those who think Marial is out of line, try to look up all Allen Boswell ‘s reporters regarding South Sudan and you will noticed that all reports regarding South Sudan are negatives.

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    • 11 August 2012 13:53, by John mamer

      let us expect a little from most foriegners who look always for chunk of meet to grab from our country they can coplaint but does nothing to improve our situation of cause we have become project for such people to solicit funds which doesnot benefit the imaginery clients.

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  • 11 August 2012 13:32, by Chuangah

    Alan was actually à potential enemy of South Sudan, all his articles, comments discredit the govt of South Sudan and its people. Alan must leave South Sudan, must leave com menting or writting on anything about South Sudan.

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    • 11 August 2012 15:23, by michael coma

      Allan Boswell,we noticed that you are the enemy of South Sudan but we will see what to do if you are really behind our president.God is watching you man if you are the only key used by Khartoum to embarrased our president in the sight of South Sudanese people.

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  • 11 August 2012 13:44, by Chuangah

    Yes wé attributed any négative statements to agents sent by Khartoum , khartoum was Our enemy for fifty years, Alan all you journalists were silent when Arabs persécuté the people of South Sudan for 50 years, now Is the time that wé dont want to hear From those who lèpre silent when wé are being persécutéd in Our own land.

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    • 11 August 2012 15:29, by michael coma

      To mr.Boswel
      If you are really man who wrote that idiotic article,make sure that you will be hang in public rally because you wants to embarrased our president you bullshit.i was the first person doubted about demn letter which imposible for our president to do so.

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  • 11 August 2012 15:23, by 4Justice

    Gérard Prunier, a leading French scholar on Africa and fierce critic of the Sudanese government, resigned as advisor to the South Sudanese government because, he told me in a phone interview last month, he didn’t want to be "guilty by association," describing the country’s leadership as a "government of idiots" who are "rotten to the core."

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    • 11 August 2012 15:26, by Darkangel

      Kenyan pharmacist killed in S. Sudan
      A 43-year-old pharmacist was killed in South Sudan by police officers because he did not have a licence to keep a patient’s bed in his pharmacy
      http://www.the-star.co.ke/national/national/89112-kenyan-pharmacist-killed-in-s-sudan

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    • 11 August 2012 16:21, by mohammed ali

      What positive you would excpet from " a punch of idiots & thieves.You all defending the thieves. Nobody will dfend thieves.Thieves only, will defend thieves.Do you want the journalis to keep quite while 12 BILLIONS had been loooooooooooooooted from the poor, starving pple of SS.

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      • 11 August 2012 17:23, by Dinkawarrior

        Mrs. Alan Boswell?
        Try to make your money apart from our people’s blood! Seriously your curse to death for being an agent of Khartoum or whoever want to benefit from our problem. You cannot denied this Mrs. Leech, we have a lot of evidences. Fore example, Panthou you said by your mouth that it was given to North by the Court while there was no connection.

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  • 11 August 2012 17:49, by Whortti Bor Manza

    Marial is known for making arrogant and stupid statements.previously he described the NLA as an Assembly without direction and takes unwise decision. The minister and his president are great liers. JEM training camps in WES-Bandala is visible to any person. Mr. Kiir be careful when lying to an American president.The price is too high.Marial you dont deserve to be minister of information.

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    • 11 August 2012 19:34, by michael coma

      You man,you know nothing about Marial Benjamin,so wash away your rotten mouth from him.If you did understood the article,so don’t blame our minister.

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  • 11 August 2012 21:16, by BM Bol

    No one takes journalists that are considered one sided reporters very serious. Boswell defies the basic concept of journalism by not being fair and balance. Being fair and balance means writing about what is being done right and what is being done wrong. Boswell writes what is being done wrong.

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  • 11 August 2012 21:38, by whatsayyou

    Dr.Marial is right to depend the government, what i have seen here is a joke from those journalist. every one want to make himself as a director for south Sudanese, the claim that it is the newest nation that is not true we re independence we must solves our issues.

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  • 12 August 2012 04:32, by BELILA

    Alan Boswell,where were you and your publisher the McClatch newspaper went the Sudan Government delibaretely refused to implement the outstanding issues PEACEFULL as stipulated by the CPA throught a popular consultation to the people of Blue Nile and South Kordufan.Instead they choose to implement it by force and throught the burral of Gun.

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    • 12 August 2012 05:01, by BELILA

      Hon.Baranaba B Marial is doing a great job at this time of immense challenge face by our Baby Nation. We know that our common enemy will continuoe to use all the different sources againts our will, as it is now evidence on the media as a new strategy.

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  • 12 August 2012 10:17, by BlackNationGreatNation

    Shut u r mass up jalaby... we done Mr Benjamin , taking about stealing , who stole south Sudan’s oil in broad daylight?

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    • 13 August 2012 02:33, by Northern Sudanese

      BlackNationGreatNation
      we don’t take your oil any longer, your leaders are giving it to us now :D

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  • 12 August 2012 15:25, by Sudani+

    To the idiot follower of SPLM,
    what we can expect form spokesperson of “a rotten to the core” and “a bunch of idiots” who are governing SS and leading it to no where bu destruction and poverty and hell.
    she on you Mr lair "Barnaba", shame on you SPLM, shame on you Kiir, shame on you idiot SPLM followers

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  • 12 August 2012 17:40, by Pete

    Guys, I for one do not condone to the idea of having Americans involved so much into our affairs. But since we became so much close to them by default and that they play a huge role in bring about change on our soil, then we need to exercise some decency and recognize diplomatic measures when things are taking shift like this. I don’t think our minister of information is competent enough. Shame!!!

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