December 13, 2013 (JUBA) – The spokesperson for South Sudanese president Salva Kiir has maintained that a series of foreign trips made by the leader were for strategic national interests.
- South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir, addresses the media in Juba on 2 May 2013 (Photo: Reuters/Paul Banks)
In a statement aired on the state-owned SSTV, Ateny Wek Ateny downplayed claims that the president’s trips were “politically” planned to deny people a chance to meet him.
The president has visited Kuwait, France, South Africa and most recently Kenya, where he attended its golden jubilee celebrations, in less than a month.
Ateny said the president’s schedule did not include any upcoming trips and it was his intention to celebrate Christmas with the South Sudanese people.
He said Kiir’s recent trips were concerned with issues important for South Sudan and it was therefore in the country’s best interests that the president attend.
Ateny stressed that South Sudan was not on an island and must work together with other nations and leaders to strategise on issues of importance for the country’s peace and prosperity.
He cited Kiir’s recent trip to South Africa, where he paid tribute to the late Nelson Mandela, describing the latter as an “international icon”.
“The visit [of the president] to Kuwait, as you know was for investment, which is also important to the country. All these trips were strategically important for the country”, Ateny said.
However, Simon Deng, a native of South Sudan’s Jonglei state, said the president’s attendance was not required on all occasions.
“We have ambassadors and the minister of foreign affairs to represent the country. I am not saying the president should not travel, but you know that the president and his entourage travel on the expense of the public resources”, said Deng.
“When he (Kiir) travels, he goes with [a] huge delegation, even those who should not have travelled”, he added.
William Subek argued that the president should only travel on issues of significance, such as his recent trip to South Africa, saying an ambassador could have represented South Sudan at the Kenyan celebrations.
“That was why they were appointed. They are to represent the country on such functions and occasions in their host countries. It does not require [the] presence of the president”, said Subek.
8 YEARS WITHOUT MEETING KIIR
Meanwhile, a senior government official told Sudan Tribune that he had not seen the president in eight years, despite several attempts to arrange a meeting.
“I have never met comrade Salva since he went to the presidency. It is now eight years. The last time I was with him was on 4 May 2005 in Rumbek. We met again in July after the death of our chairman, John Garang, and I have never met him again”, the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.
“I have issues of national importance to share with him, but it has been difficult getting [hold of] him”, he added, saying he only sees the South Sudanese leader on television and in newspapers.
The unnamed official was among those in Kiir’s headquarters when the latter was still a rebel commander during the over two-decades long civil war with Sudan, which ended with the January 2005 peace accord.
He also claimed the president may not have been informed about the appointments he has made since December 2005.
“I don’t think comrade Salva whom we were together in many places [would] deny meeting me. We shared rooms during the operations of Kurmuk and in the first operation to take Rumbek. Late comrade Dominic Dim Deng and I were in the headquarters of comrade Salva, who was the overall zonal commander. So I don’t think he can really turn down [a] meeting [with] me even if his busy schedules are tight like what”, the official said.
“What I think is happening is that he may not have been informed about these requests to meet him”, he added.