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South Sudan’s Kiir fired deputy foreign affairs minister over “repulsive remark”: source

May 7, 2013 (JUBA) - South Sudanese president Salva Kiir was “infuriated” by the embarrassment caused by a “repulsive remark” made by the former deputy minister of foreign affairs, Elias Wako Nyamellel, a top aide said on Tuesday.

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South Sudanese President Salva Kiir (photo Paul Banks/UNMIS)

Nyamellel was sacked on the 12 April following a presidential decree read on the state-owned South Sudan Television (SSTV). No reason was cited for his dismissal, leaving the general public to speculate over the circumstances.

Some linked it to the organisation of a reception for Sudanese president Omer al-Bashir who was visiting the capital on the same day he was fired.

The aide was reacting to views critical of the frequent sacking of officials who hold differing views with Kiir on issues relating to governance, which are generally not known to the wider public as they are considered either in-house affairs or administrative matters handled privately.

Some senior members of the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement (SPLM) have criticised the excessive powers given to the president under the transitional constitution which allows him to appoint and dismiss cabinet members without first consulting his deputy, council of ministers or national parliament.

The constitution also gives the president powers to sack state governors and dissolve state parliaments in the event of a situation considered a threat to national security - a power he exercised in January by sacking the elected governor of Lakes state and appointing a controversial military caretaker governor.

The airing of internal views by some senior government officials while visiting foreign countries, prompted Kiir to toughen his stance, warning that “he will no longer tolerate those criticising the same system in which they serve while pretending to be cleaned when interacting with the members of the general public or members of the diplomatic communities”.

In a speech last week, Kiir said cabinet members who accuse his government of mismanaging the nation’s affairs were guilty of hypocrisy.

“They [cabinet ministers] talk as if they are not part of it but if you follow them, you find they are the same people who are the ones involved in corruption. They are the ones involved in arbitrary arrest, but they come out in the day and say they are not part of it”, he said.

In an attempt to distance the president from public criticism, one presidential advisor told Sudan Tribune on Tuesday that a comment describing South Sudan’s political system as being “rotten to the core” was not only an “inappropriate remark”, but also “shows lack of self-respect and tolerance to work under other people”.

“I believe the president took the right decision to dismiss Professor Elias Wako Nyamellel. I think [the] professor himself would not have accepted the use of such [a] disparaging war against the system if he were the president himself”, the aide said.

“Imagine a junior cabinet member describing the system as having rotten to the core and [who] did not want to resign even when the president gave him one month to do so or make an apology”, he added.

The official also quoted the president as asking Nyamellel in a meeting earlier this year: “Why are you still in the same system if it is rotten to core”.

(ST)