Kenyan media on the spot over utterances against President Kiir

Kenyan media on the spot over utterances against President Kiir
Michael Makuei, Minister of Information briefing reporters on Friday in Juba (photo credit: Keji Janefer/City Review)

The government of South Sudan has made a formal protest to the Kenyan Embassy over statements by Dr Peter Biar Ajak, who alleged while being interviewed by privately-owned TV stations in Kenya that President Kiir did not address mourners during retired President Mwai Kibaki’s State Funeral because he was suffering from a hangover.

The Minister for Information, Communication Technology and Postal Services, Michael Makuei Lueth, blamed the privately-owned KTN and NTV televisions for allowing Dr Biar Ajak, who is a member of the opposition, to speak against the President and the government of South Sudan in a demeaning manner. He now wants the Kenyan Government to take action against the two media houses in question.

Speaking to journalists in Juba after a meeting of the council of ministers held at the Ministry of Cabinet Affairs yesterday, Makuei said the government had summoned Kenya’s ambassador to South Sudan and handed him a protest letter concerning Biar’s interview with Kenya’s stations.

“The government has summoned the ambassador here and gave him our protest. Our ambassador in Kenya has also been directed and has presented a protest to the ministry of foreign affairs in Kenya,” Makuei told the press.

“And that of course was not acceptable for a media house in Kenya to allow opposition people to utter irresponsible statements in the media houses. We have taken all the necessary actions to address such situations.

“That was an unfortunate situation because the speaker concentrated much on the personal issues of the president. Not that only but he went as far as saying all the commanders are drunkards including his father because his father is a general also. So it is unfortunate that he uttered such statements.”

While addressing the same gathering, President Uhuru Kenyatta called on President Kiir to speak, but the former excused the latter because he had a problem with his vocal cords. Instead, President Kiir would be represented by the Minister of Cabinet Affairs, Dr Elia Lomuro, who gave the speech on his behalf—a speech that further emphasised the diplomatic ties the two countries have enjoyed over the years.

Action to be taken

According to Makuei, the government of Kenya has vowed to take action against the two media houses which interviewed Dr Biar.

“It was a letter of protest, saying that this is not acceptable and we need to see what you are doing about this. And they are serious and they want to take action against the media houses that are there,” Makuei elaborated.

Diplomatic relations

He warned South Sudanese journalists to refrain from talking against foreign governments, adding that it could spoil diplomatic relations.

“Don’t allow others to use you to insult [others] or to talk or to write against any foreign government because this automatically affects the diplomatic relations between the countries, so I am warning you against that,” he concluded.

The report published by Eye Radio shows that the Kenyan government has regretted the utterances of Dr Peter Biar Ajak against President Salva Kiir Mayardit on Kenyan televisions that the President had a hangover.

Makuei noted that the president had issues with the vocal code and therefore gave Dr Martin Elia his speech to read on his behalf.

The Kenyan Ambassador to South Sudan, Samuel Nandwa, on Thursday, said he had forwarded the protest to the Kenyan Media regulatory—Media Council of Kenya— so that they could take action against the media houses in question.

“I wish on behalf of Kenya to regret the remark made against the head of state of the Republic of South Sudan on a Kenyan television,” Nandwa said.

Nandwa noted that Kenya respected freedom of the press but could not tolerate the aforementioned utterances.

“I representing Kenya have learned with displeasure the statement made by one Peter Biar Ajak, a South Sudanese on a Kenyan television were by this Peter Biar Ajak remarks against the head of state of the Republic of South Sudan,” Kenyan diplomat said.

“Kenya has an independent media regulatory to whom this matter will be forwarded for appropriate action and we are sure action will be taken appropriately.

On Thursday, Dr Biar told SBS Radio based in Australia that the South Sudanese government pays oil revenue as loans and therefore is unable to pay civil servants.