January 12, 2015 (JUBA) – The government of South Sudan’s Central Equatoria state has defended controversial remarks by governor Clement Wani Konga in which he urged Equatorians not to take any part in the current conflict.
The state government has described media attacks by the South Sudan presidency over the comments as “irresponsible and misguided”.
State minister for information Suba Samuel Manase has accused presidential press secretary Ateny Wek of behaving in an “unethical and unprofessional” manner.
“If indeed there there is [a] statement from governor [Konga] which is not pleasing, why don’t we use the established government structures to find out what went wrong?” Manase told reporters in Juba on Monday.
Manase said that past misunderstanding between the national government and states had been adequately addressed through government institutions without involving the media.
WAR HAS “NO VALUE”
In comments attributed to Konga at a swearing-in ceremony on Friday for his newly appointed cabinet ministers, he reportedly urged citizens of the three Equatorian states to maintain a neutral position in the current war, saying it is between the rival Dinka and Nuer tribes, to which president Salva Kiir and rebel leader Riek Machar hail respectively.
He reportedly told officials that there was “no value” in joining the conflict and that the region should instead focus on restoring peace and unity in the country.
“It is the only chance for the people of Equatoria coming together so as to bring an end to this war between [the] Dinka and Nuer [tribes],” he said
PRESIDENCY ANGERED BY REMARKS
Reacting to the remarks, Ateny accused Konga of behaving irresponsibly, describing the comments as “unfortunate”.
“It is unfortunate governor clement Wani Konga had failed to know he is part of the government to make such irresponsible remarks,” he said in an exclusive interview with Sudan Tribune.
“We believe the current war is not a war between the Dinka and Nuer, but a war caused by people who wanted to change the government through unconstitutional means,” he added.
Ateny further stressed that both the government and opposition faction comprised of representatives from all tribal affiliations, including members of the Equatoria region.
While Manase has not specifically confirmed or denied the comments attributed his boss, he has defended the governor’s right to do so.
“He is an ardent supporter of constitutionalism, law and order, so the integrity, principle and the resolve of H.E the governor cannot be put to the test by Comrade Ateny Wek Ateny,” he said.
“If it is irresponsible and unfortunate for the Governor Maj. Gen Clement Wani Konga to urge Equatorians to uphold peace and unity, then I think Ateny Wek has his own version of advice which we are yet to hear,” he added.
CALLS FOR NATIONAL RESPONSE
Manase has called on the national ministry for information to step in to help bridge the gap of public relations officers, saying better media training is needed for ministerial officials.
Konga has been a vocal critic of the South Sudanese conflict and came under pressure from the Kiir-led government after claiming last year that soldiers from Equatoria states were being disarmed.