By Chuor Deng Chuor
The world knows that Ateny Wek Ateny is supposed to be the Press Secretary and official spokesperson of President Salva Kiir. but the reality of the matter is that Ateny has become a lone press secretary operating in his own world with no official access to the President that he claims to represent.
Ateny’s frustrations of late have come to the public and I bear witness to how he tore into the President during one of the evening I spent with him and few other fellows that were accompanying him at Juba Grand hotel in Juba.
Because of frustration, Ateny has now adopted to criticizing the personality of the President openly arguing that President Kiir is a person with no vision for this country and that he will lead the country to a total destruction and complete failure.
Before his appointment to his current position as Press Secretary of the President, Ateny was a fierce critic of the President and his government through writing on his daily column on Citizen newspaper “Beating the Drum of Truth” as well as on his daily TV show on Citizen TV.
At the state politics, Mr. Ateny Wek was a staunch supporter of Gen. Dau Aturjong Nyuol, criticizing the then Northern Bahr El Ghazal State Governor and the current Chief of General Staff of the SPLA Gen. Paul Malong Awan Anei. During the crisis in 2013, Ateny circulated a wild rumor that he was the one who recommended Gen. Malong to the President to be appointed as Chief of General Staff of the SPLA and continued to says that up to date as one of his achievements in the Office of the President as if the President does not know who is Gen. Paul Malong Awan.
Ateny appointment to the Press Office of the President was then viewed as an attempt to silence him and to use that energy for something constructive that will better the country but Ateny is proving difficult, “always a rebel will remain a rebel”.
One of his colleagues from the Office of the President told me that Ateny is aggrieved about the fact that the President doesn’t want him around him under any circumstances. He hardly get any directives from the President on what to do or not, he further told me that Ateny was banned by the President in 2013 through a directive to the former Minister in the Office of the President, Hon. Awan Guol Riak that he does not want to be accompanied by Ateny during any trip which was resisted by Ateny but at the end he relented when he reached the point of losing his position because of that resistance.
The same source revealed that Ateny since his appointment as Press Secretary in 2013 was seen travelling with the President on two occasions only; one trip was to Paris, France in 2013 and the last one was to Kampala, Uganda in 2014. On those two trips, Ateny showed complete disrespect to the Ministers accompanying the President.
Another bizarre incident was during the trip to Kampala, Uganda. Ateny was asked by the President to leave the meeting hall for him to meet one-on-one with his Ugandan counterpart, but stubbornly, Ateny insisted that he should attend whatever meeting with the President. This enraged the President and Ateny was left to stay on.
And this became one of his many woes that made the President to sanction him from traveling with him.
This standing order from the President still hurt the Press Secretary up-to-date because it make him miss out from getting official briefing and the real issues discuss by the President on his foreign trips.
It has further disable Ateny to have clear picture about the activities of the President so that when he speaks, he speaks with confidence and authority reflecting the fact and truth about the President. It has also affect Ateny from briefing the President on current affairs as well as media related issues as done by press secretaries of other heads of State.
All what he tell the public are his own assumptions and analyses or sometimes through other colleagues close to the President. This pose a question; how can he speak in the name of the President that he does not meet and share with him what he should tell the public?
Another big mistake Ateny did when he assumed his duties as Press Secretary in the Office of the President was to get into confrontation with the President’s Office Manager Ms. Ritah Kiden. She is the most feared aide to the President because of her close relationship with the President which no one knows other than two of them and their God who created and put them together to work in the same office!
Ritah is regarded as the real advisor to the President on all matters and crossing paths with her can land you in unthinkable position. Ritah has exploited that relationship with the President and has continued to play a negative role between the President and all the other aides of the president including Ateny. She is so trusted by the President that he can’t do without her and that was the reason why she was appointed as an Ambassador at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation to secure her a better future after the President leaves office, God knows when!
What the President does not know about her trusted aide Ritah Kiden who is waging feud between him and other staff in the office is that, she talks ills against him (the President) like when he described the President as “drunk and staggering” during a trip to Torit in 2012. She is also critical of the President’s personal weaknesses including how he has failed to manage the affairs of his own family.
Back to the point, Mr. Ateny Wek Ateny is there in the Office of the President on accommodation terms and not as an effective and regarded spokesperson of the President. The best option for Ateny now is to tender in his resignation and go back to his previous job of writing since his views have change about how the President is running the country.
Double speak is not the best strategy as you cannot serve two masters at the same time. Supporting the President when he is there and talking ills against him in social forums is an unacceptable to individuals like me to whom Ateny is trying to air his frustration.
The writer is a human right activist and student of Political Science at Juba University. Email him on: [email protected]