Analysis: President Kiir might NOT be on a state visit to South Africa as announced
By Deng Elijah,
When President Salva Kiir left the country for Pretoria, South Africa, on Thursday April 15, 2021, the inner circle of the president came out to announce that president Kiir was traveling to Pretoria, South Africa, on a state visit but the outcomes point to the contrary.
“H.E. President Salva Kiir Mayardit left Juba this morning Thursday 15th April 2021, for a working visit to Pretoria, South Africa.” The Presidential Palace announced on Thursday April 15, 2021.
President Kiir was accompanied by two senior officials in the person of Dr. Barnabas Marial Benjamin, the Minister of the President, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hon. Beatrice Khamisa Wani.
“The President is accompanied by the Minister of Presidential Affairs Hon. Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin and the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Hon. Beatrice Khamisa Wani.” Part of the presidential press statement read.
According to President Kiir’s mouthpiece, the president was expected to hold bilateral meetings with the South African president Cyril Ramaphosa on issues of bilateral relations between the two countries.
“He is expected to hold bilateral meetings with South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on issues that will strengthen and deepen the bilateral relations between the two Countries and to discuss issues of mutual interest that includes the implementation of the Revitalized Agreement on the Resolution of conflict in the Republic of South Sudan.” They said.
Notwithstanding that the visit came unannounced, the president was not accompanied by what you would called a presidential delegation on a state visit. In many state visits, even a simple visit to neighboring East African countries, are usually composed of high rank politicians, military and security personnel. This was not the case.
A state visit to South Africa would not be composed by just the Minister of Foreign Affairs but also minister of Defense and Veteran Affairs, Minister of Petroleum and possibly other ministers in areas of investments that South Africa would be interested in. The president would have also been accompanied by the Head of External Security and possibly by senior military officials.
Upon arrival in South Africa on a state visit, the president would have also been received by the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, who would have supposedly invited him.
The South African president would have also arrived at the airport with his senior officials to receive president Salva Kiir just like South Africa does to other heads of states and governments. This did not happened!
Upon his arrival, the South Sudanese president would have been accorded a guard of honor and walked to the state house or other state venues for a brief tour and meetings. These did not happen either!
On the same token, the president would have met his South African counterpart on his arrival or within the same day; however, he did not meet President Ramaphosa on the first day or on the second day. He met him on the third day and even when they met it was a brief and unofficial meeting suggesting that President Kiir was in South Africa on his own!
It should also be noted that even when they met on the third day, the South African president dressed up as if he was meeting a fellow on a coffee date. His dress code suggests that there was nothing very important or official about their meeting but just another president, who happened to be in his country, paying him a courtesy visit.
Similarly, the two leaders were not accompanied by delegates to discuss and sign the bilateral agreements that were reached by the two presidents. At the end of the meeting, no documents were signed or exchanged and no official statute was officiated or erected!
Yes, like any guest would do, it is in African culture that a decent guest must meet the head of a family whenever he or she happens to stop-by for whatever reason. It would have been very awkward for President Kiir to visit South Africa for whatever reason and sneak out of the country without meeting the president of South Africa. Therefore, whether this was a state visit or not would be left to the readers to judge!
What would be the purpose of the visit?
The most predominant reason that force many African heads of states and governments to travel to other countries, especially South Africa, has been to seek medical treatment
African leaders, and especially South Sudanese leaders, do not believe in health systems of their countries. For this reason they always travel to South Africa or Europe to seek better health care and this could be reason why the South African president has stopped receiving such leaders upon their arrival since they are likely to come when they are less expected.
Not only that it interrupts the duties of the president, receiving an unhealthy fellow at the airport can also expose their health status to media and general public. In addition, they may not be in stable conditions to be given a guard of honor, tours and/or to hold bilateral talks.
Therefore, it would make sense to meet such people after they have received their treatments and are in sound minds to hold meaningful discussions.
Lastly, president Kiir has been visiting South African hospitals since 2011 and therefore he may have a family doctor or a specialist that he trusts better in South Africa.
Health-wise, president Kiir has been dragging his feet a lot lately and he seems to suffers from a serious illness that is capable of paralyzing or even amputating him, in worst case scenario. To put up with his predicament, he seems to be adopting new moments where he makes shorter and fewer steps than normal and suddenly stops. This also makes him shy away from media and his press team is keep an eagle eye on this keenly!
Due to fear of media, speculations and criticisms, the president tries by all means to conceal evidence, and has thus far managed to cap his health privacy. In some occasions, Kiir has came out furiously cursing and insulting people who tend to speculate that he is sick or he has been hospitalized which instead justifies the opposite!
It is therefore, most likely the case, that President Kiir is visiting South Africa for medical treatment, and not on a state mission, but due to fear of speculations the state house is doing all it could to cover it up.
Many presidents, who visit other countries on state missions do not spend days in the countries they are visiting. Also, they would visit on the weekend just to ensure that they do not lose a work day or two.
At the end of the visit, there should be some agreements to append signatures on; otherwise, such talks would be insignificant to warrant a three-day visit and they should instead be conducted through a phone!