Kiir is frequently criticised over his government’s crackdown on the press and those criticisms have increased following the shutting down of two privately-owned newspapers – the Arabic daily Al-Rai and the English daily Citizen – by security agents.
Speaking to journalists at the airport on Sunday, Kiir said, “If anybody among [journalists] does not know that this country has killed people, we will demonstrate it one day, one time. … Freedom of the press does not mean you work against the country.”
He was referring to the media’s reporting of the protracted peace negotiations between him and his former vice president Riek Machar. The two men have been leading factions at war with each other in the last 20 months resulting in tens of thousands of deaths and nearly two million displaced persons. Both men have been threatened with international sanctions if they fail to sign a peace deal brokered by Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), an eight-country trade bloc in Africa.
President Kiir’s threats have been condemned by the Committee to Protect Journalists in a statement by its East Africa Representative Tom Rhodes. “The leader of any country threatening to kill journalists is extremely dangerous and utterly unacceptable. We call on President Salva Kiir to retract his comments immediately,” he said.
Meanwhile, at the peace negotiations in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, President Kiir refused to sign the deal brokered by IGAD, citing the need to consult with his allies in Juba, the South Sudan capital. He requested for an extra 15 days.
The contents of the deal are not known for now, but it was signed by Machar, a representative of IGAD, and the South Sudanese ruling party’s secretary-general Pagan Amum (who did not represent the government). President Kiir only witnessed the signing of the agreement. He was quoted as saying: “If it is signed today and then tomorrow we go back to war, then what have we achieved?”