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South Sudan President Salva Kiir struggles with speech at EAC meet

South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir Mayardiit took over as the Chairperson of the East Africa Community on November 24, 2023, taking over from Burundi President Evariste Ndayishimiye.

During his maiden speech at the 23rd Ordinary Summit of the Heads of State in Tanzania, President Kiir could not read his speech and made several blunders including wrongly naming the Presidents of various countries.

From the get-go, he had to be assisted in organizing his speech by an aide, EAC Secretary Peter Mathuki, a Kenyan, who rushed to sit beside him at the podium to guide him through.

President Kiir correctly named the Presidents of Uganda and Rwanda until he named President Samia Suluhu as the president of Rwanda before he was quickly corrected by Mr Mathuki.

Suluhu, the meeting host, is Tanzania’s President.

It also took long pauses of silence before he could read the next part of his speech, once again misrepresenting leaders of various nations and immediately being corrected by the aide beside him.

“Your Excellency Felix Tshisekedi, representing President of Uganda, (jumbled mumble of words) of Congo,” said President Kiir before the aide audibly corrected him that President Tshisekedi represents the Democratic Republic of Congo.

He then mentioned President William Ruto of Kenya from out of the blue. His speech has since gone viral, leaving many questioning his capacity as a President considering his advanced age, and his capabilities in reading the English language. Many others defended him, saying English is not his first language and should have either been given Arabic or Dinka, and addressed the Summit via a translator.

President Kiir’s age, 72, has once again come into play whenever his leadership capabilities are questioned.

In December 2022, many cited his advanced health as the cause for his alleged ill health that saw him publicly urinate on himself and the body fluid pooling around him as media covered the event live.

In the aftermath, in January 2023, six journalists from the state-run South Sudan Broadcasting Corporation were arrested and detained in South Sudan for capturing the incident and having it aired.

The video went viral globally as government-issued statements, denying rumors that President Kiir was unwell.

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