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Was Ateny Wek Ateny Hired to Insult?

The behavior being exhibited by Ateny Wek, the Presidential Press Secretary is repulsive and more damaging to the reputation of the office of the President. What is more puzzling is conspicuous silence by President Salva Kiir while Ateny does irreversible damage to the image of the Presidency. A person who does not know the character of President Salva Kiir would pass Ateny to have been ‘appointed to do the insult businesses for Kiir. Ateny choice of words is offensive and demobilizing even to Kiir both locally and at the international arenas. Whenever he responds to any matter concerning the office of the president he never ceases to unleash insults and undiplomatic expressions. This goes against the norms of a spokesperson of a highly esteemed office like that of the President. A presidential spokesperson is supposed to be self-composed, sober minded, capable to command respect, persuasive, responsible, self-controlled, diplomatic in speech, and refined in character. He or she should be capable of discerning differences between being a private citizen and that one of public figure. Public figures’ actions are guided by the high calling of the office. The wisdom guiding self-controlled and diplomacy is as old as Bible. Paul in the biblical time told Corinthians that everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial. There are words an honorable leader may know but does not use them because they don’t match his calling. However, Mr. Ateny has been the opposite of the above. He seems to mistake political opposition figures to be enemies of the state rather than stakeholders who see things differently from the governing policies. According to Ateny, loyalty to the system or president of the republic is proven by means of unleashing insults thus, running his tongue against every disagreeing voice. He should rather devote his energy in doing the things, which promote success of the policies instead of attacking the Americans, and European who have been very helpful in formation of this country.

The behaviorists in psychology have never been wrong when they say an act a certain person commits in group or a setting may be repeated in the same manner when that person is put in a different group or setting. This is so because “An individual selects one response instead of another because of prior conditioning and psychological drives existing at the moment of the action”, Parkay & Hass, 2000. In other words the urge in a person to commit a certain act is inherent to the perception tied to that person’s worldview. When Mr. Ateny used to write in The Citizen Newspaper, his column “Beating the Drum of Truth” was mostly comprised of insults rather than what ought to be done to save the nation from its direction. This perhaps should have changed when he assumed the high office to rhyme with its calling. Unfortunately what seems to be different in Ateny this time was the bitter insults he unleashes across the international borders. 

Ateny should unlearn this behavior. In psychological perspective, no behavior that is permanent unless the one exhibiting it wants to maintain it or getting positive response from the group associated with him or her. Behaviorist, Melissa Standridge once wrote, “In assuming that human behavior is learned, behaviorists also hold that all behaviors can also be unlearned, and replaced by new behaviors; that is, when a behavior becomes unacceptable”, it can be replaced by an acceptable one”… I don’t know if the President of the republic gives Ateny a pat on the back and say well done after insulting every dignitary under the sun; else one wonders as what encourages Ateny to continue this unacceptable behaviors in the high office. Psychologists in the field of behaviorism believe behavior that get positive reward most often persists and I agree. “A key element to this theory of learning is the rewarded response”, (Parkay& Hass, 2000).” 


 “A Presidential Press Secretary should limit him or herself to what the president wants the public to know, managing and facilitating presidential communication in terms of sequence and convenience, media advisories, and clarification if there is a break down of understanding, etc., but not to facilitate reigns of insults and undiplomatic expressions”. Presidential Press Secretary is not a government spokesperson therefore, Ateny should not engage in the work relating to the entity of government spokesperson, unless ask to shift in. 

When the media law was assented Ateny overshadowed the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, and Ministry of Justice to the embarrassment of the government of South Sudan. Perhaps it would have made sense if what he was telling the public were sensible and facilitating understanding. 

Ateny Wek seems to know no boundaries as where his responsibility begins and ends. It has to be clear to Mr. Ateny that there are statements absolutely intended for the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to announce as the Government Spokesperson, those of Minister in the Office of the President and those tied to his docket. But who can convince him that this is how things are done in the system where team work but not competition reigns. 

When the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Barnaba Marial Benjamin, went to the US ahead of President Kiir’s visit to drum up support for Kiir, Ateny was busy back home insulting Western Countries in his newspaper, calling them “sponsors of hate, architectures of South Sudanese conflict”, etc. 

Earlier on the President’s image abroad was improving with some quarters urging him to organize for general elections, but when Ateny opened his mouth to speak against the west and East African, particularly Kenya among others, some have turned around telling the president to make peace with the SPLM/A In Opposition and then form government of national unity before conducting general elections. 

If it were not for undiscerning decree of president Kiir, which seemingly overwhelmed by tolerance, background check and orientation after appointment would have saved the country from embarrassment Ateny has taken the nation through. Or if President Kiir had appointed one of these persons of high calibers with professional orientation like Philip Aguer Panyang, Martin Mou Mou, Alfred Taban, Nhial Bol, etc. the presidency would have been saved from diplomatic setbacks caused by Ateny Wek.

Ethics and professionalism should be the values governing the personalities working in the high office that of the Presidency.

Nevertheless, since President Salva Kiir never asked him to step aside, could Ateny be doing the job he was employed to do? I am always tempted to think he was hired for insults so as to speak unrefined words President can’t say, but since I know President Kiir as a man of noble character I dissuade myself out of this temptation.  Otherwise Ateny should be asked to quit the job to give him time to do the job suiting his orientation. I agree with the sentiment aired in some of the newspaper that Ateny Wek is not gifted in public speaking skills. He equally lacks respect and ethical requirements for this high office. Most intellectuals who have ideas to help do public relations to the office of the president have to think twice before approaching the office of the President these days. If one does, he will find Ateny waiting to grab the idea making it his own.

In conclusion, Ateny Wek is a burden to the presidency and in turn making the president’s work of liberating the nation from the monstrous rebellion a burden. He should quit the office in the best interest of this country!!

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