Kiir expelled UN aid chief over TV interview

President Salva Kiir presided over a meeting of the Council of Minister that decided to expel UN Humanitarian Coordinator Toby Lanzer because the UN official had made critical statements about the government in a TV interview, according to the president's press secretary.

Presidential Press Secretary Ateny Wek told Radio Tamazuj that the reason for Lanzer's expulsion was that he made statements challenging the sovereignty and national security of the country.

Ateny claimed that Lanzer had spoken on Friday about the “failure” of the government during an interview with CNN in Geneva.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the decision to expel Lanzer saying that he has been instrumental in ensuring humanitarian assistance in South Sudan.

But Ateny said that Lanzer's statements were contrary to the purpose of the UN presence in South Sudan, which he said was to “help the government,” adding, “It is not really a body that is very different from the government,” so it should not criticize the government.

The presidential spokesman further noted that the reason for the UN Secretary-General to appoint a Ghanaian to replace Lanzer was because “the South Sudanese government does not want Toby Lanzer to be in South Sudan.”

However, the UN has said that Lanzer was already on his way out when the decision was made to expel him, noting the announcement of his replacement came before the expulsion.

Ateny added, “We want to say to Toby Lanzer that his behaviors were not good behaviors.”

Deputy Spokesman for the UN Secretary General Farhan Haq said, “It's confusing why at this stage South Sudan would take this decision to expel him.” In an interview with Voice of America, Haq was asked about why Lanzer was expelled. He said, “I don't speak for the government of South Sudan so it would be up to them to clarify what their reasoning is.”

The UN spokesman disclosed that Lanzer had been expected to leave South Sudan “towards the end of June.” He also said that Lanzer was outside of the country when the expulsion order came. “They're not allowing him back in, which is unacceptable to us.”

The European Union and several European countries and Canada today condemned the decision to expel Lanzer. They called for him to be allowed to serve out the term of his appointment.

Radio Tamazuj has not seen the interview that Ateny said was given by Lanzer on CNN.

File photo: President Salva Kiir Mayardit