In an ideal world, any government or organization with an image or reputation problem would seriously employ the right calibre of spinners and articulate debating pundits. It is common knowledge that the reigning Government of the Republic of South Sudan is experiencing a severe lack of trust issue. Charges of rampant human rights abuses by government military and paramilitary groups (aka militia), corruption by top government officials and cases of immoral practices, among others, are documented by credible and reputable organizations epitomized by the United Nations and the African Union.
Recent serialized reports by the Enough Project’s The Sentry methodically details and exposes high-ranking military officials, senior politicians and business people of illicit wealth accumulation and shady deals. All these issues led the US Government to blacklist and sanction a good number of government officials. These are serious image denting problems that would call for the services of professional spinners to at least convince a few unsuspecting people on the globe.
However, I have seen on a few occasions that a shambolic official in the name of Gordon Buay, who is currently the Deputy Ambassador of South Sudan to the United States, has spoken for his government, whether by giving interviews to the press or talking as a panellist representing his employer. What has prompted me to write on this flawed decision to designate the right person to give out public information on the government and refute information against it is a debate which took place on April 14, 2021, hosted by Shaka Ssali of Voice of America’s Straight Talk Africa.
I think the representation of government by Gordon Buay was self-defeating. This is a man I had followed from 2010 onwards when he was an ordinary person based in Canada, ever-present on every South Sudanese social media discussion hangout. I knew him as someone bitterly opposed to the very President Salva Kiir Mayardit, whom he is now serving and apologizing for. Here below are the reasons that make me to believe that Gordon Buay is the wrong person, in the wrong place, and at the wrong time:
Foremost, Buay does not make a good spokesperson in every sense of the word. He lacks composure, self-discipline and consistency in diagnosing and presenting issues and facts. I am sure that many well trained public information specialists will agree with me in this portrayal of Gordon Buay. I refuse to call him Ambassador because of how he was appointed to his current position. He never practised diplomacy and public relations anywhere in the world. I also have no kind words to describe the way Gordon Buay carries himself, which is atypical of a diplomat. He doesn’t personify any ambassadorial stature.
Second, since he got lured by a pro-government lobby group in North America to turn around 180 degrees as far as his political views are concerned, Gordon Buay has not been kind to anybody opposing the government of Salva Kiir. He has a weird obsession for pedalling lies. He has, reportedly, taken to forgery many times. Buay writes recklessly, baselessly and abusively to defame and slander a person he hates on social media platforms.
His conduct is not akin to someone representing a government in serious discussions and expected to give facts. For instance, Gordon Buay circulated a hoax video of a dead person with gunshot wounds sprawling in a bush in WhatsApp groups he is a member in, purporting that it was the corpse of the National Salvation Front’s commander, General John Kenyi Loburön. There are many other similar cases of sham propaganda that Gordon Buay was the covert author. He also has the tenacity to spread unsubstantiated wild allegations and conspiracy theories.
Third, Gordon Buay lacks the moral integrity to represent a government at a reconciliation event which the interview appeared to be. He is on record to have spewed venomous hate against Dr Riek Machar Teny, the current First Vice President, and his wife Angelina Teny Jany, the current Minister of Defence and Veterans Affairs in the Revitalized Transitional Government of National Unity (R-TGoNU).
In his writings in which he contemptuously castigated and defamed the high profile couple, Buay demonstrated the character of a spoiled hooligan; not a diplomat by any respect. His graphic defamatory slander and wanton character assassination of the person of Honourable Angelina Jany Teny, really makes one wonder what kind of a diplomat is this man! Everything he wrote in that libellous piece speaks of insanity.
Now the couple is in the government and coming second in the government protocol list. I am sure that Gordon Buay has not forgiven these second-ranked officials in the R-TGoNU until now. Not that I know it, anyway.
Therefore, Mr Buay fails the neutrality test, so, he is definitely not the right person to speak for such a government that is supposed to work on rebuilding confidence and nurturing peace in the war-torn country.
Fourth, Gordon Buay recently inflicted his already damaged image by showing scandalous conduct in a live-streamed debate, which made rounds in the social media space. Being a panellist in that debate, Gordon, with his phone camera left on, was seen and heard urinating while standing.
The video clip was forwarded to my social media inboxes over ten times, even by non-South Sudanese. It was such a disgrace to the country. The “Ambassador” was visibly drunk or had taken more than his bladder could afford to hold for one hour. Shame!
The unsightly video prompted one panellist to laugh hysterically. The teleconference moderator had to call Gordon loudly to put off his mobile phone camera. Such a blunder would have obliged any person who cares about his integrity to resign from his post. But, of course, morality and integrity are unknown to Mr Gordon Buay.
If the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of South Sudan were serious about the image of the country, this man should no longer be a deputy ambassador anywhere. Any country would have recalled him and put an end to his messed career.
I care to point out that if the government were serious about addressing its dented image, using the right person in the right place, Gordon Buay would not be allowed to appear in public shows as a speaker representing the government. He is off the mark. Alas, not in South Sudan!
To conclude, the unkempt persona of Gordon Buay – a man not short of polemics and inferior in diplomatic etiquette – have caused the government to miss an opportunity of saving its image before the sizeable global audience following the veteran International journalist Shaka Ssali’s VOA Straight Talk Africa.
Meanwhile, journalist John Tanza Mabusu of VOA’s South Sudan In Focus Radio Programme captivated me with his crisp reporting of the facts available to him. He showed his class.
In the same vein, Mr Suba Samuel Manase, the NAS Spokesperson, also , to my mind did his best and indeed won the day. I am confident that any independent observer who watched the live-streamed debate would agree with my honest and objective assessment.
LB Lokosang, PhD
The author is a native of South Sudan and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.