September 9, 2007
Reports of Kiir's death are exaggerated
And I thought Ethiopia was the worst place in the world for baseless rumours.
People have been ringing each other all day in Khartoum asking whether it was true that Salva Kiir, President of Southern Sudan and Vice President of Sudan, had just died in a plane crash. When I phoned the Civil Air Authority to check, even they said they were looking into vague reports of an accident.
This was all news for the very alive Salva Kiir who has been sitting in church in Juba most of the afternoon, attending the baptism of one of his colleagues. At one point, one of his right-hand-men had to leave the service and sit outside with a mobile phone, issuing denial after denial. The story, he said, was "mere lies, a concoction put out by enemies of the CPA" (the faltering north-south Comprehensive Peace Agreement signed in 2005).
Kiir's party, the SPLM, ended up reinforcing the denial with an announcement on national TV. After that, Kiir reportedly went on a slow car ride round Juba, windows open, to let everyone see that he was still breathing. Crowds cheered, women ululated.
Before the denial came out, most people who heard the story had one reaction - dumb terror.
Salva Kiir's predecessor John Garang really was killed in an air crash, just 21 days after being sworn in as vice President on July 30, 2005. The news sparked three days of rioting in Khartoum, leaving 84 dead. Earlier this afternoon, when the fake story was still spreading, we heard young men had started to gather downtown.
Posted by aheavens at September 9, 2007 3:34 PM