If you look on Twitter, you'll find more than a dozen accounts with South Sudanese President Salva Kiir's name on them. And on Facebook, there's another account that claims to belong to President Kiir.
Mr. Kiir is very busy on social media, you might think. But you would be wrong. Because the problem with all of these accounts is that none of them is actually associated with the president of South Sudan.
Lacking social media savvy
Mr. Kiir’s spokesman, Ateny Wek Ateny, says the president of South Sudan has never had a social media account. Ateny says the Twitter and Facebook accounts that bear the name of Salva Kiir are all fake.
Ateny says the president's office has been doing some detective work and discovered that the fake Salva Kiir Facebook account was created in 2012 by someone who has obscured their identity. Ateny says the president's office is following the account to try to find out who set it up. He did not say what officials intend to do once they find the person.
On Twitter, there are numerous accounts that purport to belong to President Kiir. They include @PresidentKiir, @SalvaMayardit, @salvakiir, @salvakiir1, @salvakiir_m, @KiirSalvakiir, @mrsalvakiir, and @salva_kiir. The last one says under his Twitter handle, "I love everyone."
The average person of South Sudan does not even know what the idea of the Twitter and Facebook is.
Ateny says some of the people who run these accounts are ill-willed. He says, for instance, that they tweet messages aimed at misguiding people into thinking President Kiir has bad intentions and does not want to restore peace in South Sudan.
But they're wasting their time, Ateny says, because most South Sudanese don’t use social media.
“The average person of South Sudan does not even know what the idea of the Twitter and Facebook is," Ateny said. "If the President has such an account, he will not even be talking to the people who elected him because 99.9 percent may not have an idea of what Twitter is all about.”
But President Kiir is about to emerge from the social media desert: Ateny's office is in the process of designing official accounts on Twitter and Facebook for the president. They will launch soon, Ateny says.
Ateny suggests that people who are following the bogus @salvakiir accounts on Twitter and who have liked the president’s alleged page on Facebook should unfollow him and unlike him until the real Salva Kiir becomes available on social media. Ateny says that will happen soon, but gave no indication as to what Mr Kiir’s Twitter handle will be or what his Facebook page will be called.
To give equal voice to the opposition, there are also numerous Twitter accounts that contain versions of Riek Machar's name. South Sudan in Focus was unable to confirm that any of them is associated with the former vice president turned rebel leader.