South Sudanese President Salva Kiir has come under condemnation over his directive banning the singing of his country’s anthem at any public event in his absence.

According to reports by South Sudan’s independent radio, Eye Radio, the Kiir’s directive was announced by Michael Makuei, the Minister of Information following the weekly cabinet meeting last weekend. Makuei argues that singing the national anthem in President Kiir’s absence amounts to misuse.

“We’ve seen that the anthem is played even when the ministers, undersecretaries, the governor or state ministers attend any function. This order should be observed because the anthem is not mean for everybody. The government has observed that the national anthem is been played all over unnecessarily. Everybody is playing the national anthem. Citizens should note that the national anthem is only meant for the president, and functions attended by him,” Makuei said.

The directive surprised many South Sudanese with some opposition politicians criticizing it as an extension of Kiir’s authoritarian rule while others have interpreted it as a move by the president to personalise the national anthem which is essentially a national symbol and source of identity.

“The national anthem is one of the indicators for citizens’ ownership of the national and affiliation to the nation. Schools students, Boy Scouts, girl guards and South Sudanese in front of foreigners in foreign events all can identify themselves with national anthem plus other occupation,” reads a statement by Community Empowerment for Progress Organization (CEPO).

The NGO appealed to Kiir to allow citizens to have free affiliation to the nation by owning the national anthem.

“Being proud of your nation is by owning or demonstrating affiliation by singing the anthem or publicly holding a national flag,” the statement further reads.

South Sudan became an independent state in July 2011 after breaking away from upper Sudan following a referendum and Kiir has been president ever since.