June 24th, 2011

Town Hall Press Conference - & Raffle!

Posted by Sonya Laurence Green:

After several hours of lively, informative discussion, the meeting concluded with a press conference by Susan McCue, Dana Perino & Michael Meehan, and a VOA raffle. Here I am with Marvis Birungi, VOA Juba bureau reporter (wearing the VOA t-shirt) and one of the lucky winners! Prizes were self-powered Dynamo radios. It was a long, but very rewarding day.

June 24th, 2011

Town Hall Meeting Audience & Media Coverage

Posted by Sonya Laurence Green:

Today’s Town Hall was a great success, attended by a capacity crowd of students, diplomats, journalists, and citizens who queued to participate in a lively discussion. We are just on the eve of South Sudan’s historic independence July 9, you can feel the anticipation. But there is recognition that there is a lot of work ahead.

After their opening remarks, Board members listened along with audience members.

June 24th, 2011

"South Sudan Independence: The Way Forward"

Posted by Sonya Laurence Green:

Today was our Town Hall meeting on South Sudan’s coming independence, held at the Juba Grand Hotel. A high-level panel included a government official, business representative, civil society activist, and ambassador from the African Union.  Three members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors made opening remarks touching on issues of democracy and media rights. Great insight & perspectives from the panel and audience!

Left to right:
Ngor Ayuel (South Sudan Chamber of Commerce), Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin (Minister of Information), Lorna Merekaje (Sudan Domestic Election Monitoring & Observation Programme), Nakaha Stanislas (African Union Liaison Officer in Southern Sudan)

Board governors Susan McCue, Dana Perino & Michael Meehan made opening remarks - notice the slogan of our VOA program Sudan in Focus: “We ask the questions, You get the answers.” Here Sudan in Focus co-host John Tanza asks his question, followed by a young audience member.

June 24th, 2011

At the University of Juba

Posted by Joan Mower:

Susan McCue and Dana Perino at the University of Juba, where students are not in session because teachers have not yet returned to South Sudan.

Michael Meehan in front of the university’s Clock Tower, at the center of the campus. The university has a recycling center ready & waiting for the school population to return.

For more on the University of Juba, check this VOA story from earlier this year - Juba University Struggles to Build Capacity for Southern Sudan’s Reconstruction.

June 23rd, 2011

Governors Arrive in Juba

Posted by Joan Mower:

The governors arrived in Juba, Sudan today - second stop on their Africa trip. Juba will be the capital of South Sudan, slated to become the world’s newest nation on July 9! For now, the resource-rich region remains one of the poorest places on earth.

After a meeting with U.S. consulate staff, our group attended a social event for leading South Sudan officials. Minister of Information Dr. Barnaba Marial Benjamin said he would like VOA “to play a big role in the independent media.”

June 23rd, 2011

Visiting Affiliate Station Liberty FM - Yei, South Sudan

Posted by Sonya Laurence Green

The city of Yei is about 100 miles west of Juba, close to the borders of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Liberty FM in Yei is a VOA affiliate, airing Sudan in Focus. Find them on Facebook - Liberty F.M -90-Yei-South Sudan! 

Here are two of the wonderful staff members we met:

Engineer Musa poses with the dish they use to receive VOA programs. It was a great visit.

June 22nd, 2011

Road Trip to Yei, Sudan

Posted by Sonya Laurence Green

Sonya Laurence Green & Sudan in Focus co-host John Tanza

June 22 – Road trips can bring dangers old and new in southern Sudan.  Drove to Yei today, about 3 hours each way on a dirt road, with some of the Sudan in Focus team to hire a new stringer and cement an affiliate relationship there.  Along the way, we got the requisite flat tire (fixed quickly because journalists can be mechanics when they need to be) but that was the least of the risks.   This road was a key military route during the war, and we had to stop for awhile as a de-mining crew exploded some ordnance by the roadside, then we were allowed to pass.  No stopping to picnic or relieve oneself in the bushes — we held on until we got to town.

(John Tanza, VOA Sudan In Focus co-host & Alan Boswell, VOA Juba bureau chief)

But while the mines will eventually be cleared, a new danger looms: the beautiful, re-graded dirt road that provided a smooth surface has also encouraged speeding, and our new stringer in Yei told me that road accidents are epidemic now as buses and cars hurtle along at breakneck speed.  Soon enough, we drove past one old woman swaying in mourning on the roadside, then another, then saw the wreckage of a fresh bus crash from the night before – 5 people had died.  We met an old man whose daughter had survived the civil war only to die in this crash.  We gave him a ride to Yei, where he was to claim her body from the morgue and arrange her funeral.  He was silent and contemplative on the ride to town, while we considered how this may be one of the unfortunate byproducts of the badly-needed development finally coming to the south…


June 20th, 2011

GOSS Officials Visited VOA

In advance of the BBG/VOA trip to South Sudan, Luka Deng, right, Minister of Cabinet Affairs of the Government of South Sudan, and Ezekiel Gatkuoth, head of the GOSS Mission to the United States, visited VOA. Shown with Joan Mower, Head of VOA’s Development Office.  (Photo courtesy Joan Mower) 

June 20th, 2011

Changes in Juba

Posted by Sonya Laurence Green

June 20: What amazing changes Juba is going through.  During the civil war, I could never get here to report the news because it was a garrison town, controlled by the north, and those leaders didn’t want journalists poking around.  So, I went to SPLA-controlled towns and villages, but always longed to visit Juba.  After the war, when I first came, Juba was a devastated town emerging from decades of strife — but there was life, energy, and a determination to rebuild.  Many of the war displaced ringed the town in makeshift shelters, militiamen weren’t fully demobilized (a friend warned me there were shooting incidents around town sometimes) and the interim government was just getting started. 

Now, Juba is growing by leaps and bounds — there are several private radio stations (Liberty FM and Voice of the People are new VOA partners, broadcasting Sudan In Focus and other VOA shows), new construction is sprouting up around town (including a badly-needed new airport terminal), and entrepreneurs from all over the region are here.  It’s a boom town.  Last time I was here, I stayed in a tent by the river.  This time I’m staying at the new Keren Hotel, which provides air conditioning and internet access, and I found a glossy brochure in my room declaring, “Keren Hotel: Where Quality Meets Its Limit.”  Well, I know what they meant, even if the English idiom wasn’t exactly correct….

June 20th, 2011

Arrival in Juba, South Sudan

Posted by Sonya Laurence Green

June 19: Arrived in Juba, southern Sudan, today with John Tanza, the host of VOA’s Sudan In Focus — that’s the radio show and web page we set up last year, to focus on events in this country.  It’s an exciting time to be here, just a few weeks before the emergence of the world’s newest nation — everyone here is preparing to celebrate the independence of South Sudan on July 9.  There are banners in the streets, and the town has a real “buzz” to it.  Voters in the south overwhelmingly approved independence, after decades of civil war with the north, in a referendum this past January, and it’s now that day is nearly here. Despite real and ongoing tension with the north over disputed border areas, nothing will stop the July 9 independence from coming.

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