June 27th, 2011

Abuja Children’s Home

Posted by Joan Mower

On Sunday, the governors flew to the capital of Nigera, Abuja. The city has broad streets and there is a lot of construction underway. It is a planned city and became the capital about 20 years ago, in December 1991. First thing, Governors Perino and McCue visited an orphanage — the Abuja Children’s Home.

Their visit is in keeping with the theme of today’s Town Hall on how the media can help health and development in Nigeria and the rest of Africa. The orphanage, which is supported by NGOs and Churches, has 40 children between the ages of 2 month and 20 years. The U.S. Embassy gave the playground equipment to the orphanage and the Rotary Club dedicated one of the hostel.

BBG Governor Dana Perino at the Abuja Children’s Home.

BBG Governor Susan McCue with residents of the Abuja Children’s Home.

Sunday night, the BBG met with VOA affiliates and others who came to Abuja to discuss ways to provide more news, information, features to the Nigeria people.

June 25th, 2011

Last Day in Juba - Roads Closed

June 25 - Last day in Juba, Southern Sudan after a fruitful trip.  However, all roads are closed in town this morning as security forces conduct house-to-house and room-to-room searches for potential weapons.  They want to ensure a safe independence day celebration on July 9, but it has put a crimp in our plans to get to the airport and fly out on schedule. Thanks to the U.S. Embassy for their help with everything during the Governors’ visit, and thanks to the VOA Juba bureau team for their incredible work organizing the Town Hall.

Sonya Laurence Green

June 25th, 2011

Meeting with local journalists

On Friday night, BBG governors met leading journalists and editors at a restaurant on the Blue Nile. In the background was a bridge — the only bridge in 800 miles. It underscores the lack of development in South Sudan which had virtually no paved roads four years ago.

Bruce Sherman, BBG director of Strategic Planning and Performance Measurement

The governors learned about the situation on South Kordafan where there is a growing humanitarian crisis. The Khartoum government is bombing civilians in the Nuba mountains.

"We are looking for a dialogue with the people of South Sudan," said Michael Meehan.

Journalists told BBG that they wanted the GOSS to enact media laws as soon as possible in order to protect journalists who on occasion have been harassed and arrested.

The Minister of Information expressed the GOSS’ commitment to press freedom for everyone.

The governors are flying back to Ethiopia Saturday for more meetings with the media and other officials.

Joan Mower

June 25th, 2011

Busy Day in Juba

Governors had a jam-packed day on Friday in Juba. After breakfast with the VOA stringers, the BBG Governors met with medical students at the University of Juba. Most of the students are suffering because the university is not open, they often don’t have any housing and they don’t have enough food. Even so, Dr. Thomas Burke of Massachusetts General Hospital said the students were as dedicated and motivated as any he had seen the world. Dr. Burke is working with American med students to train the Sudanese. Doctors are desperately needed in Sudan where there are only 20 doctors for nearly 9 million people.
Board Members mingled with the students at the Juba Episcopal Diocesan Model Secondary School. Some students wanted to be doctors and pilots but few of them wanted to become teachers. That’s because teachers are frequently not paid in Sudan.

The Board Members met with the Minister of Information Baraha Marcial Benjamin to discuss the cooperation between South Sudan and the VOA/BBG in the future when the country gains independence.

 The Town Hall meeting was a huge success. Benjamin talked about the “wonderful relationship with VOA,”

More to come…

Joan Mower

June 25th, 2011

The News at the “Voice of the People” in Juba

The struggle to professionalize news coverage in a traditional society can be tricky, and Sudanese journalists are on the forefront of helping the public sort out fact from fiction.

VOA reporter John Tanza and I went to visit affiliate radio station Voice of the People in Juba, and we had to push through a crowd and step over a body. They were busy with a witchcraft story — the stricken man stole a motorbike, and the local witchdoctor who owned the bike announced that the thief would be cursed and collapse, and that’s exactly what allegedly happened.

The Sudanese radio manager had to get personally involved, saying the witchcraft curse was nonsense and calling the police and seeking medical help for the man.  Some local journalists arrived and a tv crew went with the stricken man and the police. All the witnesses believed it was a clear-cut case of witchcraft, and we couldn’t seem to get the facts about what really happened. But we did get the sense that the witchdoctor’s status rose that day, and no one would steal from him again for some time….

 Sonya Laurence Green


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