In Nairobi preparing for Juba
[Nairobi, Kenya 28°C] The Nairobi heat rarely gathers on the brow long enough to bead. It evaporates long before it has a chance to trickle then drip. Kenya will prepare you for the heat of Sudan, everyone tells me as I reach for my water bottle, still thirsty. It’s not just the heat of Southern Sudan I’m preparing for, it’s the place itself. It’s hold on a tenuous peace, as mandated by the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) signed on Januray 9, 2005 between the Khartoum-based Government of Sudan and the, then-rebel group, Sudan People’s Liberation Army.
While in Nairobi, I made contact with Southern Sudan as it expresses itself in exile, taking refuge from the past while building for the future. One of the first visits was to the offices of the Sudan Radio Service (SRS). This organisation is Southern Sudan’s first independent broadcast provider of news and information about Southern Sudan. It is broadcast on various FM and shortwave signals. Their first broadcast was made on July 30, 2003, 1 1/2 years before the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the Khartoum-based Government of Sudan and the southern-based Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). SRS broadcasts in English, Arabic and eight Sudanese ethnic languages, and focuses exclusively on Issues and events in Sudan.
I met with John Tanza, the radio station’s Deputy Chief of Party (a title that reflects the primary funder of SRS: USAID). We discussed possible collaborations between me and SRS correspondents based in Southern Sudan. We decided that I should meet with SRS journalists that work from areas I visit to collaborate on stories of common interest.
In fact, we have planned that I hook up with Martin Siba, the SRS Wau Bureau Producer. I will be going to Wau after Juba on Wednesday, March 4 for a few days before continuing onward to Aweil, Warrap and Abyei.
Another place I went to visit are the Sudan Mirror. The paper’s publisher and founder, Dan Eiffe (photo) invited me into his office and told me stories of when he was a young Irish priest in South Africa and later in Southern Sudan. He told me that in June 1998 he stood in the US Congress and said to the congressmen and women during his testimony, “Southern Sudan is apartheid at its worst. Apartheid is a tea party in comparison to what happens in Southern Sudan.” Below is an audio interview I did with Dan Eiffe in February 2009.
Southern Sudanese refugees left Sudan during the civil war in numbers of about one million. This does not include the internally displaced people (IDPs) that rang from 4.5 to 5 million people. Many refugees ended up in Kenya and among these are the students of Sud Academy, a primary / secondary school based in a poor neighbourhood of Nairobi.
Partial funding for Sud Academy comes from Canadian Aid for South Sudan (CASS), through which I learnt of the school and who gave me contact with, Kellee Jacobs a Canadian volunteer who bfought me to the school. She wrote The Right to Education – Sud Academy’s Case Study. I’ve posted more photos from the school here.