Since Sudan’s 22-year old civil war ended in 2005, the people of the most remote regions of the country are desperate for news and information.
Internews has been building community radio stations and training local reporters here since 2006 to provide their communities with crucial information about the peace agreement, the interim constitution, and the resettlement of returning refugees. The 4 stations that have been completed are the first ever community radio stations to be set up in these remote parts of Sudan, which is emerging from one of Africa’s longest running wars.
Right after Internews trained a radio reporting team in the Southern Sudan town of Malualkon, citizens who were angry that free food was only going to returnees to the area raided and looted United Nations food stores there. The local journalists at Nhomlaau FM, had just begun running the station hours earlier. Their timely and effective coverage of the issue helped defuse tensions. The reporters provided essential information to the community and invited World Food Program staff on the air to discuss the issue. They also interviewed the police and other local authorities.
[Text slide: “I love my radio station because it is contributing to the reconciliation of my community.” – Journalist at a station Internews has launched in Kurmuk, South Sudan]
With the low literacy rate in Sudan, radio is the most effective way to provide a voice to the voiceless.
But how do you bring radio to a region where there is absolutely no electricity available?
Solar and wind are helping power four new radio stations that Internews has set up in Southern Sudan. Backup generators recharge battery cells on cloudy days.
Roads in these parts of Sudan are very long and arduous, impassable in the rainy season, or simply non-existent. All equipment has to be flown in on small planes. At the Kauda station in the Nuba Mountains, Internews hired more than a dozen women, to carry more than one ton of equipment up the mountain to the remote transmission site – a site that is entirely powered by solar and wind generated energy.
The batteries can weigh up to 64 kilos or 140 pounds.
The solar panels must be installed not only where they get the best sun, but also where they won’t be damaged by roaming goats and cows.
The stations currently broadcast 6 days a week, 8 hours a day in at least 10 different languages.
Journalists are hard to come by in rural South Sudan.
At the station in Kurmuk, all five staff members were recruited solely on the basis of their enthusiasm and a strong desire to learn. They had to be trained from scratch.
Sammy Muraya is a professional journalist from Kenya, who was trained and mentored by Internews. He is working with the Kurmuk team to help launch the station.
[Text slide: “We were able to send out a signal today when testing the transmitter, and I wish you could have been able to see the excitement on everyone’s face when they were listening to the station.”
— Sammy Muraya, Kenyan journalist who has helped launch the stations in Kurmuk]
[Text slide: “I was walking with the station manager in the market here and he had borrowed a small radio and he made sure that he told everyone we met that the Kurmuk radio station was already on air. I have to say that the people up here have been waiting for so long for the station . . . everyone is so excited!”]
The radio stations that Internews has founded in these remote regions are empowering local communities with vital news and information and a means to make their voices heard. Two more radio stations will be built in 2009.
[Text slide: “The radio promotes peace and reconciliation and brings out the voice of marginalized people.” — Reporter at the Kurmuk station]