Sudanvotes journalists are holding their summer workshop in Wad Madani, Al Jazeera Province, and celebrating the website's reach across more than half the world
While many people scrambled for information from the newspapers, televisions and radios about our first elections last month, sudanvotes.com has played a great role in providing election related news to its audience in Sudan and far beyond its borders. Even those with access to the local media in Sudan were eager to know more about the first Sudanese elections in 24 years. And according to latest statistics released, they clicked on sudanvotes.com in their thousands.
The website funded by the German Foreign Ministry and produced by the Berlin-based NGO Media in Cooperation and Transition (MICT) asked its Sudanese journalists from different media backgrounds across North and South Sudan to supply investigative independent journalism on the election process.
According to the statistics, (supplied by Google analytics) Sudan is presently the country with by far the greatest number of hits, followed by Germany while United States is in third position. Other countries with high numbers of visits to the sudanvotes include United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Canada, Nigeria, Egypt and UAE. But the most impressive statistic of all is that readers from 137 countries have clicked on sudanvotes. This amounts to well over half of the countries in the world even including Israel where Sudanese nationals were until recently not permitted to set foot. Daniel Tetlow and Haytham Wardany, the editors of the website congratulated the correspondents for a job well done, while addressing the Sudanese journalists at the opening ceremony.
One of the keys to its success, is the broadcast medium of the internet. Unlike other media outlets like newspapers or magazines that require the consumer to wait for hours or days before the news is published, Sudanvotes.com can reach the reader with just a few clicks on a computer in the comfort of one's home or office and reaches across the whole globe. Let us hope that the internet can become a reality for more than the privileged few in our country in coming months and years.
The sudanvotes journalists recently met together in Wad Madani, Al Jazeera Province for their fourth training workshop. For many of the Southern journalists, it was their first time to travel to North Sudan. They mingled, laughed, cracked jokes and shared their personal and professional experiences with their Northern colleagues right from arrival in Khartoum to Wad Madani, a 4 hour drive south along a narrow tarmaced road known as "sika al moot" or "death road" due to the fast moving traffic that passes up and down. The free interaction including sharing cigarettes, dining together and sharing smiles amongst journalists from the South and North. This portrayed a totally different image from the two decade civil war both sides have experienced. No one could tell or even think that these were journalists from regions that had been at each other's necks for nearly a quarter of a century courtesy of political, cultural, economic and religious differences.
Sudanvotes journalists outside Hantoub school
Among the sudanvotes correspondents is Bonifancio Taban Kuich who recently faced the wrath of security agents in Unity State, while covering the violence that erupted in Bentiu after the declaration of the governership elections results. Mr Taban the journalist who paid for sins he had not committed received sympathies from colleagues after his thirteen day experience of beathings and intimidation in Bentiu Civil Prison. He is due to host the penultimate session on the final day to relay his experience and ask how journalists can protect themselves while maintaining their independence.
Some of the journalists naturally faced difficulties in speaking or listening to their colleagues as there is a language divide between those speaking Arabic in the North and those speaking English in the South, such as myself. But to my pleasure, I realised that simple gestures and other forms of non-verbal communication like demonstrations to supplement my limited Arabic or express my point worked better than I had expected. And thanks to our editors Haytham and Daniel and our colleague Wani John Nasona, who was educated in Arabic in South Sudan, we managed to translate our way through the workshop while also holding lessons separately at times.
On this second day of our workshop we toured the famous former British Hantoub school, known as a first class secondary school that educated Sudanese students from all corners as long as their results deserved.
During our tour, we came to learn from our guides that prominent high ranking government officials and politicians attained their education at this prestigious institution. They included former Sudanese President Jaffer Nimeri, seasoned opposition politician Dr. Hassan Al-Turabi, Sadiq Al-Mahdi of the Umma Party and many others who have been influential in shaping the country’s political history. The Institution now operates as a college training female teachers to bolster Sudan’s education sector.
Sudanvotes journalists relaxing on banks of Nile
It was unfortunate that we found the students on holiday but the school dating back to the 1940s with its lush green campus tells of the power and glory the institution had and still commands to date. The Hantoub school sits at the steps of the sandy while flood plain of the White Nile and my colleaugues and I had to admire the scenery as males and females of all age and categories basked in the warm evening light while others swam in the calm waters of the Nile.
The locals of Wad Madani were very welcoming and friendly towards us. After visiting Hantoub school we were hosted by a retired civil servant in the textile industry, Mr Muhamad Gismala and his family. He kindly invited us into his own home and supplied us with delicious cakes and drink and until we could not take any more.
Back at our hotel, our host manager, the bespectacled Moawia Awad Nasreldin was so caring in providing to us all the political history of Sudan, he made it clear that he wanted us all to feel compfortable under his roof.
Are these the people who have been termed as enemies of us the southerners or have these people been used by warring politicans for their own convenience in a landscape beyond our control? What now for our upcoming decisions between Unity and separation in the January 2011 referendum, when it appears we are all subject to the games of politics and propaganda?
I believe that race, tribe or language cannot cause the hatred we have felt over years for these poeple. To make independent decisions in the upcoming referendum we must also realise the political propaganda we have been dealt.
The views expressed in this report do not necessarily reflect the positions or opinions of the publishers of www.theniles.org
Akim works as freelance editor and correspondent for diverse publications in South Sudan.
He has been part...