A new Internews radio program has launched in the disputed region of Abyei between Sudan and South Sudan. Now every week residents can hear critically important news, informative features and entertaining stories on the Abyei This Week, program.
"I like the program because it's addressing issues of Abyei,” says reporting intern Bol Deng. “People are willing to talk to us about such issues as education, health, water and sanitation affecting them."
The political and administrative status of Abyei is one of the most contentious outstanding issues between Sudan and the Republic of South Sudan. Two years ago, Abyei was scheduled to have a referendum to determine whether it would re-join South Sudan or remain in Sudan. That referendum ran aground due to disagreements over who was eligible to vote. Both tribes, the Misseriya nomads and the South Sudanese Ngok Dinka, claim the right to decide the future status of the contested region.
Abyei This Week is led by experienced local journalist Nimaya Manasseh along with a team of young people from Abyei. Listeners have been excited to hear news about everyday life in their community in addition to clear, factual political news about Abyei.
"My favorite story is the story of education which I covered,” said Bol Deng. “Someone in Juba heard about the program particularly the lack of many items for students in Abyei and he responded by personally contributing exercise books to the students. So when a program influences people to take action you feel happy about it."
While the program has a big focus on humanitarian issues, it also aims to inspire people. A recent edition of Abyei This Week had a feature about a private flower garden by the main road bursting with sunflowers and other colorful blooms.
"My favorite story is the flower story,” reporter Karbino Dut said. “Because the owner of the flower garden is able to think of something that provides emotional (…) healing to the traumatized people of Abyei. A cure that no hospital can give."
Karbino went on to say that a few more gardens have sprung up in Abyei since the broadcast, including one at the local resource center where they were inspired by the show.
The program first went on air in May, when Paramount Chief Kuol Deng Kuol, leader of the Ngok Dinka tribes, was killed, leading to very high tensions in the region. The young Abyei news team responded swiftly with an accurate news service for Internews’ community radio network, providing critical reporting and numerous exclusive interviews, including with the US Ambassador. Since then, the weekly program is broadcast in Arabic on Mayardit FM in Turalei, and Eye Radio in Juba, reaching both the community of residents in the Abyei region, and the influential capital city audience in Juba.
Radio continues to be the most trusted and influential form of information in the region. Internews baseline research in Abyei shows that while 44% of people say word-of-mouth is their most used source of information, just 11% of them say it is the most trusted. Radio, however, is the second most used medium at 41% - but it is, most importantly, the most trusted source of information. Radio continues to be a critical source of news and information to the region, as only about half the men surveyed and a third of the women can read.