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Africa

South Sudan: DW Akademie hoping to return

Three DW Akademie employees were recently evacuated from South Sudan due to heavy fighting. Extensive Deutsche Welle projects have been contributing to the country's media development.

People displaced from fighting between the South Sudanese army and rebels, wait for boats to cross the Nile River, in Bor town (photo: Reuters).

South Sudanese refugees on the outskirts of the provincial capital, Bor

Three DW Akademie media consultants were flown out of the South Sudanese capital mid-December on an emergency flight to Nairobi. Approximately 160 other Germans were also on board. The evacuation was coordinated by the German embassy in Juba and the Federal Foreign Office's crisis team in Berlin. Heavy clashes between government troops and rebels have claimed more than a thousand lives. Some 400,000 people have fled their homes.

The three media consultants had arrived in the capital, Juba, just days before the fighting broke out. DW Akademie's André Surén has regularly been in the region since 2007 and says he and his colleagues were taken aback by the sudden clashes. "We definitely didn’t see this coming and as far as I know the United Nations didn’t either."

For more than seven years now DW Akademie has been supporting the development of a professional media sector in both Sudan and South Sudan. The focus is on radio. DW Akademie is supporting the development of South Sudan's state broadcaster as well as a number of private and civil society stations. The majority of projects are being funded by Germany's Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

The new radio station in Bor (photo: DW Akademie/Pernille Baerendtsen).

The new radio station in Bor

DW Akademie together with partner organizations has also been developing a radio station in Jonglei State on behalf of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The station is being modeled on a public service broadcaster. Until violence erupted around the provincial capital, Bor, DW Akademie’s Pernille Baerendtsen had been on location for the long-term project.

She was assisting South Sudanese partners in setting up the Bor station which until recently broadcast three hours a day. Full programming was being planned. "Our colleagues there had little previous training and practical experience, but we were on our way to creating a solid base for independent reporting," says Baerendtsen. She was also evacuated.

Although South Sudan declared independence from Sudan in 2011, many of the station's 35 staff members are scarred by the long civil war. Baerendtsen points out that many have to flee once again. "Still, I am in contact with some of our partners who have left Bor either for the nearby moors, a UN compound, Uganda or Kenya."

Patrick Leusch heads DW Akademie's International Cooperation division and sums up the present situation. "It's not clear when the project will resume. We're hoping things will calm down quickly and that we can begin working again." The new clashes, he says, show that workshops on conflict-sensitive reporting are essential. "In an unstable province like Jonglei it's vital to go back on air as soon as possible because balanced reporting contributes to securing the peace," Leusch says.

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