Broadcasts from wind-up and solar-powered radios distributed across remote areas of Southern Sudan are helping the region's citizens prepare for elections to be held in 2009. Since July, NDI has placed more than 40,000 of the distinctive blue-colored radios in the hands of prospective voters in Sudan's Three Areas -- Abyei, Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile.
Listeners to civic education broadcasts are learning about the basic constitutional and democratic principles advanced by the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) between the government of Sudan and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement that ended 21 years of civil war in Africa's largest country. The information will enable citizens, for the first time, to play a role in the development of new political institutions as they prepare for 2009 elections and a 2011 referendum on southern independence.
The civic education program features "Let's Talk," a 30 minute, twice-weekly program produced by NDI in partnership with the Sudan Radio Service. It follows the lives of a fictional Sudanese family -- Taban, Salamah and their children -- along with their neighbors, as they live through the transition in Sudan. Episodes have featured family members discussing the importance and reasons for a just-completed census and dispelling myths, such as the widely-held belief that children may suffer if actual family size is revealed.
NDI expects to distribute more than 200,000 additional radios in cooperation with other international organizations by the end of 2008. At least 50 percent will go to women, who are among those with the least access to information. Others will be entrusted to community leaders, teachers, members of civil society organizations, or those with established channels of communication in rural towns and villages.
NDI also conducts semi-annual focus group research that has helped the government -- and the international community -- understand the needs and expectations of Sudanese citizens. Topics have ranged from citizen attitudes toward peace and governance to their perspectives on implementation of the CPA. Despite slower than expected political and economic development of Southern Sudan, NDI's research found that Southern Sudanese take great pride in their newly-established political institutions and national identity, and are eager for the elections and referendum. NDI plans to continue this research on a regular basis at least through the 2009 national polls.
Published on July 7, 2008