In southern Sudan, Voice of America (VOA) journalist Shaka Ssali hosted training sessions from May 13 to 16 for journalism students and practicing journalists through the U.S. Department of State International Information Program (IIP) speaker program. More than 60 participants attended the training sessions coordinated by the U.S. Consulate in Juba and USAID.
In southern Sudan, journalists, students, and staff from USAID and the U.S. Department of State attended a journalism training workshop in May, 2011 as part of the Dialogue with Young African Leaders. Photo credit: USAID
Shaka Ssali, an American journalist born in Uganda and host of VOA’s “Straight Talk Africa,” was the first IIP speaker to visit southern Sudan. His visit was part of the Dialogue with Young African Leaders—a series of events held throughout Africa during the month of May to showcase the efforts of young African leaders, to engage with them in discussions about current challenges on the continent, and to help them discover ways to bring about positive change.
During the trainings, Ssali stressed the importance of accurate reporting, professionalism in journalism, and the critical role of free media in southern Sudan, which will become an independent nation July 9.
Earlier this month, I visited Sudan, a nation poised to separate in July into two independent states following a peaceful referendum in January that USAID helped carry out. Since my visit, violence has erupted in Abyei, a disputed area on the north-south border, and threatened the fragile peace in the region.
Resolving the status of Abyei has long presented a difficult challenge. During my visit—together with UK Secretary of State for International Development Andrew Mitchell and Norway Minister of Environment and International Development Erik Solheim—we stressed to the Government of Sudan and Government of Southern Sudan our concern about the destabilizing impact of uncertainty over the Abyei Area’s future.
USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah at a press conference in Juba on May 7th. Photo Credit: Government of Southern Sudan.
In response to the violence, we quickly activated our contingency plans. USAID partners are on the ground in areas where thousands of Sudanese have been displaced by fighting. And we are working with UN agencies and non-governmental organizations to provide emergency food aid, medicine, water, shelter, hygiene kits, and other assistance.
As we continue to address the emergency needs of people in and around Abyei—as well as in areas across the south affected by violence—we remain focused on helping bring stability and effective development to Sudan over the long term. During my visit, I met with Government of Southern Sudan President Salva Kiir Mayardit and announced that the United States would host an international engagement conference for southern Sudan after its independence. The conference will enable the new nation to collaborate with other governments and the private sector on development priorities, especially in agriculture.
Nearly 87 percent of southern Sudanese rely on agriculture, livestock, or forestry to make a living. Ninety percent of southern Sudan’s land is arable, but less than 10 percent is currently cultivated.
I met men and women farmers, who described to me how they struggle to expand their farms, buy quality seeds and fertilizer, and move their products to market. Because of the challenges they face, the agricultural yield in southern Sudan is only 0.3 metric tons per hectare, despite good conditions and available land. But the average yield worldwide for sorghum, for example, was 1.46 metric tons per hectare in 2009-10, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It’s easy to see how much potential is being lost.
I’m proud that this is an area in which the United States and our partners can help.
During my visit, I signed a communiqué with the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, and the International Fertilizer Development Center to work with the Government of Southern Sudan to develop the commercial agriculture sector. By increasing productivity, supporting agribusinesses, and improving research and technology, we can begin the process of an agricultural transformation in southern Sudan.
We are working in many other areas to help bring basic services and opportunities to the people of Sudan. In Juba, I especially enjoyed visiting a USAID-supported radio station that not only provides news and information, but also offers lessons in English and mathematics that schools use as part of their regular instruction. It was a powerful and effective way to extend the reach of education.
As the independence of southern Sudan approaches, we will continue to help build a peaceful, stable region and a better future for all the people of Sudan.
On May 3, the world celebrated World Press Freedom Day. Reflecting on the day’s events, a few important questions arise about what role the media plays in a community and in a democracy.
First, how does freedom of the press compare to freedom of speech? Not only do journalists need freedom to speak and write without fear of censorship, retribution, or violence, but also they need professional training and access to information in order to produce high-quality work. Furthermore, journalists need to work within an organization that is effectively managed, which preserves editorial independence. People need multiple news sources that offer reliable and objective news, and societies need legal and social norms that promote access to public information.
Second, why is the media important? We care about the media because it is a powerful and critical tool for ensuring that citizens understand the state of their community, country, and world. In this way, citizens are equipped to participate in the democratic process. Media gives a voice to the people and helps to hold governments and institutions accountable for their actions. Media is also the way to spread critical community messages, such as how to prevent HIV infection, where to vote in the next election, and how to address difficult issues with balanced, well-informed analysis so as to promote peace and tolerance.
Lastly, how do we measure how well (or poorly) the media sector is functioning, and how do we gauge progress? With great interest in this subject, USAID has supported comprehensive, multi-year assessments carried out by IREX, which are reported in the Media Sustainability Index (MSI). This tool analyzes challenges in the media sector by country and allows for tracking of progress from year-to-year. In this way, it helps USAID to better identify media development gaps and possible areas for technical assistance. The 2009 edition of the MSI for Africa is now available, and editions are also available for the Europe & Eurasia and Middle East regions. With multiple years of surveys now completed, the tool spurs discussion and understanding of both the current status of the media in a given country and region as well as the trends over time.
The MSI is both a quantitative and qualitative tool. It draws on a set of panels composed of local media and civil society experts from each country, and the resulting index assesses five objectives important to a successful media system, which include the quality and professionalism of journalism as well as the management and independence of media businesses. The results also capture the rapidly changing new media landscape on the continent.
MSI’s data is used by a variety of advocacy and human rights groups, as well as USAID, other donors, and academics who are interested in tracking the role of the media in larger development processes. Findings from the MSI can inform how we channel our resources; for example, the latest edition of the MSI reveals that weak business management and professional journalism skills are some of the key factors challenging the media sector in African countries today. In response, USAID programming in countries such as Liberia, Nigeria, and the DRC are better cultivating local skills and building the professional capacity of media.
For the past two months, USAID has responded rapidly to the historic events in Egypt. We are pivoting our existing portfolio of 36 democracy programs implemented by Egyptian, U.S. and international organizations to support the new opportunity.
During the protests, our partners deployed observers throughout the country to report on the democratic movement, provided legal and humanitarian aid to protesters and detainees, and disseminated information to local communities so that those not directly involved in the demonstrations could participate in the debate on political reform.
In support of the referendum on constitutional amendments, USAID’s partners trained domestic election observers and conducted media campaigns to encourage voter participation, especially among youth and women. Looking to the future, USAID grantees are advising at least 30 new political parties that aspire to contest the parliamentary and presidential elections later this year.
Like most days in Port-au-Prince, Haitians began to fill the streets at sunrise. On this Sunday, however, they were headed to the polls, eager to exercise their democratic right in the presidential runoff and parliamentary elections.
Voters at many polling stations waited calmly in line for their turn to vote. At a few other polling stations that opened late, long lines of would-be voters seemed anxious about the missing their chance to vote.
I was part of a small U.S. Government team that traveled to several polling stations around the city. As we roved from polling station to polling station, we identified those that were running smoothly and those that were experiencing problems.
It was my first time as an election monitor, so I was lucky that my two team members were experienced experts. Our team leader, Denise Dauphinais, also heads USAID’s elections support program in Haiti. She shares her first impressions of the polling stations she visited in the video embedded in this blog post. Among her impressions, she notes:
There appeared to be more people in and around polling stations than there were during the first round of elections last November.
There were logistical problems early in the morning that caused some polling stations in Port-au-Prince to open late, but the Provisional Electoral Council and United Nations seemed to address them.
The mood appeared more comfortable and calm than it did during the first round of elections in November.
Dauphinais and the rest of our small team were part of a much larger effort to support the elections on Sunday. The U.S. Government disbursed a number teams – more than 40 people all told – across the country to monitor election-day activities. The international community, led by the Organization of American States and the United Nations, and a cadre of domestic partners also provided important services throughout the day: election observation to vote counting to name a few.
Support for elections in Haiti may have been most visible on Sunday, but it was only the latest crescendo in an effort that took millions of dollars and months of planning by Haitian institutions and the international community. The U.S. Government alone invested more than $15 million in support of both rounds of elections, including:
A public information campaign using SMS messages, radio, television, billboards, and a call-center to inform people about the location of their polling station;
Training for poll workers and election observers; and,
Equipping poll stations with supplies such as ballots, ballot boxes, and tamper-evident transport bags.
As we wait for the preliminary results to be announced by March 31, and final results by April 16, both Haitians and the international community are no doubt hoping that the relative calm on Sunday is a sign of what’s to come.
Provisional results announced in Juba Sunday for the referendum on self-determination for southern Sudan indicate that southern Sudanese voted overwhelmingly to secede and form a new nation. Of more than 3.8 million votes cast, nearly 99 percent chose secession, and just over 1 percent chose unity with northern Sudan.
Southern Sudan Referendum Commission Chairman Professor Mohamed Ibrahim Khalil and Deputy Chairman Justice Chan Reec Madut, who is also chairman of the Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau in Juba, jointly declared provisional results of the referendum, which is part of the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) that ended more than two decades of civil war in Sudan.
“The people of South Sudan are … indebted to the government and people of the United States of America, USAID,” Justice Chan said in remarks at the announcement. “The Southern Sudan referendum on self-determination could not have taken place on time without the support of the international community,” he said. “Our international partners and friends put in robust material, technical, and moral support that is still literally lapping on our doorsteps.”
USAID provided comprehensive assistance to help carry out the referendum, including technical and material assistance, civic and voter education, and support for domestic and international observation of the process, and funded out-of-country registration and voting in eight diaspora countries, including the United States. This assistance is part of USAID’s broad goal of supporting peace in Sudan, including by helping to implement all provisions of the CPA.
Final results of the referendum are expected to be announced February 7 in Khartoum if no legal challenges are filed, and February 14 if legal challenges must first be addressed. If secession is the final outcome of the referendum, establishment of a new nation would not occur before July 9, 2011, when the CPA expires.
USAID sponsors Afghan participation in Domotex—the premier international carpet trade show, featuring some of the best internationally produced hand-made carpets and kilims. For three years, USAID’s role in promoting Afghan carpet dealers has generated millions of dollars in exports. Photo: USAID/ASMED
More than 32 million Pakistani children under the age of 5 are immunized against polio during February’s National Immunization Days. Since 2003, USAID has contributed $1 million per year to both the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF to fund their participation in National Immunization Days. Photo: USAID
The U.S. and Afghan governments sign a memorandum of understanding to train Afghan civil servants to improve the delivery of government services. The one-year, $84 million program will train up to 4,000 civil servants in Kabul and 12,000 more over the next two years in all 34 provinces. Training focuses on five core public administration functions: financial and project management, human resources, strategic planning, and procurement. Photo USAID/Afghanistan
Administrator Rajiv Shah meets with Pakistan government officials on the best role for USAID and development during a Pakistan development roundtable. At the event, Shah and Shahid Rafi, secretary of Pakistan’s Ministry of Water and Power, sign implementation letters confirming joint efforts to upgrade three Pakistani thermal power stations in Guddu, Jamshoro, and Muzaffargarh. Refurbishing the power stations will increase power to Pakistan by 315 megawatts, enough to power nearly 400,000 homes. Photo: USAID
Salam Watandar, a USAID-funded Internews media service, launches a new Pashtu-language television channel targeting audiences in south and east Afghanistan. The service offers news, current affairs, and cultural programming in two 90-minute peak-hour blocks. In addition, the first 22 Kabul Education University students receive master’s degrees in education.
During his first official visit to Pakistan from April 11 to 15, Shah emphasizes “a commitment that USAID, and on behalf of our entire portfolio of foreign assistance here, that we would do things differently going forward in order to be better partners, deeper partners, and more respectful partners of the government of Pakistan and the people of Pakistan and Pakistani institutions.” Among the trip’s highlights are a meeting with Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, and a press conference that draws more than 80 Pakistani and international media outlets. Photo: USAID
USAID hands over the National Women’s Dormitory at Kabul University to the Ministry of Higher Education. The dormitory will provide safe and secure living space for 1,100 women and girls. Around the same time, another 40 midwives graduate from the Hirat Institute of Health Sciences. USAID trained midwives to help the country address what is estimated to be the second highest maternal mortality rate in the world. Photo: U.S. Mission, Kabul
After their shops and inventory were destroyed by insurgents earlier in the year, 81 shopkeepers at the Foroshgah-e-Borzorg Shopping Center in Kabul receive USAID grants ranging from $2,000 to $4,000.
Responsibility for the 105-megawatt Tarakhil Power Plant is officially transferred to the Afghan government. Completed on May 31 by USAID, Tarakhil has the capacity to provide electricity for up to 600,000 residents in Kabul whose houses are connected to the North East Power System. Photo USAID/AIRP
U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Anne W. Patterson issues a disaster declaration in response to extraordinarily heavy rainfall and flooding that begins in northern Pakistan in late July. The flooding drifts south to Sindh province, affecting an estimated 18 million people in every province. More than 75 percent of affected families are located in Sindh and Punjab provinces, and 1.7 million homes are destroyed. Widespread flooding is reported in 82 of Pakistan’s 122 districts.
In coordination with the Pakistan government and other relief agencies, USAID responds quickly to the devastation wrought by the floods. USAID’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) immediately sends water treatment units and Zodiac boats to help rescue stranded people. A Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) soon arrives to assess conditions, transport relief supplies, and help meet the immediate needs of millions of people affected by the floods in Pakistan. Photo: AFP
The Agricultural Development Fund is established through a $100 million USAID grant to the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock to lend to financial and non-financial intermediaries, who in turn will lend the funds to farmers for agricultural inputs to expand production. Kabul University officially opens a herbarium, providing Afghanistan a new research tool for studying the country’s vulnerable botanical heritage. Photo: Texas A&M University PEACE Project
Shah visits flood-ravaged Pakistan to assess the situation on the ground and determine the next steps for USAID. The first high-level U.S. government official to visit Pakistan, he travels on a C-130 airplane packed with plastic sheeting and other humanitarian commodities from OFDA, observes the USAID-supported World Food Program distributing meals, meets with donors, and consoles flood victims, including women and children who tell Shah that they have “lost everything.” Photo: Farooq Naeem/AFP
The Kabul Women’s Farm Service Center opens as one of seven centers in Afghanistan, the only one tailored for women farmers. More than 10,000 Afghan women will benefit, and the center will offer high-quality seed, fertilizer, animal feed, tools, machinery, greenhouse supplies, and other products. Photo: USAID
The U.S. government signs an agreement with the government of Pakistan to begin using the first tranche of funds under the Kerry-Lugar-Berman Act, which pledged a $7.5 billion, five-year assistance package for Pakistan. The agreement also launches USAID’s new business model to increase the role of local organizations in carrying out U.S. assistance programs. Over the lifespan of the Act, USAID expects to increase the share of programs implemented by local organizations to approximately 70 percent. Photo: USAID/Pakistan
On Sept. 18, Afghanistan holds the first Wolesi Jirga (parliamentary) polls since 2005. At stake are 249 seats in parliament in the country’s first Afghan-led parliamentary polls since the fall of the Taliban. Over 6,000 Afghan observers are mobilized to monitor all provinces. Photo: USAID
October marks the 5th anniversary of a devastating 7.6 magnitude earthquake that struck Pakistan’s Azad Jammu and Kashmir region in 2005. USAID’s Earthquake Reconstruction Program has been critical in helping the region recover. USAID rebuilt 21 schools and 15 health-care facilities that provide basic health care to approximately 200,000 people in Bagh District. Photo: USAID
The 2010 national wheat seed distribution begins for the first of 260,000 farmers in 31 provinces, funded through USAID’s Afghanistan Vouchers for Increased Production in Agriculture project. Local farmers receive vouchers entitling them to significant discounts on and access to certified wheat seed and fertilizer in an effort to improve the quality and production of Afghanistan’s wheat. Photo: USAID/ASAP
USAID and the U.S. government have delivered more than $579 million in emergency relief to the flood-affected communities. Assistance includes materials for shelter, food, medical care, potable water, rescue operations, and basic commodities. As the flood waters begin to recede and communities start returning to their areas, USAID focuses on restoring livelihoods. Flood-affected people receive seeds and fertilizer for the planting season, cattle, cash for work, and a variety of other assistance to restore jobs, businesses, key services, and homes. Photo: USAID/Pakistan
On Nov. 24, the IEC announces parliamentary election results for 34 out of 35 constituencies (33 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces plus the Kuchi constituency). Certification for one constituency (Ghazni) is deferred by the IEC. USAID continues its support to both the IEC and the ECC throughout the process. Photo: USAID/Afghanistan
USAID completes its six-year maternal and child health program that reduced neonatal mortality in Pakistan by 23 percent. The $93 million Pakistan Initiative for Mothers and Children (PAIMAN) improved the health of more than 5.7 million Pakistani women and children from 2004 to 2010. The program trained more than 18,000 health specialists and upgraded 103 health facilities as well as 57 training facilities. Photo: USAID/Pakistan
The Obama administration publishes an annual review of its military strategies in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Afghanistan, the administration references an “urgent need for political and economic progress” to match what is described as significant military success in offensives to clear Taliban strongholds in the southern part of the country. Photo: White House
Learn more about our work in Afghanistan and Pakistan in this month’s issue of Frontlines.
At the center where I observed, Lologo Center in Juba, five Sudanese poll workers, five Sudanese domestic observers, and four USAID staff members gathered in one of the two rooms of a primary school where all week the poll workers were on duty from 8 a.m. until 5 or 6 p.m. as their fellow citizens came to vote. After working all day on the last polling day, January 15, the poll workers continued directly to counting the vote, despite that they had little to eat or drink all day.
Once the 14 of us were assembled in the room, a policeman posted outside to guard the vote-counting process shut the heavy metal classroom door so that no one else could enter, screeching the sliding door lock into place.
First the chairman of the referendum center, a secondary school teacher named Primo Celerino Monai, announced the number of registered voters at that location—2,596—and the cumulative number of votes cast according to the daily log, 2,536—a 98 percent turnout. A poll worker took out seven envelopes that contained spoiled ballots from each of the seven days of voting, and opened each envelope, emptying the spoiled ballots onto a table in the center of the room. There were a total of 5. One of the poll workers then retrieved a tarp from the USAID-funded polling kit that contains supplies needed at the referendum center, including scissors, tape, a calculator, and battery-operated lanterns that were necessary because as is common in southern Sudan, there was no electricity at this center, and it soon became dark.
Southern Sudanese poll workers at Lologo Center, Juba, with USAID staff Mickey Richer, Cliff Lubitz, and Maura McCormick stand in front of 2,483 votes for secession after ballots were counted. Photo Credit: Angela Stephens/USAID
The poll workers spread the tarp over a large table in the center of the room. One poll worker placed the translucent box that contained the ballots on the table, cut the plastic ties that had locked the box all week, removed the lid, and emptied all the ballots onto the table. The five poll workers then bundled all the ballots into stacks of 50 for ease of counting, and once that was complete, counted to make sure the bundled ballots equaled the number of ballots cast as recorded each day in the center’s journal.
Occasionally during the course of the vote count, Mr. Monai read through the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC) polling and counting manual provided to the more than 14,000 poll workers trained with the assistance of USAID partner the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), which explains step by step how to proceed with all the procedures of polling, including the vote count.
The poll workers wrote signs that read “Unity,” “Secession,” “Unmarked,” and “Invalid,” and taped them to the edge of the table nearest to us observers so they could pile the ballots into each category after opening and reading them.
One of the poll workers then stood in front of us and one by one, picked up a paper ballot, showed us whether or not the ballot had the required red stamp of the SSRC, the Sudanese body in charge of the referendum process, and then turning over the form, showed us the ink thumbprint that indicated whether the voter chose unity (written in Arabic and English, and indicated visually by two clasped hands) or secession (indicated visually by a single open palm). A few ballots were unmarked, and a few were invalid, either because the voter’s thumbprint was apparent on both unity and secession, or because the ballot lacked the required red SSRC stamp.
As the reading out of votes began in the solemn room, lit only by three battery-operated lamps on the table, the poll worker announced as he held up each ballot one by one for us to see: “The stamp is valid”—showing us the stamp and then turning the ballot over –“and the vote is secession.” Five hours later, when the poll workers had opened all the ballots, the final count was 2,483 votes for secession, 19 votes for unity, 19 invalid, and 15 unmarked.
The transparency of the process and the sense of duty and professionalism the poll workers displayed was admirable. Each of us in the room could see every ballot and every stage of the counting process.
The enormity of what those dedicated and exhausted poll workers were doing was lost on none of us—it was nothing short of transmitting the voice of the people of southern Sudan, after decades of war and hardship, through the ballot box as they decided their future course as a people.
By Michael Eddy, Democracy and Governance Team Leader, USAID/Sudan
JUBA—Here at the Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau (SSRB) data center, staff are hard at work processing results forms of the votes cast in the referendum on southern Sudan’s self-determination, which concluded January 15 after seven days of voting. Voters had two choices—unity with northern Sudan, or secession.
“All the truth will come out from this office, and we have made sure it is accessible to the observers,” SSRB Chairman Justice Chan Reec Madut said of the data center, which he called the most important part of the SSRB, the Juba-based bureau of the Southern Sudan Referendum Commission (SSRC). “We made clear everything should be done in a very transparent way and we share it with the people,” he added.
Data center Director Benedict Lagu—the son of Joseph Lagu, Sudan’s former Vice President and former Ambassador to the United Nations—returned to southern Sudan in 2009 from the United States, where he lived for 19 years. He studied computer science in Iowa and was a professor of information technology at Elizabethtown Community College in Kentucky. He is now director of management information systems at the Southern Sudan Electricity Corporation, but was released from his position for three months to run the SSRB data center.
Results forms from 2,638 referendum voting centers across southern Sudan began arriving at the data center January 18, two days after the polls had closed. Staff enter the data into a database, which verifies voting center information such as the number of eligible voters, processes the forms, and aggregates the results.
After the results from all 2,638 referendum centers in southern Sudan are aggregated, the SSRB will announce provisional results of the ballots cast in southern Sudan—estimated at more than 3 million. Those results will be transmitted to a Khartoum data center, which is currently processing results from voting centers in northern Sudan and the eight other countries where voting occurred (Australia, Canada, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, the United Kingdom, and the United States). The SSRC is scheduled to announce preliminary results by January 31 and final results by February 14.
“It’s a very emotional thing for our people,” Justice Chan said. “They never thought they’d have this opportunity.” He added that the data center will create an archive of the results forms once they are entered. “These are documents that have something to do with the destiny of the people of southern Sudan,” he said. “We want to keep them for the people who will come after us.”
Support for the data center, including the database software and staff training, is just one aspect of USAID’s comprehensive assistance for the referendum, which is part of a broader assistance to help maintain peace and improve lives in Sudan.
Observers with the Carter Center confer as voting results forms from two locations arrive at the Southern Sudan Referendum Bureau Data Center in Juba January 19, 2011, and a policeman deployed to provide security looks on. USAID is among a community of donors supporting the Carter Center’s independent international observation of the southern Sudan self-determination referendum. Photo: Angela Stephens/USAID