“Radio Miraya rocks!” That’s how listeners in the new Republic of South Sudan feel about the radio’s coverage of the July 9 independence celebrations. Miraya’s editorial team pulled out the stops to provide special coverage. Everyone gave of their best for this historic occasion and the result lived up to expectations of the radio station, a partnership between Fondation Hirondelle and the United Nations mission in South Sudan.
“Three, two, one, zero: Happy Independence Day! The Republic of South Sudan is born!” It’s midnight on Saturday July 9. Shivers run down the spines of all those in Miraya’s A studio. Senior editor Gabriel Shadar goes on air to announce the birth of the Republic of South Sudan. Outside, cries of joy and honking car horns signal that the party has started. Radio Miraya’s switchboard is inundated with calls from all over the country. Listeners from Wau, Nimule, Juba, Kajo Keji all want to express their joy. Journalist Nelson Lwak, normally so serious on air, and news presenter Emmanuel Kele become interactive hosts for a night (they have in any case spent the whole evening at the radio for security reasons). Miraya broadcasts the national anthem of South Sudan and all is set for a unique day of radio coverage.
After the morning news read by journalism awardee Chance Baniko (UNICEF prize 2010), Radio Miraya receives two high level guests, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Joseph Deiss, President of the UN General Assembly. Both are interviewed by Nelson Lwak… in spite of his sleepless night! Then at 10.00 the radio goes to the John Garang Mausoleum for the official celebrations. Technicians have managed to set up Radio Miraya’s outside broadcast van practically opposite the podium. Juba’s catholic radio station Radio Bakhita also broadcasts our special programming, since they do not have the same resources as Miraya.
Journalists Sheila Modi, Liza Taban and Sani Martin sit under a parasol (the sun is also out for the occasion!) on top of the van describing the historical events. At the same time, journalist Sebit Williams is walking about in the crowd, talking to those who have come. “Where are you now, Sebit?” asks Liza. In the thick of the crowd, the journalist lets a little girl painted with the six colours of the South Sudan flag express her happiness. Those who have suffered in the war are also there. With tears in their eyes, they cry out their joy. Although the official programme starts two hours late, Miraya has no problem filling the airtime. Buoyed up by the occasion, the team keeps coming up with new ideas.
At 12.37, the president of the legislative assembly proclaims the birth of South Sudan, watched over by the huge statue of John Garang, architect of the 2005 North-South peace accord. At 12.38 the flag of the new republic is raised as that of Sudan comes down. Radio Miraya broadcasts the enormous roar of the crowd across the whole of this new country. Its journalists and technicans hug each other and hold hands to sing the national anthem. Truly a moving and unforgettable day.
Jean-Luc Mootoosamy, project manager, Radio Miraya