The South Sudan Minister for Information in a frank Interview with the Sudan News Agency SUNA: It is true seperation has occurred BUT relations between the two peoples still exists, and here the media has a role to play, either bettering or marring those relations

• “let us skip the question on referendum because we are not party to it”

Juba (SUNA Correspondent/ sudanow.info.sd) -The positive developments in the relations between the Sudan and South Sudan, have resulted in an overture between the two sides and the role of the media was prominent therein.

The Sudan News Agency (SUNA) Correspondent, Ms. Balgees Osman Fagiri, talked with South Sudan Minister for Information, Micheal Makuei Lueth, about the future and present relations between the two sides. Excerpts of the interview are as follows:

Question: Honorable Minister, where do we stand with regards to the resumption of people movements between South Sudan and Sudan at present?

Answer: The recent exchange of presidential visits between the two countries has a strong impact on boosting relations and the cancellation of visa for diplomatic and special passport holders, has also contributed in the movement of individuals. And we do hope this trend continues to include the ordinary passport holders, because they are the ones who need this more, besides opening the crossing points, a thing that will serve as an impetus for the trade exchange, particularly for the people in the borderline areas. These are the most populated areas and host the majority among the subjects of the two states.

Question: in your view what are the areas of integration between the two countries, both internally and externally?

Answer: Externally the two states have brought together their efforts and launched a joint call for states and financial lending institutions to write off Sudan’s accumulated debts and the call has also stressed the need to back and assist the two states overcome the current economic situation. Internally, meetings do not cease to take place, the meeting of the joint committees between the two countries to remedy the question of zero line, opening of corridors and completing the implementation of the agreements signed, these will open new horizons for cooperation between the two of us.

Question: How do you assess the resumption of trade between Khartoum and Juba?

Answer: It is a vital step and I would frankly say that we in the South are an importing country and we are not exporters yet. Now reopening of the joint borders is in our interest and in place of importing goods from East Africa, it is better for us, quality-wise and price-wise, to import such goods from the Sudan, thus the benefit is mutual. You know the movement of the citizens continues, albeit slow, and the available means for transportation is the air transportation, this is very expensive and could not be afforded by all citizens.This ordinary people cannot afford, such whopping cost, but reopening of the borders and the corridors will ease the movement of both people and goods.

Question: Are there any plans to ease customs procedures between the two countries now??

Answer: Yes. In fact the two sides are exerting every possible effort in this and if an agreement is reached,then it would be immediately implemented on the ground. We expect this to take place soon so that people on both sides could benefit from it, considering the high cost of air transportation which has increased in price so much with the recent economic crisis the world is facing today.
Question: South Sudan is a new born state… how do yo assess the performance of your media so far?

Answer: the media plays a vital role in any state, and it requires intensive efforts and huge resources, to be up to par with the new technologies in this field where, everyday, a new technology is put into use… Our ministry for information was established in the seventies but its performance wasn’t as needed, it needs trained cadres and restructuring, it lack training especially in the Radio and Television sectors. These, as you know, are the facade and the outlet that reflect the country face. Our radio transmission is so limited, to the peripheries of Juba alone, but our tv network is far more better. There is much to be done so that these institutions could stand up and develop. We need new studios to better our performance in the tv and radio, to play their role and to enlighten the citizens and to help cement the pillars of peace in the community.

Question: How do you see the role of media at this stage?

Answer: media plays a vital role and an effective one, among and between communities. It is true that separation has occurred between the two countries but relations between the people are still there. Here comes the role of the media in creating an encouraging atmosphere to boost these relations or to mar them for that matter, through diffusion of negative news. We have to use the media in cementing relation between the two countries, not the other way round. We are now in the process of establishing a news agency for south Sudan and we will sure need to have cooperation with the Sudan News Agency SUNA for training our caders and benefiting from its long experience in this domain.

Question: But does the media find sufficient support from your government at this stage??

Answer: We have now three draft bills tabled before our parliament for endorsement, and when approved we will be establishing independent radios, tv and a news agency and the role of the ministry will be a supervisory one, only. Print media in Juba has its difficulties. We now have six daily newspapers, four of them are political daily newspapers and two are sports newspaper. Of those only one, the Citizen, is being printed in Juba, the remainders are printed outside South Sudan, which means additional costs that will reflect on the price of the papers. One of our priorities is to secure a printing press soon.

Question: Do you receive any assistance from outside in this area?

Answer: Yes, from EU and some other companies working in the domain of communication and printing.

Question: What about freedom of the press?

Answer: A report on freedom of the press was recently published, it was from a respected and specialized media institution, in that report it was pointed that our state occupies a good place. It is true there are cases filed against some journalists, but that will be handle through due process of law.

Question: The Abyei issue remains unresolved… what is the way out to end the differences in this dossier?

Answer: As everybody knows, (unilateral) referendum was conducted in the area and the citizens of the areas have presented the outcome to the African Union delegation which visited the area at the time. On our side, we have issued an official statement indicating we are not party to this referendum. We are now waiting for the directives from the African Union to take action in this course.

Question: Do you consider the 99.9% result of the referendum, correct??
south Sudan minister for information
Answer: let us skip the details, because we are not party to this referendum and what happened was a unilateral referendum. And for a referendum to be valid and legal, all three parties, the state of South Sudan, the state of the Sudan and the African Union should be involved in a way or other, such as supervision and monitoring .