VOA Hosts ‘Town Hall’ Discussion on Southern Sudan Referendum

Several leading members of southern Sudan’s civil society gathered in Juba this week for a “town hall” style event organized by the Voice of America to discuss next month’s planned referendum on independence.

Lilliane Riziq, director of the South Sudan Women’s Empowerment Network, told the gathering at the Nyakuron Cultural Center that “women’s organizations are not being consulted about the referendum.” Riziq said women are “deeply concerned that too little attention is being paid…to identifying and addressing gender considerations in the post-referendum negotiations.”

Another speaker, Mahjoub Mohammed Salih, a Sudanese journalist and recipient of the Golden Pen Award, used the forum to urge government broadcasters to cover the planned January 9 referendum in a fair and balanced manner.

Salih, chairman of the media committee of the Sudan Referendum Commission, said “government-owned media must give equal time and opportunity to both options of unity and separation, and that has to be respected.”

Other speakers included Anis Haggar, a Sudanese businessman who discussed the economic issues associated with the possible division of the country, and Taban Lo Liyong, a writer who discussed Sudan’s future.

Sudan in Focus, a 30-minute Voice of America program, is airing a recording of the town hall discussion for its audiences in southern Sudan on its regularly scheduled broadcasts Monday through Friday at 1630 UTC. The program can also be heard on the Sudan in Focus website, www.voanews.com/Sudan.

The town hall was moderated by John Tanza Mabusu and Charlton Doki, who work for Sudan in Focus, which can be heard on the Internet, on shortwave frequencies 9785, 11905, 13635, and on Liberty 88.7 FM in Juba & 90.0 FM in Yei.

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