Monday, April 04, 2011

Five Years of Blogging: Personal Reflections on Fifth Anniversary of Launching of South Sudan blog

By John A. Akec

Five years ago, or on April 3rd, 2006 to be precise, I began to write articles and post them on my personal blog, namely ( Ever since, my focus has been concerned with the socio-economic and political environment of Sudan with special emphasis on South Sudan. Once an article is posted on the blog, I often post it to a number of mailing lists that I subscribe to and to Sudan Tribune online ( where the articles have usually found their way into newspapers and other websites.

In the run up to last year's elections, I began to publish my blog articles in the Citizen newspaper under my column: Bloggers Rants. That went on for 3 months and then I stopped it. It was hard work beating my weekly deadline especially given my academic workload. In addition, the newspaper administration did not keep up with their commitment as in our contract! Fair enough. I called it a quit. That said, as activist, I am always glad to see my articles published by the Citizen, Khartoum Monitor, Sudan Vision, the Democrat etc… even if not all of them ask for permission to do so. Most recently, I been posting copies of my blog articles to the Citizen and they publish them, thankfully.

English newspapers (especially those based in South Sudan) are very much underdeveloped, underfunded, and under everything. Many of these papers do not get any financial support from the government and survive by publishing stuff published by writing hobbyists and activists on the internet. The circulation of the newspapers is also poor, even in the Southern capital, Juba. If am to make any appeal on this occasion, it is that government contribute to nurturing of our news (print) media without compromising its independent. And that print media learn to value and respect intellectual property and copyrights of the writers (if they don’t pay fees, they should contact authors and ask their permission). That would be nice, wouldn't it?

Even better, the editors of the newspapers in South Sudan should sign up capable authors to write columns and then all share the cake. There is an adage in business world that goes something like this: what is better, to share one ($$$ 1) million US $ with yourself or share one hundred ($$$$100) million with a few others? In other words, make a bigger cake and share, and you will enjoy a bigger slice than just contenting with a small cake for yourself, which is not even enough for your need. The math is very simple and I hope the editors of English newspapers in South Sudan will soon get the message and break out of this self-inflicted hindrance to the newspaper business.

So far, I have posted 100 articles and poems in the last 5 years. That is 20 articles per year, or an average of 1.6 articles per month. My profile has had 10,187 views as of today. That is, the profile is clicked by roughly 2000 readers every year. This is not the actual number of those who read my articles. The actual number could be much higher than this.

As a busy academic, administrator, and a family man, it has not always been easy to find time to update my blog. However, I have to be more realistic and content with the fact that I managed so far to write at least one article a month. It would have been better if I wrote at least once a week, but that would have been a tall order, given my other commitments. It is interesting to draw parallel with playing football or any other form of sport – no matter how busy you are, you still find time to play your favorite game. Writing is my hobby and goes back to my college days in the 1980s, when I published a regular student wall paper by myself. And then I began to write on the internet discussion for in 2000. And as we all know, a job is what you do because you have to do it; while a hobby is what you do because you love to do it.

Am I happy with my contribution to our humanity's advancement? Absolutely, I think, I am. My readers tell me I am being provocative without being insulting or abusive. Others say I am being very analytic in my approach to writing. My highlights: contribution to raising awareness of the plight of Acholi people in Northern Ugandan who were caught between the scythe of the LRA and the hammer of Uganda Peoples Defense Force. I also raised awareness about the plight of those whose houses were demolished by planning authorities in Juba in 2009 without adequate provision of alternatives. I also followed up Sudan election in 2010, amongst others.

Over the years, I made many friends. I have had live radio interviews with some international media, wrote op-edits for a number of influential online magazines and websites. Most recent was a live interview with Columbia National Radio in which I was asked questions in English and my answers were translated to Spanish on air. This was in February when the results of South Sudan referendum were annouced. I also got an invitation from Sudan Programme at St. Antony's College, Oxford University, to be one of guest speakers at the conference in November 2010 about what SPLM and NCP were doing to prepare for South Sudan self-determination vote, among others. The blog was ranked as one of top 100 blogs about Africa and one of top 20 blogs on Sudan.

Coincidentally, the 5th anniversary of launching of this blog coincides with historic year 2011 in which South Sudan has voted peacefully for self-determination; while the year also saw many Middle Eastern autocracies tumble, and many more still to follow. All because the internet and satellite TV technologies have contributed immensely to rearing generation of Arab youth who have decided that their destiny lies in joining the global community to embrace the universal values of liberty, freedom, and human rights. And so mobile text-messaging service, Facebook, and Twitter, which have proved as powerful instruments for social networking, have been used as the weapons with which the iron curtain on the Middle East has been torn down. The Arab revolutions in 2011 have shown the oppressed people of the world that those who rule them with iron fists against their will are nothing but paper tigers. All the oppressed needs to do is tell them to go, and they will do so, willy-nilly.

My advice to fellow South Sudanese at this juncture is to be good listeners to one another and that no one should rush to reach any hasty conclusion (for or against one another) and do something foolish (we the rulers and the ruled) at this early stage of the life of our nation. We should avoid any attempts at perfection and strive to create a win-win situation through compromises (nobody should expect to be completely full, and nobody should go empty either). It is important that our government invites all groups that make up our society to an open minded debate in order to reach a reasonable consensus on the main principles, values, and 'constants' on which we would like to base our new nation.

Having emerged from a devastating war, we should also put violence out of the equation as a means for settling differences or addressing grievances. Yes, we need our government to be the only party that has monopoly of violence. But that government violence also needs to be used sensibly, proportionately, and only as a means for upholding justice as opposed to taking it away.

Do I have any favorite blog articles or poems? I could not say I have any favorites. However, you may like to check out some of the following links (not in any particular ranking):

South Sudan: Where Silence Pays Dividends
Dr Hassen Al Turabi Goes Secular and Sets Women Free!
If SPLM is the PLO of Southern Sudan, Where is Hamas?
Rats, Cats, Boats, and the President: Reflections on Salva Kiir’s Electoral Campaign Launch Speech
Uganda's Museveni Should Negotiate Peace With LRA and Must Not Let ICC Fight His War for Him
South Sudan Communities Everywhere: How about Taking a Leaf from Maimonides?
Josephine Apira: Taking the Fight to Museveni
Sudan: Overtaxed, Over-ticketed, and Overcharged Nation for Scarcely anything in Return
Sudan's Elections: Teaching Elephants to Fly
Crimes and Dodgy Deals

Leave Your Dignity at the Door - You are entering a bank

Enjoy and happy 5th birthday: South Sudan blog.


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