UPIU Student Reporters Cover Historic Election in Sudan

“Seeing tens of thousands of people line up under the scorching sun with such zeal is a scene that is hard to describe. When it’s all done and the seemingly inevitable decision of secession is made, we’ll be able to say that we were there when they became a nation.”

Those are the words of Suleiman Abdullahi, a Kenyan student journalist who recently traveled into Sudan to report on the historic secession vote for UPIU.  The student arm of the vaunted UPI newswire service hired two student reporters as stringers to help cover the election, which ultimately resulted in the creation of the world’s newest nation, Southern Sudan.

Abdullahi, 20, a sophomore broadcast journalism major at Nairobi’s United States International University, spent two days covering the election from the southern Sudanese capital, Juba.

He boldly charged into his first international reporting gig, employing his “rudimentary Arabic” to interview locals who did not speak English; competing with “thousands of foreign correspondents, each one eager to thrust their cameras and microphones at every passing local”; and navigating within a metropolis boasting a hearty military presence and “tension and palpable anxiety” mixed with excitement.

One of the photographs shot by Abdullahi published on UPIU.

As UPIU’s regional director Krista Kapralos, a noted journalist, reported, “When the first ballots were cast, Abdullahi was at the mausoleum of John Garang, the legendary southern Sudanese leader who was killed just weeks after he signed a peace deal with the northern government in 2005. Abdullahi watched as southern Sudan’s President Salva Kiir cast his vote in favor of secession, and he reported Kiir’s historic statement in his UPI story.

Abdullahi told Kapralos the reporting experience emboldened him to to continue his journalistic work in Africa. In his words: “I now feel there’s need to report more about Africa, especially at this moment in its history when so much change is taking place. I look forward to go to many more African countries and witness that moment in history as they open new chapters of nationhood or get on the track of development. At this point, I would say journalism in Africa has one of the greatest potentials you could find anywhere else.”

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