Friday, November 25, 2011

A New Radio County: South Sudan

Around our world and over the years, there are some united countries that have divided into two separated countries; and in other parts of the world, some separated countries have joined together to form one country. For example in Europe, West Germany & East Germany joined together to form Germany. Over in Southern Asia, British India divided into two countries, India & Pakistan; and then subsequently Pakistan went through another division, to form the two countries we now know as Pakistan & Bangladesh.
In Africa, just a few weeks ago, in a significant political event, a quite large country was divided into two countries. It was just last month, on Saturday July 9, that Sudan was officially divided and two countries were formed; and we know them, at least at present, as Sudan & South Sudan.
In our program today, we take a long and interesting preliminary look at the combined Sudan, its backgrounds and its radio development. Then two weeks from now, we plan to specifically investigate the radio scene as it applies in particular to the new country of South Sudan.
The country of combined Sudan was described in the encyclopedia as the largest country in Africa, nearly 1300 miles long and nearly 1200 miles wide, with a water border on the Red Sea at 400 miles. The northern areas of Sudan are mainly sandy desert, the middle of the country is made up of grass covered plains, and the south merges into dense tropical jungle.
The two major river systems, the White Nile from mainly Lake Victoria & the Blue Nile from Ethiopia, meet in Sudan, and the twin cites Omdurman & Khartoum have grown up at the junction of these two waterways. Omdurman is the national capital, and Khartoum is the largest city in the country. The total population is estimated at around 30 million.
The earliest settlements in Sudan go way back into ancient history, and there has always been play and interplay between Sudan & Egypt. During some historic eras, Egypt dominated the Sudan, and there were times when the Sudan dominated Egypt. One ancient historian tells the story of the Biblical patriarch Moses leading a military campaign into the southern areas of Egypt and into the Sudan in a successful endeavor to oust the invaders from the south, though this event is not referred to in the Bible itself.
However, there are many Biblical references to the territory we know as the Sudan and to its people, usually designated as Kush. It should be mentioned that Queen Candace, referred to in the New Testament, was the ruling monarch at Meroe, the ruins of which are still visible today north of the twin cities. Interestingly, there are 223 pyramids in the Sudan, twice as many as in Egypt, though the Sudanese pyramids are smaller and built at a steeper angle.
The Belgians were the first Europeans to lay a territorial claim in the Sudan, and that was in the year 1896, in an area of the south. Three years later, the British took over; and in 1956, Sudan gained its independence as the 54th country in Africa.
Strangely, there is a small territory that neither country claims, the territory on the border between Sudan and South Sudan, known as Bir Tawil. This territory is 60 miles wide and 20 miles deep, and it is mainly a sandy wasteland, though in ancient times it was the grazing lands for the Ababda tribal people. The name Bir Tawil means Deep Water Well, though the location of this obscure water well is now lost.
Early wireless documents tell us that the first wireless stations in Sudan were installed after World War 1 in Khartoum & Omdurman, and in several regional locations. Callsigns for these stations were irregular at first, though as time went by, it seems that these calls were regularized into the SU series, such as SUD at Port Sudan & SUL at Khartoum.
The Russian Encyclopedia informs us that radio broadcasting in the Sudan began in the year 1940, and this is confirmed by the Sudanradio website. According to this source, the first radio broadcasts were made from the Post Office building in Omdurman in May 1940. Programming was on the air for half an hour daily, and it would be presumed that this was on a mediumwave channel.
Two years later, the radio station was transferred to the Midwife School in West Omdurman, where the station was inaugurated on 524 metres (573 kHz) and the programming was extended to one hour daily. It is evident that this was still a low power operation.
Monitoring reports in New Zealand, Australia & the United States indicate that a shortwave service was added in late 1945, and this operated on 9220 & 13320 kHz. At the time, all three outlets were rated at quite low power; mediumwave 572.5 kHz at 750 watts, shortwave 9 MHz at 450 watts, and 13320 khz at 250 watts. Reliable coverage at these power levels would extend not much further than the twin cities areas.
In 1949, it was reported that Radio Omdurman in the Sudan was now using a 6 kW shortwave transmitter; and soon after that, three Marconi transmitters from England were installed; two at 20 kW for use on shortwave, and one at 50 kW on mediumwave. All of these transmitter improvements are listed as taking place at the transmitter base identified as Soba, which is located at a small village named Al Aitahab some distance up river, south of the twin cities. Two Philips shortwave transmitters at 120 kW from Holland were installed in the late 1960s, and one Harris at 100 kW from the United States was installed around 1990.
In the meantime, regional radio was developed in several different localities around Sudan, and of importance was a massive mediumwave transmitter rated at 1½ megawatt located at Sennar, out from the twin cities areas. Anything up to a dozen mediumwave sites in Sudan have been indicated, but it is not certain that stations were installed at all of these listed sites.
However, even in spite of this apparent wide coverage on shortwave and mediumwave throughout Sudan, there have been many occasions when transmitters were reported by monitors as being off air. On some occasions, throughout all of these years, the usage of shortwave, though listed as in use for program coverage, was also actually off the air.
So, what can you hear on air from the Sudan these days? If you live somewhere around the Mediterranean, you might hear Reiba with 600 kW on 1296 kHz; or Khartoum with 100 kW on 963 kHz; or possibly Omdurman with 50 kW on 765 kHz. Then, on shortwave, their programming is listed on 7200 kHz with 100 kW all throughout the broadcast day.
The Sudan has never been listed as a reliable verifier of reception reports, though throughout all these years, a few QSL letters have been issued.

Part 2
The world’s newest independent country is just 10 weeks old. It is a landlocked country in Africa surrounded by six other countries, and it has no coastal seaport of its own. This new country, currently known as South Sudan, was formed from the southern part of what was previously the combined country of Sudan.
The northern and central areas of South Sudan are described as wide sweeping plains, merging into tropical jungle regions in the south, with also a very large area of marshy swamplands. This new nation is divided into ten states within three major historic regions.
The total population of the new South Sudan is estimated at around 8 million, with somewhere around 200 different ethnic groups, with just about as many different languages. Their capital city is Juba, which is also their largest city, and it was previously the capital for the state of Equatoria under the combined Sudan.
It is stated that African tribes were already established in south Sudan a thousand years ago. European intervention began in 1896 when a colonial expedition from Belgium claimed regency in a major part of the area. However, three years later, England & Egypt claimed control of the total Sudan, and six years later again, Belgium transferred control of her claimed area to the British. Then it was just 10 weeks ago, on Saturday July 9, that the southern areas of Sudan were split off from the parent country, and this area became its own independent entity as South Sudan.
The earliest wireless stations in south Sudan were established a little before, and after, the international events of World War 1. At least four spark wireless stations were installed during that era: station WWR at Wau, AKR at Adobo, MLR at Malakal, and MGR at Mongalla.
The first radio broadcasting service for south Sudan began in 1961 as a series of radio programs that were on the air from the head office of the national broadcasting service in the northern twin cities, Khartoum/Omdurman. This daily series of radio programming was on the air for an hour each afternoon under the title in English, Program Service for South Sudan. At the time, no broadcasting stations were on the air in the territory now known as South Sudan, and in order to give coverage in the south, existing mediumwave and shortwave stations in the north carried this program relay.
The first known radio broadcasting station in the south was inaugurated as a regional station in January 1964, in the Equatoria state capital, Juba. According to the noted Arthur Cushen in New Zealand, this was a shortwave station with a rated output of just 1 kW, and it was assigned the 49 metre band channel 6075 kHz.
Radio Juba shortwave was on the air for just one hour daily in Arabic & English, with extra programming on Fridays & Sundays. Apparently this station survived for only a very short life span, as there are no known logging reports on the part of international radio monitors, and the station was never listed in the World Radio TV Handbook.
Beginning in the year 1990, the first of a total of at least nine irregular and clandestine radio broadcasting stations took to the air. Some of these stations were located in the area of south Sudan
or nearby, whereas others were on the air as a relay service from some of the large and well known international shortwave stations. Several of these clandestine stations are known to have changed their names on more than one occasion.
The first irregular station for south Sudan was inaugurated in the year 1990 and it was on the air under the identification announcement, the Voice of Sudan. This station pretended to be located at Kassala in south Sudan, whereas in reality it was actually located at Asmara in nearby Eritrea. This was a 10 kW transmitter heard on several channels over a period of time, usually in the 6 & 7 MHz region of the shortwave spectrum. This station has been off the air now for half a dozen years.
Interestingly, two different shortwave stations were located near Narus, in the Nuba Mountains of south Sudan. These two stations were located at less than one mile apart.
Station Radio Peace was inaugurated in January 2003 with two shortwave transmitters; a 1 kW unit, and another running at 4 kW. This station was closed six years later for transfer into the new national capital, Juba.
The other shortwave station near Narus in the Nubia Mountains was a political station known as the Voice of the New Sudan. A 50 kW Elcor transmitter from Costa Rica was installed and a three day series of test broadcasts was radiated with just 7 kW on 9310 kHz, beginning on July 19, 2004. However, a strike of lightning permanently disabled the station, though local personnel subsequently maintained the transmitter for possible future usage.
Beginning in November of the year 2000, a total of half a dozen international shortwave broadcasters have been on the air with programming beamed into what are now the two Sudans. The head office location of these stations has been in the United States, London, Holland & Kenya. The transmitter sites for these relay broadcasts have been Rimavska Sobota in Slovakia, on the island of Madagascar, and also from BBC shortwave transmitters in England and elsewhere.
Two of these program sources have been provided by USAID in the United States, two from the BBC in London, one from the United Nations, and another from a Christian organization in Holland. During the past eleven years, these program relays have been on the air shortwave for a few hours each day under station identifications, such as Radio Nile, Sudan Radio Service, and Radio Darfur & Radio Dabanga. Another radio service which is very popular in Sudan on FM, and which has also been on the air shortwave, is Radio Miraya; and the name Miraya means mirror in the local Arabic language.
(NWS 130 & 134 via Adrian Peterson)