Country mourns veteran journalist
Veteran journalist Alfred Taban in his office (file photo)
By Kidega Livingstone & Martin Manyiel Wugol
The media industry in South Sudan, regionally and internationally went into mourning on learning the untimely death of an icon, Alfred Taban Logune, the former Editor-In-Chief of Juba Monitor and Member of Parliament representing the people of Kajo-Keji county of Yei River State in the Transitional National Legislative Assembly.
Juba Monitor was awash with call s from friends, professional colleague, members of parliament, civil society, public and private sectors and international organisations who joined to condole with the management and staff of Juba Monitor, the family of Alfred and the country at large.
The list of callers could not be immediately recorded as they kept coming immediately after 330pm on Saturday and ran into yesterday the whole day while at the residence a number relatives friends and colleagues converged to make the necessary arrangements of bringing the body back home from Kampala. The callers to the Editor in Chief, Anna Nimiriano and the Managing Editor Odongo Odoyo, apart from other members of staff, ran into hundreds by the time of going to press
Alfred Taban passed on after a long illness. According to relatives, the veteran journalist died at a hospital in Kampala, Uganda, on Saturday. Alfred suffered from diabetes and blood pressure. He was taken to Freedom Hospital in Juba and later referred to Nakasero Hospital in Kampala Uganda taken to Intensive Care Unit (ICU) where he died on 27/04/2019.
Until his death, Taban was the Executive Director of the Grand Africa Media Service, the mother ofJuba Monitor Newspaper, a Member of Parliament representing Kajo-Keji County and also the Head of Information and Communications Secretariat for the National Dialogue.
Taban once served as the Chairman of the Association for Media Development in South Sudan (AMDISS), where he was a strong advocate for freedom of the press in South Sudan.
In July 2016, Taban was arrested and held in National Security’s Blue House in Juba for sedition charges; that imprisonment sparked an international outcry leading to his release.
Taban was arrested following the publication of an opinion piece in which he suggested that both, President Salva Kiir and his former First Vice President, Dr. Riek Machar should resign for failing to bring back peace in the country.
In 2017, he resigned from both the positions of Editor-in-Chief of the Juba Monitor and chairperson of AMDISS following his appointment in Parliament and the National Dialogue.
As a condition of joining the National Dialogue, Taban negotiated the release of a number of detainees including journalists held as political prisoners by the government.
“Yes, he (Kiir) appointed me to be a member of the National Dialogue Committee but l requested him to release journalist George Olivio, then I will accept the appointment,”. Taban told reporters then when asked about the post.
However, Eye Radio’s station manager who had worked closely with the late, described him as a “hero and a true freedom fighter”.
“Many know that this country has lost one of the best leaders it ever had. With no doubt, you are second to our hero and father, the Late Dr. John Garang de Mabior,” said Koang Pal.
Alfred who was born in 1957 in Kajokeji served as South Sudanese broadcast journalist and he was a former BBC’s correspondent in Khartoum. He was a founder and former Editor-in-chief of Khartoum Monitor, the first Independent English-Language Newspaper in the Sudan.
Alfred was awarded as a journalist who had made the greatest contribution internationally to the “protection, promotion and perpetuation of parliamentary democracy”.
In 2006, Alfred was one of the three recipients to be presented with the National Endowment for Democracy award by US President George W. Bush in white house.
In July 2005, the speaker of the British House of Commons, Michael Martin presented the Speaker Abbot awarded Alfred Taban in recognition of his work of exposing the slaughter of the people in Darfur region.
He was also a personality who dominated international airwaves of BBC during Sudan Africa longest civil war in Africa. He did his part as person to sell South Sudan problem to outside world.
Having trained as a laboratory technician, Taban embarked on a career in broadcast journalism and later became BBC correspondent.
He was detained by the Sudanese authorities for five days in April 2001 while covering a news conference by church leaders in Khartoum, who were protesting against the cancellation of a service and the arrest of up to 100 Christians.
On another occasion, the Sudanese police forced Taban to stand for twelve hours chanting “I am a liar, I am a liar,” he said.
Alfred Taban played in marketing out beautiful nature of people of South Sudan before independence and after referendum which eventually culminated into the birth of South Sudan 9th July 2011 making it the world’s youngest nation in the world.
Some of the South Sudanese journalists, whom he mentored, said he was a great man who encouraged them to work in the hostile environment.
Martin Manyiel Wugol, the Juba Monitor Kampala bureau chief said; “As an upcoming journalist, I knew the late Alfred Taban through BBC news before working with Juba Monitor newspaper two years ago. Therefore, allow me on behalf of Juba Monitor Kampala Bureau staff to express my heartfelt condolences to the media industry in South Sudan and staff as well as family of the late veteran leader.”
Alfred Taban was also known to serve people of South Sudan by scarifying his dear life under the hand of Sudanese security apparatus during the war in line of informing people of the world about political problems people of South Sudan faced in the Sudan.