International freelance journalist, author, and advocate for addiction recovery, Shannon Egan of Salt Lake City, Utah, debuts her first memoir: NO TOURISTS ALLOWED: Seeking Inner Peace and Sobriety in War-Torn Sudan.
Her story is set in Khartoum where Egan worked as a freelance journalist for the Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), an award-winning humanitarian news and analysis service, and former project of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Egan worked in Sudan from 2004-2006 when the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed between the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) and the Government of Sudan. The CPA was meant to end the Second Sudanese Civil War, develop democratic governance countrywide, and share oil revenues. It further set a timetable by which Southern Sudan had a referendum on its independence.
For IRIN, Egan reported on a variety of subjects including the genocide, Dr. John Garang’s untimely and shocking death, women and children incarcerated in Omdurman’s prison, Khartoum’s tea ladies, and the issue of female genital mutilation. While there, Egan also wrote for the Forced Migration Review, Al Bab and the Khartoum Monitor.
Egan says while working in Sudan she learned about the critical role the media plays in any given situation. "I know from personal connections that the Sudanese are highly intelligent individuals. They are passionate about figuring out how to solve their issues and they trust in the media to lead the way. The problem with this is the media too often exploits their conflicts for financial gain, which further exacerbates Sudan's ongoing instability.”
Egan's book highlights the challenges of good journalism and the responsibilities of writers educating the public on world-wide humanitarian issues. She agrees with Mahatma Gandhi that the sole aim of journalism should be service. “Every word published should be presented in a way that empowers individuals, communities, and readers to affect positive change. Otherwise, what’s the point?”
A referendum took place in Southern Sudan from 9 to 15 January 2011, on whether the region should remain a part of Sudan or become independent. The referendum was one of the consequences of the 2005 Naivasha Agreement between the Khartoum central government and the Sudan People's Liberation Army/Movement (SPLA/M).
A simultaneous referendum was supposed to be held in Abyei on whether to become part of Southern Sudan but it has been postponed due to conflict over demarcation and residency rights. On 7 February 2011, the referendum commission published the final results, with 98.83% voting in favor of independence. While the ballots were suspended in 10 of the 79 counties for exceeding 100% of the voter turnout, the number of votes were still well over the requirement of 60% turnout, and the majority vote for secession is not in question. Sudan became independent state was 9 July 2011.
Egan has dedicated her book to her ‘brave and spirited Sudanese friends'. She says she can’t imagine growing up in a war-zone and then trying to establish peace in a land ruled by such radical uncertainty. The violence she witnessed in Sudan left her unsettled her for years.
“My hope is that the Sudanese can reflect on how far they’ve come. The key to this is focusing on the peace-building that is currently happening in their post-independent countries—even if it is happening in only two percent. While there, I saw tremendous change being implemented from the ground up. Where are the stories that highlight those milestones? They need to be told so that the Sudanese can celebrate their strength of character and remember how dedicated they truly are to peace.”
Egan currently works as the Development Director for USARA, Utah’s statewide Recovery Community Organization, and as a Recovery Advocate for the National Recovery Movement in order to reduce the stigma surrounding addiction as well as barriers to sustaining long-term recovery. Egan is in long-term recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. In her book, she highlights her struggle with addiction, which flared up while reporting under extreme duress in Sudan’s unstable environment. Previously, Egan wrote for the United Nations Population Fund in New York City.
Egan’s book is available in eBook and paperback form.