In central Africa, where remoteness and limited infrastructure cause many communities to be isolated from each other and the world around them, FM radio can be a powerful tool for connection. Whether in a larger town, a small nomadic community, or deep in the forest, many people, including fighters in Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), listen to the radio.
For several years, we’ve teamed up with local FM radio stations across the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan, and Uganda to use the power of radio to help communities share information that can help keep them safer from violence. We work together with community leaders to build, repair, and expand the coverage of radio towers, train local radio journalists, and record and broadcast a variety of messages that promote peace, nonviolence, and healing.
Since 2011 we’ve worked with one particular station called Radio Zereda, located in the Central African town of Obo. We’ve also worked with incredible local journalists, including women like Pierrette, who joined the Radio Zereda team in 2013. We provide Pierrette and her fellow journalists with tools and training to effectively report important security information and provide listeners with messaging that helps address long-term impacts of violent conflict. Here are just a few ways Radio Zereda and our other radio partners are doing just that:
Broadcasting ‘Come Home’ Defection Messages
Radio Zereda is one of 11 partner stations that broadcast targeted ‘Come Home’ messages, which encourage LRA fighters to lay down their weapons and leave the battlefield. By broadcasting these messages, local Radio Zereda journalists are helping to peacefully dismantle the LRA and reunite families.
Since the LRA is mostly made up of abducted children who have been forced to become fighters, we know that fear is the primary reason most LRA fighters remain in the bush. LRA fighters and captives often assume that they will not be accepted back at home — or might even be killed — even if they successfully escape LRA captivity. Through recorded messages from LRA defectors and from the family members of those still in captivity, our ‘Come Home’ messages help to undermine the fears that keep LRA fighters and captives from escaping and remind them they of their families eagerly waiting to welcome them home.
Many LRA returnees have cited these messages as influential in their decision to escape. Additionally, because these messages are played on public FM radio stations together with other community sensitization programming, they also help local communities facing LRA-related violence better understand that, by helping LRA defectors safely escape and return home, they can play a key role in ending LRA violence.
Investigative Reporting on Security Concerns
Through our Early Warning Network, dozens of communities throughout CAR and DRC are able to share important security information with one another in real time. This allows for vulnerable communities within the network to prepare for and prevent violence. While this network alone is helping make thousands safer, many communities outside the network, especially nomadic herding communities, continue to look toward other sources for information on local security. For these communities, isolation and lack of infrastructure can severely limit their access to accurate and timely information.
Fortunately, we’re able to support partners like Radio Zereda who investigate and report on issues of safety and security in and around their communities providing thousands more with access to life-saving information. We provide journalists like Pierrette with training on investigating and reporting information clearly and accurately so that listeners have access to a trusted source of information. As a result, Pierrette and her fellow journalists are meeting many communities’ need for information and helping prevent the spread of rumors and misinformation that often results from slow communication and which can cause additional conflict in vulnerable communities.
Providing Trauma Healing Tools to Isolated Communities
Communities across central Africa have experienced decades of cyclical violence and, as a result, many families and individuals face the effects of trauma. Left unresolved, trauma can prevent whole communities from fully recovering from violent incidents and often contributes to additional tension and conflict. However, because they remain isolated, these communities often lack access to the tools and resources that can help bring healing to those affected by trauma.
Our partners, including Radio Zereda, are helping provide trauma healing to even the most isolated and remote communities through their broadcasts. We equip radio journalists with a trauma-healing toolkit, which we developed alongside psychosocial experts and community leaders, that they use to create programs that teach listeners coping mechanisms, which can reduce the effects of trauma.
Radio Zereda’s journalists seek out individuals throughout all parts of the community to record and broadcast stories of how individuals and families have learned to cope with and heal from trauma. By broadcasting these stories, they’re able to reach many who would otherwise be unable to access these tools due to isolation. Sharing these stories also helps to strengthen communities by ensuring that the stories of women, youth, and other marginalized groups are heard and understood by the whole community.