Radio Station in Central Africa Builds Bridge to Peace

community members
Community members listen to Voice of Ouaka.
After months of silence, Bambari radio station is on the air again
“There has been widespread support for a truly representative radio that would bring communities together.”

March 2015—U.N. officials have repeatedly warned of a risk of genocide in the Central African Republic (CAR). More than half of the country’s population is in need of humanitarian assistance. Almost 900,000 have been forcibly displaced by violence touched off in late 2012 by conflict between rebel and government forces.

About half of the displaced have sought safety in different parts of CAR and half are in exile in Cameroon, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of Congo. According to the U.N., both sides of the conflict — a coalition of mostly Muslim rebel groups known as ex-Seleka fighters, and mostly Christian militias known as anti-Balaka — may have committed war crimes.

As the headquarters of the ex-Seleka militia, Bambari, a town in CAR, saw heavy fighting from December 2013 to June 2014, leaving thousands displaced from their homes. The town was a flashpoint for conflict between Christian and Muslim communities last summer, and Radio Be Oko, the last Bambari radio station in operation, was burned down amid the violence in July.

Now, a new local radio station is reaching this fractured community.

Voice of Ouaka is on the air and people are listening. Getting the station up and running was a community effort. Muslim and Christian leaders, rival militias, civil society, and women’s and youth groups were all part of the earliest discussions. The community management committee reflects this diverse support. It is headed by a Muslim woman while Christian and Muslim men and women serve as members—a powerful example of cooperation in a country still grappling with sectarian violence.

With funding from USAID, the non-profit organization Internews began its current work in CAR in February 2014 and launched the new multiconfessional radio station—one that is tolerant of various religions—in Bambari on Feb. 26, 2015 with funding support from the U.N. Common Humanitarian Fund. The station broadcasts two hours a day and plans to expand on-air time gradually as local staff are recruited. An FM radio relay is also planned for Bozoum, another town which is currently without local radio coverage.

“There has been widespread support for a truly representative radio that would bring communities together,” said Mathias Manirakiza, Internews’ director in CAR. “The station not only shares accurate and useful information for living safely together, but it is a true community-owned resource with mixed local staff and programs.”

Beset by the ongoing crisis, residents in Bambari have an acute need for reliable, balanced and timely information, and Voice of Ouaka is designed to help fill this void. Internews estimates the station currently reaches more than 10,000 Bambari residents.

Internews’ local partner, the Human Rights Journalists Network, produces a daily e-newsletter and radio programming from Bangui, the capital of CAR. As part of current efforts toward reconciliation, national dialogue and scheduled elections, the network’s content has expanded from humanitarian information to educating citizens in preparation for a return to constitutional order, effective government and civil peace.

USAID's Supporting Local Media to Inform Vulnerable Populations project, implemented by Internews, works to ease the humanitarian situation in CAR by providing affected populations with information that can protect their lives and livelihoods. The project runs from February 2014 to November 2015.


Follow @usaidafrica

Share This Page