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A Radio Station To Heal Central African Republic

Friday 3 June 2016, by SIGNIS

Bambari, June, 3rd 2016 (Internews/HuffingtonPost). In Bambari, in the Central African Republic, Christians and Muslims have been living together forever. The city is separated by a river, Ouaka, and since the sectarian bloodshed that erupted three years ago in the country, the river is a symbol of separation in Bambari. Christians on one side, Muslims on the other. However, a group of people decided to try to reconcile everyone, with the help of Internews, a non profit organisation.

Radio is the most accessible form of media in the Central African Republic, due to conflict, poverty and a lack of infrastructure. But all of Bambari’s radio stations had shut down by late 2014, following a year of horrific sectarian violence. But last year, in February, a group of people set up the city’s only functioning radio station, Lego Ti la Ouaka — which means “Voice of Ouaka” in Sango, the local language.

“The radio hopes to be like a kind of bridge over the river that could help people to be reconciled,” said Mathias Manirakiza, the Central African Republic director for Internews.

“Voice of Ouaka” broadcasts for two hours each day. Most of its programs provide practical information about where to get aid and medicine, or communicate messages about peace and social cohesion. “This is all really essential information in a humanitarian crisis,” Marjorie Rouse, Internews’ senior vice president for programs, said. “Displaced populations rely on information about services and where conflict is happening when making decisions about where to move, when to move and where to get humanitarian assistance.”

Militants accused previous radio stations in Bambari of broadcasting hate speech, this is why now, Voice of Ouaka’s journalists are cautious about what they put on the air.

Voice of Ouaka also aspires to be a model of how to overcome the sectarian divide. The team of six journalists include Muslims and Christians. The fact that the community elected a multiconfessional managing board gives hope for resolving the crisis in the Central African Republic.

Sadly, the future of the radio station is precarious: the electricity supply in Bambari is limited, and the radio is powered by an expensive generator.However uncertain the station’s future may be, Manirakiza notes that it has already come along way. “We felt that the radio could be destroyed within months, and the fact that the radio is still working now makes us feel very proud,” he said.

You can read the complete article here

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