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lunes, 6 de junio de 2016

This radio station is trying to heal one of the most war-torn parts of Africa

A sign outside a radio station in the capital city of Bangui encourages peace between Christians and Muslims
Muslim and Christian journalists are trying to bridge the Central African Republic’s sectarian divide.

By Charlotte Alfred   05/31/2016   Via THE HUFFINGTON POST

Muslim and Christian journalists are trying to bridge the Central African Republic’s sectarian divide.
There is a river that runs through Bambari, one of the largest cities in the Central African Republic. The city’s Muslim community lives on one side of the river. The Christians reside on the other. 

The river is called Ouaka, and it has morphed from the life source of the fishing and farming community to a bitter dividing line.

Christians and Muslims lived together for decades in Bambari, and throughout the Central African Republic. But the sectarian bloodshed that erupted three years ago has wrenched the country apart.
The River Ouaka now demarcates a tense truce. Few venture over the river these days, for fear of sparking more of the reprisal killings that have repeatedly flared in this city since 2013.

Yet one group of Muslims and Christians in Bambari are trying to reclaim the river’s name as symbol of unity.

They set up the city’s only functioning radio station last year. After a public vote, they named it 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, the international media development nonprofit that helped the community establish the radio station.

The D.C.-based Internews has helped Voice of Ouaka secure about $340,000 in funding from a United Nations-managed pool of donor funds since November 2014, when the organization began laying the groundwork for launching the station. 

But those funds came to an end on Tuesday. Now the station’s ambitious journalists, who have fended off hostile militias and showcased ways to heal their country, face an uncertain future.

A Lifeline For Residents

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. A local militia had burned one station’s building to the ground, killing several civilians.

Since then, people in Bambari have sometimes been able to pick up national radio signals broadcasting from the capital. But most of the time, they had no media left to turn to.

“In places like the Central African Republic, there are large portions of the country that have no information at all,” Marjorie Rouse, Internews’ senior vice president for programs, told The WorldPost. “Community radio stations can provide highly local information... and an important platform for discussion and debate.”

Without any functioning media in Bambari, rumors ran wild and stoked tensions in the city, said Adja Khaltouma Boulama, the president of Voice of Ouaka’s managing committee.

Bambari residents wanted a fresh start, and feared that reopening one of the old stations would only draw further attacks. So they approached Internews about opening a community radio station. 

“The community told us that they wanted to hear the voices of Bambari better represented,” said Boulama, who was elected by a group of community representatives to head the committee that oversees the station. “I wanted to do this for my country… so we could put rumors to rest and cultivate social cohesion between us, between Christians and Muslims, so that peace could return.”

Read more about this article in THE HUFFINGTON POST

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