By Jon Hargreaves
“I never realised how the Orma people came to be in this region of Kenya,” said a retired teacher from Tana River, “but since I started hearing their stories on the radio, I have begun to understand them better.”
The man, from a rival community, was responding to a series of cultural programmes he had heard on a new station set up by HCR and its partners, Amani (Peace) FM, in this conflict-affected region of eastern Kenya. The programmes are made by Mole Hashako Yako, a community activist, teacher and social historian. The Orma people of Tana River don’t have a written history, so Mole has been talking to elderly people in her community who have a rich knowledge about the past, and then telling their stories on the radio.
“Telling stories about our past, not only helps young people in the Orma community understand their roots and identity, but it also helps promote empathy and understanding between the communities,” she said. “Once you hear someone else’s story, you humanise them and begin to understand them.” Although there has been conflict particularly between the pastoralist Orma and agriculturalist Pokomo communities in recent years, Mole points to the past and to a time when the two communities lived side-by-side in peace and harmony. She believes the past will help the communities connect with the future, where Tana River can be peaceful and prosperous.
Amani FM was established in August ahead of Kenya’s controversial elections in an effort to promote peace and build on and complement the work of Una Hakika which has been combatting rumours and misinformation since 2013.
John Green, the Director of Una Hakika, who is also chairman of the board of Amani FM, says that without a shadow of a doubt, Amani FM has contributed to peace at a time when there were many rumours circulating, which could have resulted in violence. During focus groups conducted this week, among different communities, John says people appreciated how well Amani FM had advocated for peace and that how integrating the work of Una Hakika and the radio has produced a powerful model of using technology and relationships to foster peace and development.