Peacebuilding

'I am a resource for peace!'

Day 5 of #16DaysofActivism

By Stephanie Mooney

Radio Amani was launched in the conflict prone area of Tana Delta in the summer of 2017, ahead of the parliamentary elections in Kenya.  The purpose of the radio station is to promote peace and social development in Eastern Kenya’s conflict-affected Tana River (the northern region of Tana River County).

The station is serving a young lady called Busara* and the many women and men like her, survivors of violent conflict. Jon, the Director of HCR, met Busara during a focus group in a remote village. She kept staring at the floor, shy, almost embarrassed to be there. Many of the others in the group engaged in animated conversation, eager to share their experiences and opinions. But then her voice broke through... and the room was silenced. It was a bold, passionate voice, that was determined to speak out. "I am not a victim," she said, "I am a resource for peace!"

Busara shared how she had been a victim of violence during the time of "the massacre." She and her family had been through hell, but now here she sat in a group meeting, courageously willing to speak up. She shared how, with the support of family, community and trauma counselors, she had turned a corner and was now passionate to help others who had been through similar experiences.

In the setting up of this region's first radio station, the overwhelming message was, "this station is desperately needed and will be a vital part of helping the people of Tana Delta recover and rebuild." Dr Tecla, who runs trauma workshops among the communities of the Delta, told me that peacebuilding cannot really start until people have overcome the past, with forgiveness and grace’. Amani (peace) FM is amplifying the voices that need to be heard.

*Not her real name

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Stories Promote Peace in Eastern Kenya

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.

Mole Hashako Yako: Telling stories promotes empathy and understanding between communities.

Mole Hashako Yako: Telling stories promotes empathy and understanding between communities.

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.

A Voice For Peace in Troubled Mindanao

By Ross James and Jon Hargreaves

Amidst the turmoil on the southern Philippines island of Mindanao, following clashes between government forces and Islamic militants, a voice for peace continues to ring out.  Radio Gandingan, an HCR-supported community-centred radio project, is providing critical information to residents and displaced people from Marawi city, where the fighting first broke out on 24th May.  A number of people were killed and taken hostage by the militants who had reportedly occupied several government buildings in the city, torched others, including a church, a school and the city jail and took over a medical centre where they replaced the Philippines flag with a black, ISIS-style banner.

Community volunteers from Radio Gandingan out and about in Mindanao

Community volunteers from Radio Gandingan out and about in Mindanao

Meanwhile Radio Gandingan is helping provide critical information about the situation and the martial law rules that have been imposed by the government of President Rodrigo Duterte. Community volunteers are working around the clock to provide up-to-date information and the station’s popular serial radio drama now includes the Marawi situation into its story-lines.

Since 2004 Radio Gandingan has been broadcasting in the primary language of the minority Magindanaon people, empowering them to voice their concerns and gain access to government officials and services to improve their quality of life.  Preliminary results of an evaluation currently underway by HCR shows how the project has helped community cohesion by resolving family and community conflict, strengthened family bonds and relationships and improved understanding between community members and leaders.   Radio Gandingan listeners have also expressed how the project has helped to improve health and develop livelihoods in their communities.

Call for peacebuilding radio station ahead of Kenya's election

By Jon Hargreaves

With just over four months until Kenya goes to the polls amidst concerns that there will be election-related violence, HCR is exploring the feasibility of a new radio station in eastern Kenya's Tana Delta.   

Last year we partnered with the Sentinel Project to set up a peace centre in the town of Garsen. In this interview, John Green from Una Hakika describes how rumours and misinformation are often a key driver in the conflict between different groups and how a radio station could help build peace in the region. 

Since the nineteenth century, eastern Kenya's Tana River County has often been the scene of violent conflict, largely between two ethnic groups, the dominant Orma, who are nomadic cattle-herders and the Pokomo, who are farmers.   Many of the disputes have been over land use and access to water, however the intensity of these conflicts has increased in recent decades.  This has been fuelled by the easy access of weapons flooding across the nearby border with Somalia, growing poverty, the pressure caused by poorly managed resources and political interference.  Add to that toxic mix, the extremist group Al Shebab, which is trying to destabilise Kenya and Tana River County, is at risk of descending into violent conflict.

In June 2015, HCR, helped a Hola-based community organisation, Kenya Sustainable Health Aid to establish Tana FM which is now on the air supporting the peacebuilding process in the region in the run-up to August's critical election.

A water resource management student gets involved in...radio!

MSc Student, Joseph Thompson has just completed writing up his research which he conducted at HCR's partner project, Tana FM in Eastern Kenya during June and July.  A student of water resource management at Wageningen (Holland) and Copenhagen (Denmark) Universities, Joe’s research addressed the conflict over resources in the region and particularly how the radio station, Tana FM, is playing a role in building peace by promoting dialogue, sharing knowledge and engaging all sides in the conflict.  

During his time in Tana River, Joe worked closely with producers to make radio programmes to tackle some of the key themes that emerged during the research process which helped different tribes to better understand each other.  In one programme on tribalism for example, participants in the programme took turns in teaching a proverb in their mother tongue to a person from another tribe, explaining the meaning of the proverb.  Needless to say this resulted in a lot of laughter and a kind of “humanising” of the other side.  Involving the wider community in the programmes promotes dialogue and understanding, a key HCR principle.

Joseph with Tana FM producers Zeinab Hussein and Galana Galole

Joseph with Tana FM producers Zeinab Hussein and Galana Galole