For the past several years, communities in LRA-affected areas have been broadcasting messages by way of FM radio stations with the knowledge that LRA combatants are listening while they walk through the dense Central African forest.
In fact, one of the most cited reasons for the surrender of LRA combatants is “come home” messaging, much of which is supported by Invisible Children and its local partners. One such project, RTK Radio, is an FM station which Invisible Children has expanded and improved over the past few months.
This spring, Invisible Children focused on improving the station buildings, power source and broadcast range. In coordination with a German NGO, Diguna, and with local communities which support the radio, IC was able to expand the broadcasting range of the radio from 75km to 145km, allowing it to reach deep in the region where the LRA is active.
We are currently working to build the capacity of the radio operators themselves, giving the tools to create quality programming which will educate the community on security issues and will reach directly out to the LRA to encourage and give directions on how to peacefully surrender.
The official re-opening of RTK radio was this past Thursday, June 21st, and over 150 people attended the celebration. The dedication included a ribbon cutting ceremony and speeches from notable members of the community. As the head engineer of RTK, Malamu George Atibasay, stated, “We are thankful of this work. Our partners and us had a wonderful collaboration.”
RTK will later become a training hub for other FM radios in the Orientale Province, Democratic Republic of Congo.
The community-based radio opened over four years ago on April 27th, 2008; however, due to regional insecurity, the station has been broadcasting their programs irregularly for several years. The Director of RTK, Jean-Pierre Mboligihe Ndalu, praised the dedication of RTK’s staff: “My team moved all the time…when the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) came, but when the calm came, our technician and speakers would resume broadcasting.”
One of the radio’s current programs, Solid Food, is played in a mixture of Pazande, Lingala and French languages to “prepare the mind of our audience for the programs that are coming, which will be welcoming those who are coming from the bush.” Mbolighe Ndalu is referring to Demobilization, Disarmament, Repatriation, Resettlement and Reintegration (DDRRR) programs encouraging LRA combatants to surrender. These messages are aired in Luo, the language spoken by Ugandan LRA combatants, and are extremely sensitive in a region where the LRA has caused so much destruction. Ndalu believes the Solid Food program is a complement to these DDRRR messages because they remind the community of the importance of “loving your enemies.”
Currently, RTK consists of five regular radio hosts and 40 community members who contribute to RTK’s programs. As RTK radio becomes more established, Invisible Children and its partners will utilize the expertise and facilities of the radio to train other radio operators from the region in improving their programming and their ability to effectively encourage LRA defections.
-Staff Contributors: Sean & Margaux