The peaceful voice of local radio is reaching the heart of troubled communities in the North and East regions of Cameroon as part of a joint UNESCO project.
Terrorist attacks have led to deteriorating humanitarian and security conditions in these regions of the country with thousands of Cameroonians fleeing their homes.
The radio project aims to improve conflict prevention and inter-community dialogue between refugees and host communities and sensitize young girls and boys who are vulnerable to recruitment for terrorist attacks. UNESCO and partners have mobilized community and four local radios stations in the process of peace building and education, chosen because of their power to reach the remotest area with information and education in local languages.
“A UNESCO study of the situation in these heavily-populated regions reveals one of the major problems faced is misunderstandings among and between different communities,” said Cletus Tabe Ojong, Communication and Information Programme Officer in UNESCO’s Regional Office in Yaoundé.
The stations, “Echos des montagnes” (Echoes of the Mountains) from Mokolo, Radio Sava from Mora, Radio Kousseri and the regional station based in Maroua, have been trained in locally adapted programmes in peace-building, mediation, conflict prevention and resolution, education for non-violence, intercultural and interfaith dialogue and reconciliation.
Equal access to information
The four stations produce more than 60 programmes on core issues with the aim of linking different communities. On air, members from rural communities discuss issues related to community inclusiveness and non-violent conflict resolution. In Mokolo, an area which is surrounded by villages regularly hit by terrorist attacks, listeners have acknowledged the impact of programmes that address peace and non-violent local conflict resolution. The education for peace programmes not only provide knowledge about a culture of peace, but also impart skills necessary to recognize and defuse potential conflicts, and actively promote and establish a culture of peace.
“The themes highlight the challenges to overcome given the situation we are facing in our region now”, said Abdourahman Saidou, member of the Regional Branch of the Cameroon Association for Interreligious Dialogue, engaged in the building of a peaceful environment between Muslims and Christians.
Examples of high-impact programming includes local news, magazines, micro programmes, live debates and discussions in national languages. Some programmes are presented by young ambassadors for peace, identified and trained by UNESCO, in order to educate their peers during school and post-school activities. Furthermore, listening groups will be created by the ambassadors to stimulate mobilization, dialogue and above all action between members of school and extracurricular structures.
Impact in defusing violent conflict
The project, which runs from March 2015 to March 2016, is a joint venture between UNESCO, UNDP and FAO called the Rapid Response for Enhancing Resilience and Conflict Prevention in Far North and East Regions of Cameroon, and funded by Japan. It has benefitted radio broadcasters, schoolchildren reached through schools and extracurricular activities, traditional rulers, religious leaders, administrative and political authorities as well as the population directly affected by the humanitarian emergency.
UNESCO’s work in Peace and Human Rights Education is guided by its constitution, the World Programme for Human Rights Education (2005-ongoing) and Target 4.7 of the 2030 Education Agenda. It also works within the framework of the UN Secretary-General’s Plan of Action to Prevent Violent Extremism. In October 2015 UNESCO Member States adopted a landmark decision to enhance UNESCO’s role in preventing violent extremism through education