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Radio Models Positive Examples

October 21, 2011

With Radio program Icibare Cacu SFCG broadcasts successful stories of resolved land disputes

In Burundi, SFCG runs several programs to help resolve conflicts around land disputes. The disputes revolve around land that the owners abandoned in 1972 when the government responded to an ethnically motivated rebellion in which one ethnicity tried to gain power. The government responded to this unrest by killing hundreds of thousands and forcing an equal number to flee the country. Their abandoned land tracts were occupied or redistributed by local officials to those who remained. The Burundian society faces challenges in resolving these disputes.

One of SFCG’s efforts to help with the resolution over the land disputes is the weekly radio program called Icibare Cacu.

The program informs its listeners about progresses made around land conflict by following the work of the National Commission for Land and other Goods (CNTB). CNTB resolves land disputes through mediation; the agreement reached is a legally binding contract. Such successful cases are broadcast on the radio show in order to encourage listeners in similar conflicts to follow these examples.

A report has shown that the program is one of the most popular in the country. Furthermore, CNTB officials appreciate the program especially because it helps them to evaluate their own work.

Local officials value the program’s impact on the communities’ image and local residents are proud when their stories are featured on Icibare Cacu. Listeners are eager to hear updates on people featured in the past in order to understand the long-term effects of the mediation. This demand for follow-up stories was recently discovered through an evaluation report. Such follow-ups provide the program with fresh stories and a closer relationship with its listeners as the continuity of stories is ensured.

Besides the successes, the program also faces challenges which are mainly connected to the changing media scene in Burundi. On a positive note, the independent media has grown – there are now 18 radio stations across the country. This however, means that SFCG has a smaller share of airwaves than it did a decade ago. Scheduling is also an issue. Mornings and evenings are the ideal time to air SFCG programs, as most rural listeners are working in the fields during the day and can only follow the radio program before or after their work.

A more troubling aspect is the concern about the independence of some radio channels. Journalists and international actors have accused some stations of reporting favorably about either the government or the opposition. The National Communication Council (CNC) opened in 2007 as a watchdog to ensure free access, independence, and impartiality in the media. The CNC has framed its role as a mediator between the government and the media. Its primary activity has been hosting conferences where media and government representatives are invited to discuss issues of professionalism and honesty. In its early years, the CNC was not sufficiently organized or funded to exert real control over the press. This has changed recently and its rulings have since become increasingly bold. Private and INGO-funded media have expressed fear that the CNC is devolving into a censorship agency.

While Icibare Cacu faces challenges from a changing media landscape, it remains popular among different levels of Burundian society: rural residents, local officials and mediation practitioners. There is certainly a need and desire for this kind of programming. SFCG hopes to continue its meaningful and popular work in Burundi and strives to ensure funding to keep Radio Icibare Cacu running. However, the radio program is only one of SFCG’s efforts to contribute to a peaceful resolution of the land disputes. Another method SFCG employs is participatory theater as well as mediation trainings for employees of the National Commission for Land and other Goods. These efforts will be described in the next blogs.

Learn more about our work in Burundi here

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