Duk Padiet Community Radio Preaches Peace and Reconciliation in South Sudan

Posted July 12, 2022

L-R Government, Sweden, KOICA, UNDP and UNESCO officials in Duk Padiet Community radio studio during the handover ceremony

UNDP/Michael Mubangizi

Fueled by contestation for power and resources such as grazing land and water, the conflict in South Sudan has had ethnic undertones pitying one tribe against the other which has sustained intercommunal violence in some places causing disharmony, displacements, fatalities and destruction. 

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is using community media to strengthen community ties, restore broken relations and curb social evils. Recently UNDP commissioned Duk Padiet Community Radio located in Jonglei, one of the ten states that make up South Sudan. UNDP constructed the radio in partnership with UNESCO with funding from the Governments of Sweden and Korea.

The station is currently transmitting a radius covering 40 kilometers and broadcasts in Dinka, Nuer, Arabic and English languages.

Besides construction of the building housing the radio station, and installation of radio equipment, the support also involved formation of the radio’s management board, the listeners club, training of community volunteers as citizen journalists and presenters to be able to manage radio operations.
 
Radio programmes

According to Daniel Peter Deng, the Acting Radio Station Manager, the station has a rich programme line up that promote peace and address other contemporary issues such as health, reproductive health, laws, culture and diversity. 

The programmes include Youngsters Forum for the school children and Let’s Talk About us which focuses on issues affecting the girl child, early marriage, sexual harassment and reproductive issues and is applauded for changing lives and perceptions,

“Before this programme, most community members say that they didn’t know that a girl becomes mature when she reaches 18 years! People used to think that once a girl develops breasts – whether she is 10 or 12 years, she is ready for marriage. The community used to think that even though she is 9 years but tall, she is ready for marriage. She would be led into marriage either willingly or by force,” says Daniel Deng of the radio influence on the community.
 

Duk Padiet Radio Station Main building (middle) and transmitter room (right)

UNDP/Michael Mubangizi

War is not the answer

Joachim Waern, the Head of Office for Sweden in South Sudan described the radio as a hub for peace and reconciliation that will make society focused on peace than on conflict, “This is the message we expect to hear from the radio station – that peace is the only way forward for this society and South Sudan as a whole. War is not the answer, we have to learn to sit down, negotiate and reconciliate.” 

Sangeun Oh, the Deputy Country Director of KOICA Uganda Office, said that her country Korea and South Sudan have a shared history of war which Korea resolved to prosper, “We had to sit together, discuss and build together. So, I hope that Duk Padiet Radio becomes the symbol of peace in South Sudan and South Sudan becomes the symbol of peace in the world.”
On his part, Mr. Taj Pant, Head of Education Unit, UNESCO said, “We hope that the radio will enable people to talk together, dialogue, resolve issues and foster peace.”

Ajak Atem Riak, the Duk Padiet County Administrator welcomed the radio station describing it a “landmark for peace” and called for the expansion of its reach, “to cover the greater Jonglei state.”

The Chairperson of the South Sudan Peace and Reconciliation Commission, Hon. Chuol Rambang, thanked UNDP, Sweden, KOICA and UNESCO for the support and reiterated the need to expand the radio’s coverage. He asked the community and the local leadership to maintain the radio for it to be able to serve its intended goal for posterity and attract more donor support.

Both UNDP and UNESCO representatives said that “there are plans to expand the radio to reach more communities.” 
Blessed Chirimuta, the UNDP Deputy Resident Representative – Operations said, “We are happy that we have been able to deliver, and we are hopeful that with support from our partners, we will even be able to expand the coverage of the radio station.”

Blessed Chirimuta – UNDP Deputy Resident Representative (Operations) and Ajak Atem Riak, the Duk Padiet County Administrator, during the handover ceremony

UNDP/Michael Mubangizi

Community volunteers drive the radio agenda
 

Duk Padiet has a history of cattle raids which makes it prone to intercommunal violence. Deng Makach Arok, the Deputy Editor says that the radio’s peace messages have minimized the clashes, “In case of cattle raiding, as a radio we don’t take any side. We don’t tell people that the attack is coming from this side, or these are the people attacking you. We discourage revenge attacks and retaliation.”

Community volunteers have been trained in citizen journalism to be able to professionally run the radio station. However, these are paid not paid which has forced some of them to abandon ship for greener pastures. Speakers called for payment of a stipend to the volunteers. 

Background

The decision to establish the radio arose from UNDP’s annual pre and post migration conference held in Duk Padiet, Jonglei state in 2018 attended by community leaders from Gawar, Lou Nuer and Dinka Nyarweng, Murle and Hol to discuss mechanism for peaceful sharing of natural resources –water and pastures –during the dry season.

Participants observed that lack of medium for information exchange escalated into violence issues which would have been amicably resolved. This disrupted social cohesion, widened rifts among ethnic groups making them vulnerable to manipulation by political elites and youth gangs into violence. Later in 2017, UNDP conducted a conflict analysis which reaffirmed the need for a community radio in Duk Padiet. The radio has been on air since November 2020, however due to the massive floods that affected the area, the commissioning of the radio was delayed until June 2022.