SEATTLE — What invisible force has the power to form a community out of a people decimated by violence? Shortwave radio. Dandal Kura Radio International utilizes a common language to give the people in the Lake Chad Basin Region a voice.
Founded in 2015, the station broadcasts across four countries: Niger, Nigeria, Chad, and Cameroon. Its six-hour daily programming is primarily in Kanuri, the language spoken by 10 million individuals living in the region.
Despite the large number of Kanuri speakers, there are no newspapers, television stations or other radio stations in the area dedicated to the Kanuri language. The region’s low literacy rate makes radio an ideal platform for these individuals to tell their stories and to hear the dreams and hardships of their neighbors and friends.
One program, Kuttunumgulle, which translates as “listener’s complaints”, does exactly that. Callers phone in and express their frustrations with the government, the lack of food and clothing, and the danger to women and girls.
The station also disseminates vital information about humanitarian efforts in the area, news bulletins, sports and entertainment. The station focuses on civilian outreach, seeking local strategies to combat the effects of the insurgency and emphasizing peace, human rights, and prosperity.
This is especially important in an area that has been devastated by the activities of the militant group Boko Haram. The station broadcasts out of Maiduguri in Northeast Nigeria, home to the largest number of internally displaced persons who have fled from Boko Haram.
While Dandal Kura Radio International does combat the ideology of Boko Haram, it is not a “counter-insurgency radio station”. The founders’ main goal is, in their own words, to “tell the story of the Lake Chad Basin Region to the larger world”.
“Dandal Kura” means “big meeting place,” and its message is centralized on the power of community and shared experiences. Where people have been divided, it aims to unify them. The station helped reunite families who were separated. It broadcasts plays that local writers have written. It presents opportunities for psychological counseling and features clerics and Christian leaders in order to provide listeners with an alternative belief system to that of Boko Haram.
The station does its best to make sure that the information it gives is factual, regardless of whether or not those facts might upset certain people in power. This policy has angered members of Boko Haram, and the station, on more than one occasion, was the recipient of hostile messages.
Regardless, Dandal Kura Radio International continues to expand, both in the Lake Chad Basin and in its efforts to become internationally known. The station currently has stringers in Nigeria and Sudan, and its website offers news in Kanuri, Hausa, English and French. It plans to implement a network of FM radio stations across the region, which will allow for a better quality broadcast.
– Emilia Otte