By Chondok Stephen Magei
Radio has never been more meaningful in South Sudan than the cohesion it created among groups hit hard by crisis.
On February 13, all attention turns to the commemoration of World Radio Day and in one of the country’s crisis hotspots, Unity State, internally displaced people recall how the media nurtured them during hard times.
The State became the epicenter of the crisis which began in December 2013, sending communities fleeing for dear life, breaking apart families and leading to deaths on a mass scale.
“There was disunity between us and those who live in Bentiu town but local radios have worked hard to reunite us through reconciliation messages and disseminating of the South Sudan peace agreement,” Roda Nyasunday told Juba Echo in an interview.
The middle-aged South Sudanese has lived at Bentiu Internally Displaced People’s Camp in the capital since 2013 when the country descended into crisis.
Friends and family were split and the Nyasunday was left alone nursing the mental stress of what the crisis brought in his life.
She turned to listening to radio in his idle time at the camp and there realized that there is a meaning in community cohesion despite all bad experiences.
“Radio also transformed different gang groups to peace agents because of radio interaction,” Nyasunday said.
Like her, Radio has also helped bring positive change in the life of Bentiu resident, Majang Chatiem Malual.
It “created tireless awareness about unity and peace programs,” Malual told Juba Echo.
“Everybody is moving free in and outside Bentiu IDPs camp without being questioned, and this is because local radio brought positive change.”
Equally for Martin Gatkuoth Bol Makew, he feels a sense of unity propagated by the electronic media.
“Local radio promoted unity among conflict separated community of Rubkona town and Bentiu IDP camp residents up to Payam level,” Makew echoed.
“It also provides us with fastest information about what happens countrywide.”
Oyet Patrick Charles, the President of the Union of Journalists of South Sudan said radio has had an impact in ensuring peace is restored in the country.
“Radio has at least tried to health some of the wounds” caused by the conflict, Charles told Juba Echo in an interview in Juba.
“Political parties coming together to discuss the peace deal and it has given hope that people can still work together.”
In Bentiu, Thor Jal Bap, the Director of Peace and Conflict Resolution at the State Peace Commission said that radio has impacted their work through awareness raising efforts.
“The radio has been very vital in our efforts to sensitize the communities about R-ARCISS peace messages, call to end cattle thefts, attacks attributed to revenge killings between various community members as well as organization of peace and reconciliation dialogues across Unity state,” Bap said.