DW Akademie and Réseau de Journalistes Sensibles aux Conflits have developed innovative radio formats to foster dialogue between internally displaced persons and host communities in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali.
Radio Liptako: An open forum radio program in Téra, Niger, brings together IDPs and local community members to discuss pressing issues
Located in the southwest corner of Niger, the city of Téra is situated in the Liptako, a region shared by Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso. For almost a decade, this area of central Sahel has been subject to persistent attacks by non-state armed groups. These groups frequently attack both security forces and civilians. The recurrence of these incidents has led to an unprecedented security crisis in the Sahel, as well as a massive displacement of local populations.
According to UNHCR, around 3 million people have been displaced by the violence in the region, 326,000 of whom are in Niger. Local authorities estimate that 26,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) have settled in and around Téra. This sudden influx of people has led to tension with local residents.
In order to promote constructive dialogue and reconciliation within these conflict-affected communities, the Conflict Sensitive Journalists Network (Ré-JsC) has implemented a project entitled "Promoting peace and social cohesion through community dialogue." According to Ré-JsC, the sources of the aggravation of conflicts can be a lack of information, poor communication and the absence of dialogue. Working with DW Akademie, the project was developed to help establish dialogue between host populations and displaced persons. The project was supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).
"The cohabitation between the host population and displaced persons is not at all easy, as the latter are often stigmatized," said Habiboulaye Hama Boukari, president of the local IDP and Refugee Association in Téra, a group founded as a result of the project.
The project brought together community radio stations, listening clubs, civil society organizations, local elected representatives, internally displaced persons and refugees. In Téra, members of these groups regularly came together for discussions and for a live radio show in the studio of Radio Liptako.
The idea for the project’s open-dialogue radio format came from Ré-JsC and was further developed with DW Akademie. It is a combination of radio show and citizen forum where participants are allowed to speak out, discuss their challenges, and engage the community in finding solutions.
"Thanks to these interactive broadcasts, which are well attended by the population, the community’s perception of displaced persons and refugees has improved considerably," said Ali Amadou, director of Radio Liptako in Téra.
Many of the radio dialogues have led to solutions for local problems such as sanitation, access to medical care and education. In one local village, a radio dialogue was held about the lack of staffing at a school kitchen. A group of women heard the broadcast and volunteered to cook for the schoolchildren. In fact, the women are still cooking for the children.
In all, the project supported the implementation of the radio format at ten community radio stations in Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso.
"The project has made a considerable contribution to reducing the stigmatization of internally displaced persons," said Boukar Gambomi, DW Akademie project coordinator in Niger. "Our partner radio stations have become forums for exchange and dialogue, but most importantly, they have become resources for the search for solutions to all issues relating to peace, security and local development."
The main challenge for the project was the constantly deteriorating security situation in the region during the length of the project, from September 2022 to March 2023. Over that period, a military coup took place in Burkina Faso and armed groups in Niger continued their attacks on Nigerien security forces.
Due to increased violence, two radio stations had to cease the production of their interactive live broadcasts.
"We had to adapt by having these stations conduct more interviews in advance and then, in response to the broadcasts, collect [anonymous] soundbites on the street," said Christiane Schumacher, DW Akademie project manager. "This ensured that even in regions experiencing unrest, community members could continue to work on finding solutions."
A recent case study on Ré-JsC’s interactive radio format project in Niger conducted by DW Akademie project manager Ines Drefs and independent consultant Lamine Souleymane found clear evidence that "interactive radio formats offer important spaces for constructive dialogue and the development of concrete solutions that would otherwise not necessarily have emerged."
Using a mixed-methods approach, the study encompassed focus group discussions, in-depth interviews, a questionnaire, a document analysis, and a quantitative content analysis. Several interviewees highlighted that their participation in the radio "exposed them to members of other social groups for the first time and provided an opportunity to get to know their points of view."
"The point of the [radio program] is to not see [IDPs] as strangers," one member of a host community told researchers. "They are our brothers and sisters who are facing difficulties. Consequently, they need our moral support."
The study also looked into the effect the radio programs can have on women, who are often excluded from such important community discussions. Many have joined project-supported listening clubs, which encourage their members to speak up.
"Women should be supported in forming or joining associations, clubs or networks that strengthen their expert status regarding issues that specifically affect them," concluded the study’s authors.
Women in Téra have taken to listening clubs, especially IDPs. Many see a direct connection between the radio programs and their shifting status within the community.
"Thanks to these discussions and the programs produced by the women of the listening clubs who raise awareness about displaced people, this feeling [of alienation] has changed," said Mariama Hassane, an IDP in Téra. "Now we're accepted. Feeling well-integrated into the host community gives IDPs comfort."
The "Promoting peace and social cohesion through community dialogue" project as well as the "How to foster constructive dialogue as part of media development" discussion paper were both supported by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).