Information in Conflict Situations

In situations of conflict, information is crucial – especially accurate, reliable information.  Search for Common Ground (SCG) is an organisation that works in the DRC, and attended a study tour hosted by Idasa in November.  Serge, an information officer with SCG was interviewed by Bronwen, and shares with us the challenges and importance of information provision in situations of conflict.

Read the full article below and on Idasa’s website here.

Dispelling rumours that abound among the 1,2 million people displaced by violence in DRC is a priority for non-governmental organisation Search for Common Ground, says its media officer Sosthène Serge Nsimba Landu.

Search for Common Ground, an international conflict resolution and prevention NGO, has offices in Kinshasa and Bakavu. It provides programmes for 95 radio stations around DRC and three that serve refugee camps in Tanzania, said Serge, who was in Cape Town mid-November as part of a DRC delegation hosted by PIMS.

“We let people know how things are going in their home towns,” he said.

“By giving facts, we try to stop the false rumours that circulate. People worry that their homes have been sold in their absence and that they will be considered foreigners if they return.”

As well as providing information about repatriation efforts and how those who want to get home can do so, the NGO’s programmes report on life in the refugee camps in Tanzania, Burundi and Rwanda, where some people have spent up to 10 years.

“We try to give an accurate picture of the problems people face in different parts of DRC as well as of the problems experienced by those in the camps,” Serge said.

“People want to know things like whether there are schools at home and where they are.”

DRC citizens in the camps who are considering the possibility of going home want to know what job opportunities they will have among other considerations as they weigh up risks and benefits, he said. Those who are repatriated are given support for three months by international organisations and then they have to fend for themselves.

“They have to find food, work, schools for their children. Sometimes they feel better off staying where they are in the camps, where many of them already have these things.”

The information programmes are produced in the Bakavu office in the wartorn eastern part of the country, while the Kinshasa office focuses more on radio talk shows with vox pops and drama that explore the challenges faced by government and discuss new laws.

Without large national radio and television stations, DRC relies on the NGO’s programmes, Serge said, noting that Searching for Common Ground also provides mobile cinema.

“We go from place to place showing movies that deal with topics such as sexual violence against women.”

In November 2008, Idasa hosted two study trips from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to South Africa – one study trip focused on “Oversight” and the second trip focused on “Sexual and Gender Based Violence”.  Serge was part of the first trip facilitated by Idasa and was interviewed by Bronwen Muller of Idasa’s Media Programme.

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One Response

  1. The Scientologists left a piece on several IMC sites claiming that:

    Youth for Human Rights of Tampa Bay completely sponsored the entire refugee camp Bakavu in the Democratic Republic of Congo…

    http://www.phillyimc.org/en/youth-group-sponsors-entire-refugee-camp-prevent-death-malaria

    Is this true? I’ll be glad to criticize them if it isn’t, but I’d like to see some independent reporting about this first.
    Thanks!

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