On his East Africa tour, German foreign secretary Sigmar Gabriel met the "Cross-Border Network" and stressed the importance of media in this troubled region.
"Hundreds of thousands of South Sudanese refugees are in this crisis-ridden region, which also puts a lot of pressure on the host country Uganda. In such a situation, reliable and conflict-sensitive information is crucial. That's why the Cross-Border Network is an excellent project," the foreign secretary said.
As part of his visit in Uganda, on Wednesday, 9th of July, Gabriel visited Rhino Camp, one of the biggest refugee settlements of the country. There he met the coordinators of the "Cross-Border Network" (CBN). 19 radios from the border region of South Sudan and Uganda have linked up in this transnational radio network. Their goal: to share reliable information, to speak out against rumors and fake news, and to defuse prejudices. The stations reach not only Ugandan listeners, but also people from South Sudan who have fled to Uganda, and also those still back home, living in midst of the conflict.
'Germany and the world ought to support Uganda actively'
"Refugees can live and work in Uganda. For a country that is poor, it is a lot of effort to host people who are in danger. I think this is also a message to the rich Europeans: Uganda makes a difference. Germany and the Europeans should support Uganda and the peace process in South Sudan," the minister pointed out.
Since 2013, there is an on-going armed conflict in South Sudan. Around 4 million people were forced to flee their homes; almost one million fled to neighbouring Uganda. News from home are particularly important to them.
The radio network was founded in June 2017 at the initiative of DW Akademie/Germany. The collaborating stations offer airtime for refugee issues, and journalists produce programs for locals and refugees. Amongst other things, South Sudanese exiled journalists work as mobile reporters out of refugee settlements in Uganda.
Radio network contributes to mutual understanding
Speaking about the project Sheila Mysorekar, country manager for South Sudan at DW Akademie, said "Reliable information about the situation in South Sudan is difficult to come by in Uganda – but it is important for people in the refugee camps. The Cross-Border Network helps radios on both sides of the border to broadcast correct and conflict-sensitive information. This is a great chance to deescalate the tension and promote understanding in the host communities."
By joining up, the stations can cover the whole border region and reach up to 7 million people. In South Sudan, radio is the most important source of information: 73 per cent of the approximately 10 million South Sudanese cannot read and write – they get their information mostly from the radio.
DW Akademie's projects in Uganda are supported by the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).