In Central African Republic, mayors have been directly appointed by decree of the President for decades. In September 2022, for the first time Central African citizens will be able to elect their mayors.
Thanks to the Bêkou Trust Fund, the Fondation Hirondelle/Radio Ndeke Luka and the Central African Community Media Network (RMCC, an organisation that brings together Central African community radio stations) are training radio staff to cover these elections.
A cycle of 3 training sessions took place from October 2021 to February 2022, in the localities of Bouar, Sibut and Bangassou, involving 50 participants from 25 community radio stations.
Keeping democracy alive in a fragile country
How to educate and inform the population on the relevance of having elected mayors and counselors? What is the importance of freely choosing the members of a municipal council?
These are some of the questions that were addressed during the training sessions. "The last elections took place in 1988! It is important to realise that some of our voters had not even seen the light of day yet," recalls Stephane Batha, programme manager of Radio Maigaro in Bouar.
The coverage of these local elections presents multiple challenges in a political and security context as fragile as that of the Central African Republic. These training sessions are therefore essential to keep democracy alive, as Remy Djamouss, National Coordinator of the RMCC, explains "We are counting heavily on the Hirondelle Foundation/Radio Ndeke Luka to support our member radio stations and media, before, during and after the upcoming municipal elections.”
Gracia Arabalet, a journalist at Radio Siriri in Bouar adds, "Thanks to this training, I learned that journalists also have a social responsibility. I realised the impact of what I say on the listeners. If I am impartial in treating the candidates in the election, I can avoid a crisis in a community. We cannot be the source of division.”
Strengthening the technical skills of journalists
The basics of journalism were also dealt with throughout the 14 days of training: review of radio writing techniques, reminder of the different radio genres, review of journalistic terms and their meaning. Moreover, the participants benefited from training on production and the use of broadcasting equipment.
In order to maximise the impact of this training, the participants were invited to co-produce 3 items: a trailer, a civic education magazine and a reportage. These broadcasts, on the importance of women's involvement in local elections, were aired on the participating community radio stations. "I listened to Radio La Voix De Kémo's civic education magazine on local elections and the importance of women's participation in these elections. It's interesting and it makes me think more", explains a young student to Davy Moussa, member of La Voix de Kémo, community radio in Sibut.
In Bouar, Nelly and Adamou, members of the Radio Ndeke Luka listeners' club and loyal listeners of Radio Maigaro, fervently devate how women should vote - should they support their sisters or vote for men? "The women's vote is a real debate in the neighbourhood at the moment,” they explain.
Strengthening the capacity of these 25 community radio stations is key to guaranteeing an inclusive and peaceful election process.