"For the sake of the giraffe!" - Radio Okapi, broadcasting peace over the air
In 1999, a United Nations mission, the MONUC (MONUSCO, as of July 2010), was given a mandate to monitor observation of the cease-fire. Simultaneously, the launching of the Inter-Congolese Dialogue gradually helped to establish the political foundations for a durable peace. An overall agreement for the formation of a transition government, comprising all of the parties to the conflict, was signed in Pretoria on 17 December 2002. Parliamentary and presidential elections were successfully conducted in 2006, and at the beginning of 2007, for the first time since 1965, a democratically elected government took office in Kinshasa.
The key role of information
Under these circumstances, there was an serious risk that the Inter-Congolese Dialogue would remain confined to a small group of politicians. The division of the country had been made possible, in part, through the information blackout that engulfed the population. In this respect, Radio Okapi was truly revolutionary, changing the way the people of the Congo were able to perceive their own reality, both at home and abroad.
The project was set up through a partnership between the United Nations and the Fondation Hirondelle, a Lausanne-based NGO. As a United Nations Radio broadcaster, Radio Okapi provides general coverage of national news for a popular audience, maintaining high professional standards and impartiality while remaining relatively informal in tone. Like other national broadcasters providing coverage to vast geographical areas, Radio Okapi is actually a network, rather than a single radio station. Since 2005, it has grown to include 28 partner stations. These provide Okapi with local news reports while also rebroadcasting national programmes over a single network of 32 transmitters, able to reach even the most inaccessible regions of the country.
Newscasts, features, talk shows and other programmes are all transmitted via satellite. Radio Okapi is fully computerised; all recording, editing and broadcasting are done digitally. This is presumably the largest and most powerful computerised broadcasting system operating on the African continent, outside of South Africa.
Programmes in five languages
Radio Okapi enjoys a high level of credibility among the people of the Congo. It deals with all issues that affect the daily lives of the population, even in the most sensitive areas. Since 2002, the Humanitarian Aid Department of the SDC, the Human Security Division of the FDFA, and the Regional Cooperation Department of the SDC have supported Radio Okapi with a contribution of approximately CHF 1 million per year. This coordinated support represents a innovative new means of combining humanitarian aid with peacemaking policies, linking bilateral and multilateral cooperation, and promoting collaboration between the UN and ONGs.
Since 2006, the DDC has lent its support, more specifically, to the drafting and implementation of plans for making Radio Okapi a permanent institution in the RDC following the departure of MONUSCO. This issue has been given high priority since 2007, when it became increasingly clear that MONUSCO would gradually be withdrawing.
Country / Region
Democratic Republic of Congo
Inform, educate, entertain and serve as a tool for dialogue to ensure peace and a balance of power within Congolese society
Civilian populations, DRC political institutions
Since 2002, with the objective of establishing a viable Congolese radio station following the departure of the MONUC (MONUSCO, as of July 2010)
Contributions by Switzerland (SDC and Human Security Division): approximately CHF 1 million/year since 2002
Fondation Hirondelle (Media for Peace and Human Dignity), Lausanne
Tel: +41 21 654 20 20
Human Security Division
Eastern and Central Africa Division (Regional Cooperation)