A radio play that changes lives
The media play a vital role in bringing about peace, unity and reconciliation in post conflict societies like Rwanda. The fact that radio uses oral communication, and can cover a vast geographical area, has made it the best development communication tool to spread the message of unity and reconciliation amongst poor communities in Rwanda.
Since May 2004, a local radio drama promoting peace and reconciliation has been airing on radio stations throughout Rwanda and Burundi. Musekeweya is the fictional story of two hills, Muhumuro and Mumanzi, whose peoples are divided by the state. This division causes tensions amongst the locals of these two hills, with the residents of Muhumuro accusing those of Mumanzi of trying to starve them to death, since Mumanzi, is much more fertile than Muhumuro.
The story recounts how residents of Muhumuro, through propaganda, entice their community to attack Mumanzi and destroy the village. This attack results into the deaths of many locals of Mumanzi, the jailing of some of the perpetrators and the desire to revenge by the locals of Mumanzi. This story is a mixture of love, hate, revenge, forgiveness, humor and romance.
Musekeweya is obviously inspired by the conflict and genocide that devastated Rwanda only 12 years ago. It is an initiative of La Benevolencija, a Dutch NGO that specializes in the production of educational radio dramas.
The production is in the hands of a team of two script writers, a translator and an editor, with the help of Evrin Staub and Laurie Pearlman who are professors in psychology. It is broadcast on Radio Rwanda, Radio Salus, Radio Izuba, as well as Radio Isanganiro in Burundi.
The Radio Drama Coordinator, Charles Lwanga Rukundo told Focus that the show would continue running as long as funding continued. “We are currently being sponsored by La Benevolencija,” he said.
100 SMS messages
Illustrating the success of Musekeweya, Rukundo said that they receive at least 50 letters per week and 100 SMS messages. “People appreciate the play and they are always looking forward to the next episode, many people have also been transformed positively by this radio drama.”
One such person is Rafiki, an international long distance runner who had lost all reason for living before he started listening to Musekeweya. Orphaned at a tender age by the 1994 genocide, Rafiki was so devastated by his losses during the genocide that he resorted to drugs and alcohol. It was through the radio drama that Rafiki realized that life could continue even after the genocide. “Musekeweya helped me realize that I could forgive and move on in life.”
Inspired by the play, Rafiki formed an association to help build houses for the poor in his community without discrimination and his transformation inspired many youth like him to live a positive life.
Emmanuel Ruganirwa, a domestic worker, says that he borrows a radio from his employer every week just to listen to the drama. He said he especially enjoys the romance between two characters, Shema and Batamuliza, who come from the two different hills. Emmanuel says that the drama helped him realize that all men are created by God and they are all equal. He hopes that Shema and Batamuliza never break up.
According to play’s coordinator Charles Lwanga Rukundo, added that the positive response they receive on how they are impacting people’s lives is what keeps them going. “The letters we receive really encourage us to keep producing Musekeweya, we hope it can keep running like other radio dramas in the developed world that have been running for decades.”