Victimised Egerton starts FM radio to fight violence

Report
from Kenya Daily Nation
Published on 14 Jan 2013 View Original

By FRANCIS MUREITHI fmureithi@ke.nationmedia.com

Posted Monday, January 14 2013 at 02:00

IN SUMMARY

  • Egerton University has launched a community FM radio to shape the opinions of the communities in the area so that they remain in favour of peace, especially now that the campaigns for the coming elections are headed for top gear

If the history of election violence in Kenya were to be published into a book, Egerton University in Njoro town, Nakuru County, would deserve a chapter or two.

Since the election-related ethnic clashes of 1992, the university has borne hefty consequences of violence involving communities in its surrounding.

Each time there is such a crisis, it ends up hosting hundreds of people fleeing violence, and its dispensary becomes a centre for emergency treatment.

In addition, some of its workers have had to abandon their homes in the past, owing to clashes. These have had cost implications, including disruption of the flow of work.

The height of this mess occurred during the two-month violence that followed the controversial elections of December 2007.

Apart from hosting victims of violence, among them its own workers, the university lost 88 head of pedigree cows worth more than Sh600,000 after armed raiders invaded its Ngongongeri farm and drove away the animals.

Now the university has found it necessary to contribute towards preventing recurrence of violence as the country prepares for the General Election on March 4.

Egerton University has launched a community FM radio to shape the opinions of the communities in the area so that they remain in favour of peace, especially now that the campaigns for the coming elections are headed for top gear.

“We have been toying with this idea of starting the radio station since 2007 to train our communication students, but above all, to promote peace and harmony among the residents of Nakuru County,” confirms Egerton University Vice Chancellor Prof James Tuitoek.

“As a university, we have experienced nasty incidents of election-related violence. We believe this can be stopped if the residents are fed with the right information,” he adds and continues:

“What happened in 2007/2008 should not happen again. That is why Egerton University has launched a radio station to disseminate the right information, free of propaganda.”

In the last elections, some vernacular FM stations were accused of having broadcasted ethnic hate speech that fanned the violence that caused more than 1000 deaths and displaced nearly 600,000 people.

Egerton’s move is aimed at countering any attempts towards incitement. “We want to make our FM station an ambassador of peace among the diverse communities, particularly at this time when the country is heading to March 4 elections,” says Prof Tuitoek.

“A simple radio message whether positive or negative goes where cars can’t go, where an aeroplane can’t go, and above all, it goes past security checks into the rooms of the low, high and mighty without discrimination. That is why it is important to be careful against releasing harmful information to the public,” adds the university’s deputy vice chancellor in charge of research and extension, Prof Gowland Mwangi.

Through its Peace and Security Studies department, the university will partner with other stakeholders to sensitise the surrounding communities on the importance of maintaining peace during the campaigns and the entire election period.

The radio station, which has cost the university close to Sh8 million to launch, will be housed at the Town Campus in Nakuru town. It becomes the first radio station to be started by a public university in the Rift Valley. It will be broadcasting on 101.7FM.

According to Prof Tuitoek, plans were underway to apply for a national license so that the radio may also be used as an “enabler in the Vision 2030”.

The launching of the station now brings to five the number of FM stations broadcasting in Nakuru town. The others include Radio Amani, owned by the Catholic Diocese of Nakuru, Sauti ya Mwananchi, which is owned by politician Koigi Wamwere, Jesus is Lord Radio and Hero Radio.

The Rift Valley Provincial Commissioner Osman Warfa has welcomed the idea, adding that the station could also be used for agricultural extension services.

He says: “Egerton University is well known for producing quality agriculture experts and this station should be used to spread the gospel to farmers in this region so that they could increase the food production.”

For the station to grow to a well-established broadcaster, the Kenya National Chamber and Commerce and Industry, Nakuru Chapter, Mr Joseph Gichuru, has pledged to marshal the support of the business community in the area.