Mingkaman’s Young Reporters Ease Hostility and Unite Youth on the Airwaves

“I would like to welcome my guests. It’s now time for the new Mingkaman Young Reporters program,” says 100 FM daytime host Deng Daniel Ngor.

Four Mingkaman residents, out of a group of 12 youth trained on radio and photography by Internews, sat across the table from Ngor in the radio studio. The program highlights pressing issues in the community from the point of view of local youth and the “young at heart.” One such issue is the lack of educational opportunities.

Rebecca Yar, at age 18, is in her final year at Mingkaman One primary school. This is her first time on the radio. At first she seemed a bit nervous, but once handed the microphone, Yar spoke from the heart.

“Many families don’t want their girls to go to school. I had to push hard for my father to send me. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to continue with my studies next year,” Yar said.

Due to the conflict and the mass displacement in the region, it’s not uncommon for adults to attend primary school to catch up on lost opportunities when they were younger.

Despite promises from local authorities, no secondary school has been built in Awerial County, with a population of over 70,000. The population has grown exponentially to accommodate displacement due to the conflict.

The closest secondary school is over 70 kilometers away in Yirol, Lakes state or across the Nile River in Bor, Jonglei state.

“Access to education is an issue all youth in Mingkaman agree must improve,” said Isaiah Anguat, 22, who comes from Awerial County. He still hasn’t completed secondary school.

“There has been a lot of development in Mingkaman. We have roads, health clinics, a bank, a port, and 10 primary schools,” Anguat said. “But we need a secondary school, so I can finish my education and find a job.”

A lack of employment opportunities led to a protest in September 2015. Local youth from the host community protested outside the gates of Mingkaman’s humanitarian hub, where humanitarian agencies base their local operations. They were demanding job opportunities from aid agencies, claiming displaced youth were being favored in recruitment processes despite equal qualifications.

Mingkaman 100 FM, located near the gate of the humanitarian hub, became the target of their frustration. A dozen youth stormed the gates and pushed their way into the radio station, assaulting staff before realizing the error. Youth apologized soon thereafter for their actions, even going on-air for the entire community to hear.

Internews and Mingkaman 100 FM decided to capitalize on this rare, public demonstration of reconciliation to address some of the grievances and bring the community together.

In addition to developing the weekly Mingkaman Together program on 100 FM devoted to reconciliation between the host and displaced communities, Internews decided to offer specialized training for youth in basic radio and photography skills to continue the process of reconciliation through participatory media and storytelling.

James Garang, 26, remembers this outburst of violence. He says there was a trend that started in 2014 with violence between host and IDP youth over land and cattle.

“We must advise youth that there are other ways to deal with problems rather than fighting,” Garang said. “If community and youth leaders meet to discuss the underlying issues it will not lead to violence.”

Garang and Yar mentioned the importance of community reconciliation, via the radio airwaves, during the Mingkaman Young Reporters program.

“Reconciliation means that people live in peace. We will forgive, avoid fighting, and live as brother and sister in one nation,” said Yar.

Daniel Gai, 43, is a father of six children and the oldest member of Mingkaman Young Reporters team. He’s originally from Bor County. Two of Gai’s children are enrolled in Mingkaman primary schools.

“I’m not ready to return to Bor. If I take my children back home, I fear cattle raiders may come and kidnap them,” he said. “It’s better to keep my children here, safe and in school.”

Insecurity is the main reason most displaced people from Bor, Jonglei state have yet to return home in large numbers. Mingkaman has grown from a village to a regional trading center since 2014. Humanitarian agencies have supported, and helped finance, this growth. Internews set up Mingkaman 100 FM to help agencies reach displaced people with critical humanitarian information. It has also grown, and its signal now reaches the wider region of Eastern Lakes and Jonglei states.

“When there is violence, it’s good to use the radio to stop it before it spreads,” said Anguat. Mingkaman 100 FM host, Daniel Deng Ngor cuts in. He fled the violence in Bor late 2013. Ngor, 27, now calls Mingkaman home.

“We are trying to unite the youth in Mingkaman, so they can understand the importance of life,” he said. “Their [Mingkaman Young Reporters] message is to live together, not as host [community members] or IDPs, but as one community.”