Six young men sit in plastic chairs in a circle with an older man wearing headphones and holding a notebook and a recorder

Radio Helps Transform Youth Gang Members in Bentiu, South Sudan to Become Peace Agents

February 18, 2020

For the last couple of years, groups of disgruntled youth in Bentiu protection of civilians (PoC) site in South Sudan had taken part in gang activities. The groups had names like Cash Money, YM, D-Black, West Coast, Good Life and others. Most of the group members were involved in criminality such as armed robberies, and other types of violence.

Several humanitarian organizations handling youth affairs wanted to bring the violence under control. They initiated skills trainings, sports and peacebuilding activities for youth. Protection partners named them “The Left Behind Youth,” a name that made them feel like they had a place to positively participate in youth engagement activities. This way, they didn’t feel stigmatized.

Kondial FM, a humanitarian radio station operating inside the PoC, engaged the youth in their programming.

“The radio has helped transform youth in Bentiu into becoming peace agents. We are now entertaining people with music rather than terrorizing them. No more violence and gangs in PoC. Thanks to Kondial FM for helping youth achieve this important goal,” said one of the former gang members during a listening group meeting with Kondial FM.

During the meeting, which was conducted by Internews, many of the youth expressed appreciation of the protection partners. They thanked the International Organization for Migration for building youth centers and initiating the youth project called “My Voice Matters.” They recognized the efforts by protection partners and other humanitarian organizations involved in supporting the left behind youth.

Kondial FM dedicated a one-hour radio talk show called Youth of Peace, that allowed youth who perceived themselves as “left behind youth” to share messages of peace during a live program. This had a positive impact on the participants. Many of them realized that they had other opportunities – criminality and gang membership weren’t their only choices - instead they could contribute positively to their communities.

Many of the youth turned to music to promote messages of peace. Twenty-seven-year-old Loy Tut, a former gang member known as “King of The Jungle,” thanked Kondial FM for helping him transform to who he is now.

Tut disclosed at the meeting with Internews that his former gang was still involved in criminality in the PoC. Acknowledging that this was in his past, he said, “Thank you to Kondial FM team! Your radio has helped me become who I am now. It’s your radio that helped me be a musician. Now people love my music. They greet me when I move in the streets of the PoC. That shows I am doing the right thing for my community. Thanks, Kondial FM!”

Goaner Kuol is a 17-year-old former member of the D-Black gang. He described his former group as dangerous, saying that it had caused so many problems in the PoC. He said his boss assigned him as the stealing head of the group. Goaner said it was a bad group – and he ultimately realized it wouldn’t take him anywhere. “[We] used to break into people’s shelters in the PoC. We used to take money, phones and other valuables from shelters by force. This was bad!” he said as he paused and smiled. “I am happy that I have been redirected on to the right track. I have a lot to share with my community through music.”

Goaner sang a song titled “My Community, Lets Love Each Other And Promote Peace Together.” Goaner said, “The PoC is now calm because we stopped doing bad things. Many of us joined schools, sporting activities, artistic groups and business activities. I love Kondial FM!”

Gatdet Gatjuol Hoth, who is the current chairperson of Bentiu PoC Artists’ Union began a recent speech by praising the humanitarian partners for the support given to the youth in Bentiu PoC and beyond. Gatdet also commended Internews and Kondial FM – saying that it is their favorite radio station because it allows youths to talk and sing their songs live on the radio. He said Kondial FM has helped many gangsters to become agents of peace in the community.

“I am leading 63 youths who are professional artists in PoC with the best music about peace promotion. Many more are joining artistic activities, education and business skills. This can never happen alone but through the help of the humanitarian partners. We really like Kondial FM because we have become well known within the community.”

In Bentiu, Internews’ Humanitarian Information Service (HIS) implements a communicating with communities (CwC) program to increase information sharing. HIS – Bentiu is part of the HIS, supported by the USAID funded i-STREAM project, which is implemented by Internews. Activities include operating Kondial FM, a community-run humanitarian radio station inside the Bentiu PoC, conducting listening groups to gather feedback and actively engaging with the humanitarian community to share data using the CwC approach.

(Banner photo: Kondial FM correspondent (right) meets with youth in Bentiu PoC during a listening group meeting. Credit: Internews