In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), presidential elections have been postponed since 2015, leading to political violence and the resurgence of local identity-based conflicts in the Kasai area, in Tanganyika, in Haut Katanga, Ituri, South and North Kivu.
In 2016, Internews launched a project to provide Congolese citizens with accurate, locally-produced and impartial information on the ongoing political process, from moderate voices. Vox Congo, a 10-minute radio news bulletin was launched, bringing conflict-sensitive and independent news about the political and electoral situation. The radio news bulletin is produced in French, Lingala and Swahili, the three most dominant languages in the DRC.
In the first quarter of 2017, Vox Congo was the first news program in DRC to report about the consequences of the Kamwina Nsapu uprising on civilians. Vox Congo’s coverage led to understanding of the human rights violations that occurred when the conflict increased along ethnic lines.
Production of the first run of Vox Congo ended at the close of 2018, but due to the success and value of the news bulletin to DRC communities, Internews has relaunched the program, disseminated through national radio, SoundCloud and Facebook, through this year’s December 23 elections and beyond.
Vox Congo officially returned to the airwaves September 4, broadcast by 11 independent radio stations, notably: Be One in Kinshasa, Radio Mwangaza in Lubumbashi (Haut Katanga), Mama Radio and Radio Maendeleo in Bukavu (South Kivu) and Canal Alpha Omega in Goma (North Kivu). After one week of broadcasting, 21 additional radio stations officially requested the right to broadcast Vox Congo.
Vox Congo’s Facebook page has more than 75,000 followers, and each Vox Congo edition has an average of 250,000 views on Facebook. Connected citizens comment on news and give feedback on the content via Facebook, considered DRC’s most popular social media network. Political and civil society leaders also share Vox Congo and insights through a WhatsApp group, and on Twitter.
Vox Congo is already delivering key explanations on the electoral process to its listeners and is giving voices to moderate voices and women leaders. On the September 7th edition, Vox Congo interviewed Marie Josee Ifoku, the only female candidate out 23 to run for President of the DRC. As former governor of the remote Tshuapa province and head of a small political party close to opposition, Ifoku was initially denied candidacy from the Independent National Electoral Commission (French: Commission Électorale Nationale Indépendante or CENI) for failure to prove that she was a legal Congolese citizen.
Mrs. Ifoku, who is from the Northwest of the country, is running on the pillars stemming from a better life for Congolese citizens and to cease the exploitation of the county’s resources as well as its people. She claimed that if there is anyone to benefit off the Congo it should be its citizens. Women play less than 10% of the political decisions. When interviewed by Vox Congo reporters, she explained that “the more women leaders we have, the less conflict and more peace there will be in the country.” Vox Congo interviewed women from North Kivu, South Kivu, Kasai and Haut Katanga. She has much support in these regions as some have chimed in that she can maybe be the next Angela Merkel or Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović (leaders of Germany and Croatia, respectively).
Internews’ work with Vox Congo in DRC is supported by the US Department of State.