The Mano River Women’s Peace Network (MARWOPNET) Sierra Leone Chapter on Saturday, April 28, launched the MARWOPNET Peace Radio on FM 88.4 located at Gbalamuya in Kambia District.
The launching of the Peace Radio brings to three the number of community radio stations operating in the District. The other two are Radio Kolenten in Kambia Town and Catbamin located in Madina.
Giving an overview of the Peace Radio project, the Sub-Regional President of Mano River Women’s Peace Network covering Sierra Leone, Liberia, Guinea and Ivory Coast, Mrs. Yasmin Jusu-Sheriff Fofana, informed her audience that work on the project began in 2005 during the launching of the Kambia District Branch of the Women’s Peace Network.
She disclosed that MARWOPNET received US$ 175,000 from the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA) for the establishment of three radio stations in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea, adding that OSIWA also supported MARWOPNET for bringing about peace in the sub-region through the use of radio.
According to Mrs. Yasmin Jusu-Sheriff Fofana, the Sierra Leone Chapter received $15,000 for the construction of the radio building, in addition to the provision of broadcast requirement and other supporting materials.
She commended the people of Gbinle Dixon Chiefdom and Gbalamuya in particular for their foresight in accepting the radio in their community and as, she put it, “the first area selected for the project was rejected by the then Guinean military authorities on security grounds.
The MARWOPNET Sub-Regional President explained that the radio has been established primarily to promote and maintain peace not only in Gbinle Dixon Chiefdom, but the border areas as well.
“The running cost for the station will last for six months” she said, and appealed to the people of the Chiefdom to support it financially so as to pay staff salaries and also provide fuel for the generators.
Welcoming guests and the people of Kambia to the launching ceremony, Paramount Chief Kondobala 11 of Gbinle Dixon Chiefdom said the launching of the Peace Radio Station is very important, as the Chiefdom binds both Sierra Leone and Guinea together.
In commending all those who contributed in diverse ways for what he described as “this big achievement” noted that since the radio has been established to bring the Mano River Union countries together, especially in the area of peace promotion and economic development, it will continue through its programmes to promote and sustain peace in the border areas.
On behalf of his colleagues Paramount Chiefs of Kambia District, Chief Kondobala II commended OSIWA for providing funds for the radio project and WARWOPNET for its laudable initiative.
In her contribution, the Focal Point Person for the Sierra Leone Chapter, Ms Mabel Mbayo, informed her audience that the idea of establishing the Peace Radio was first conceived eleven years ago in Abuja, Nigeria, but has now been realized.
She added that the war came about due to what she referred to as “the lack of information” for the people, especially those living in the border areas of the country and hoped that the new Peace Radio Station will be used to promote and maintain peace in their Chiefdom.
“We should now begin to strategize on what to do after six moths to sustain the radio’s operations” said Ms Mbayo.
II his remarks, the OSIWA representative in Sierra Leone, Mr. Saidu Kargbo, congratulated MORWOPNET for bringing the radio programme into reality, and urged community members to support the radio station so that it may serve as a model in the country
He explained that MARWOPNET approached OSIWA for support towards the project which, according to him, is intended to promote peace in the different communities, and implored the Chiefdom people to give their full support to push the radio forward.
The Chairperson of the Peace Radio Board, Haja Rugiatu Sankoh, further commended MARWOPNET and OSIWA for establishing the radio station in Gbalamuya, saying that it will protect the rights of women and children, in addition to promoting and sustaining peace in the community and its environs.
In her statement, the Deputy Secretary General at the Mano River Union Secretariat in Freetown, Mrs. Lynda Koroma, said the MRU is proud of MARWOPNET because, “when we think of peace in the region, we realize the role played by women in bringing about and sustaining peace in the sub-region”
“They have done a lot in the sub-region as peace in the sub-region is in the hands of women” added Mrs. Koroma.
Whilst assuring MARWOPNET of MRU support, the Deputy Secretary General expressed the belief that the radio will be used as an asset to both Sierra Leone and Guinea, and urged the staff to provide what she called , ‘accurate and credible information for the people so that they can make proper decisions’. Mrs. Lynda Koroma emphasized that ‘the radio should serve as a watch dog’ by raising issues so that the people can engage in dialogue to promote peace.
Delivering the keynote address, the Chairperson of the Independent Media Commission (IMC), Mrs. Bernadette Cole, implored the women when she said, ‘let us work and be committed in whatever we do for our country’.
She applauded members of MARWOPNET for their initiative in establishing a peace radio station in Kambia District, adding ‘with zeal and determination, they have succeeded in setting up a radio station’.
Mrs. Bernadette Cole described the peace radio as a ‘different radio’ for which the idea was developed and implemented by women to promote peace not only in the country, but neighbouring countries as well.
The radio, she went on, has joined 5,000 community radio stations in 115 countries all over the world, and that it has started transmission with 250 watts with radiation power of 500 watts.
The IMC Chairperson stated that the management structure of the radio station should be reflective of the community in which it operates, so as to consolidate peace, promote national and sub-regional unity and promote women’s development through trade.
She called on the management to produce a Constitution for the station that would spell out the different structures including positions to avert management problems in future.
According to Mrs. Cole, MARWOPNET has done a big job in establishing another radio station in Kambia District, pointing out that the station needs the support of the entire Chiefdom people, and also encouraged business houses and NGOs operating in the area to support the radio station through the sponsoring of programmes and advertisements.
To the staff, she had this to say, “practice the profession in the way we should”, and urged them to use the IMC Code of Practice for “self regulation”.
The IMC Chairperson used the occasion to also appeal to the community people to lodge all complaints to the station’s Board Chairperson and the IMC office in Makeni.
Highlights of the launching programme included the introduction of the station’s Board and Management staff including the Station Manager, Gibril Jusu Gottor, and the vote of thanks by MARWOPNET Media and Communications Committee member, Dr. Nana Pratt.