Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Darfur Radio Series on Rape Goes to Air

By IWPR
  • On The Scale - Darfur radio programme is produced in cooperation with Radio Dabanga.
    On The Scale - Darfur radio programme is produced in cooperation with Radio Dabanga.

IWPR has produced a three-part series on sexual violence in Darfur for the radio programme Fi al Mizan (On the Scale), in cooperation with Radio Dabanga, a radio station run by Darfuri journalists in The Netherlands which broadcasts to over one million listeners in Sudan and eastern Chad. 

Fi al Mizan is broadcast every Wednesday in Sudanese Arabic as well as Fur, Zaghawa and Masalit, three of the main local Darfur languages.

The Fi al Mizan team, including Radio Dabanga editor Tajeldin Abdhalla Adam, Darfuri lawyer Assadig Musa and IWPR reporter Katy Glassborow, decided the series was necessary because of the information gap for women affected by rape in Darfur.

Issues surrounding rape in Darfur are highly sensitive, and women who talk openly risk being shunned.

One woman, talking to Musa about her experience of being raped when she left a camp in Zalingi to gather firewood, said, “If you speak about it, you get a problem inside society. Girls aren’t dealt with very kindly. No-one can understand that it is not the girl’s fault.”

Another victim we spoke to said she became very frightened that her family would find out that she had been raped and made pregnant. She left a displacement camp to give birth in a remote area of bush land, before abandoning the baby.

A group of people found the child and tracked down the mother. While she has now accepted it, she is suffering from psychological scars and is receiving little support.

“When I was pregnant I was not eating, and in a very bad psychological condition. I was very isolated and people described me as a mad girl and I didn’t have a social life. I had difficulty getting used to [my pregnancy] because the father was a [member of the] janjaweed [militia],” she said.

The Fi al Mizan team decided to make a series of programmes explaining very simply what sexual violence is; the fact that rape is a crime; and how women in Darfur have been affected.

The series launched with a woman’s frank testimony of her rape; and staff from NGOs talking about the need for medical and psychosocial support for victims.

The second show covered issues of how international law views rape and crimes of sexual violence. Lawyers Wanda Akin and Raymond Brown, representing Darfur victims at the International Criminal Court, ICC, explained that sexual violence is sometimes used as a tool of war, but that this is prohibited by international law.

"A few days after we aired the first show, we got a number of phone calls from listeners asking for more coverage and reporting"
Tajeldin Abdhalla Adam, Radio Dabanga editor

In the last programme of the series, Darfuri lawyers talked about problems they encounter when they try to represent rape victims in local courts.

Lawyer Rasha Saraj from El Fasher explained that Sudanese law lacks a proper definition of rape, so cases are handled in a similar way to adultery or sodomy charges. This means that women need four male witnesses to verify that rape took place, and was not adultery.

Lawyer Mohammed Salim added that the standard of proof required for a conviction means that 99 per cent of rape cases are thrown out of local courts.

“A major challenge in the production of the series has been getting victims of rape to speak about what has happened to them - something which has proved very painful for them to discuss and, as a delicate issue, required highly sensitive reporting,” Musa said.

“It is not enough to fight against rape just in terms of the law and its ability to combat it but it is also vital to help the victims themselves and provide the necessary medical treatment. What is happening in Darfur demands a response at the local, national and international level in order to combat high incidences of rape and to deal with its consequences,” he said.

Adam added that rape and sexual violence in Darfur is a highly important issue for the victims.

“A few days after we aired the first show, we got a number of phone calls from listeners asking for more coverage and reporting,” Adam said. “In one case a women from North Darfur asked us to report her case saying she has been waiting many years since she was raped in 2004 to find someone who could help her with her legal right as a victim.

“She says victims don't know how and where to turn for help but this programme offers them a chance and opportunity to seek their rights.”

To listen to the programmes, visit http://iwpr.net/programme/scale-darfur or http://radiodabanga.org/.


Meanwhile, IWPR radio reports on the International Criminal Court, ICC, trial of Germain Katanga and Mathieu Ngudjolo are reaching listeners across the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, DRC.

The updates from the Hague courtroom came courtesy of Congolese journalist Charles Ntiricya who travelled to The Netherlands to cover the opening of this landmark trial. Ntiricya, a longtime IWPR-trained journalist and resident of the North Kivu provincial capital Goma, was the most recent participant in IWPR Netherland’s successful internship programme which brings journalists from DRC, Sudan and Uganda to The Hague.

During his month in The Netherlands, Ntiricya was in near-daily contact with radio stations in North and South Kivu provinces as well as the Ituri region, where Katanga and Ngudjolo are accused of committing war crimes.

Radio Television Nationale Congolaise, RTNC, in Bukavu, a branch of the Congolese state radio in the South Kivu capital, said Ntiricya’s live broadcasts from The Hague were appreciated by listeners.

“We ourselves are not in the position to produce our own reports on the spot and our listeners, who are numerous, are really interested in knowing what goes on in The Hague,” said Kalume Kavue Katumbi, RTNC Bukavu director.

RAO FM, a small Goma-based station, said it used Ntiricya’s reports, which included live interviews, in its news bulletins.

At Radio Sauti Ya Injili, a popular Goma station, journalist Regine Ndamwenge based a live in-studio debate between listeners and civil society representatives on the updates from The Hague. She said the trial is the perfect subject for such debates. “It’s really something that interests people when justice is being done,” said Ndamwenge, who recently attended an IWPR training session in Goma.

Faustin Tawite, the director of programmes at Radio Racou FM in Rutshuru, about 70 kilometres from Goma, in a region badly affected by the recent conflicts in the east, said Ntiricya’s updates gave hope to victims of the fighting.

“The reports are good because they allow for our listeners to at least be informed about what is happening in The Hague,” he said.

Racou’s director Jean-Baptiste Malekesa said that because Ntiricya was born in the Rutshuru area and is well-known locally, his reports had a big influence on listeners.

“They were astonished because they couldn’t believe that Charles could be in the Netherlands,” Malekesa said. “Every evening at 7pm, listeners know that they could have the news of the day from The Hague on Racou FM, so the news from The Hague was followed every evening. Many people tuned in.”

Racou also printed out and posted the written summaries of each day’s hearings sent by Ntiricya.

At Radio La Colombe in Goma, director Hubert Furuguta says the news from The Hague has sparked many questions.

“Firstly there is one important question and that is why do the judgements take so long to come out?” he said.

“People also want to know why can’t people be arrested and directly put in prison and be sentenced? There is another question that was asked: are only those who have been arrested guilty? There are many who are guilty. Why are they left free?”