Radio for Peace, Democracy and Human Rights 
A documentation by Dr Hansjoerg Biener
peace radio site
© PD Dr Hansjoerg Biener
created 0406, updated 0702
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Cote d'Ivoire  

general information on the radio system
Cote d'Ivoire was once the West African success story, with a roaring economy and a stable political framework. Today, Ivory Coast's media mirrors the deep divisions between government and rebel positions. Currently, the FM broadcasts of state-run Radio Cote d'Ivoire can only be heard in the government-controlled south of the country. The rebels who have occupied the north since civil war broke out in September 2002, have meanwhile taken over several FM radio stations in their own area.
While international satellite transmissions of the Ivorian state  television station Channel One started on the Intelsat satellite in April 2004, the transmissions are not available terrestrially in the north and northwest of the country. Technical evaluation have revealed that the cost of damage to the nine stations in rebel-controlled areas is practically the same as the cost of rehabilitating the remaining ten centres in the government-held zone.

In the annual worldwide index of press freedom published by Reporters Without Borders in October 2004,
Côte d'Ivoire was listed as no. 149 of 167 countries surveyed.

international radio broadcasting to the region
Although three international broadcasters - Radio France International, the BBC and Africa No. 1 - are present on local frequencies, there have been several interruptions in the transmissions since the armed rebellion in 2002. Supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo have frequently accused the broadcasters of complicity with the rebels. The peace accords signed in January 2003 specifically mentioned the immediate re-establishment of free transmission of international radio and TV stations. On the contrary, the stations were for example silenced on 25-30 March, at a period of increased tensions in Abidjan. A technical source in Abidjan claimed on that occasion that the transmitter site had been damaged by unknown individuals.

the conflict
Ivory Coast is still split in two, despite a formal end to the civil war year in January 2003 . The UN has more than 6,000 peacekeepers in the country, but the planned disarmament  of the rebels is yet to  start. Disarmament was due to begin in August 2003, but the rebels refused to lay down their weapons until Gbagbo would implement political reforms stipulated in peace agreement and give efffective power to the coalition cabinet headed by independent Prime Minister Seydou Diarra.
His government now exists more in theory than in practice since 26 of its 41 ministers walked out at the end of March and Gbagbo has since sacked three of them. Diplomatic and government sources said the ministerial sackings in late May nearly triggered Diarra's resignation. The international community eventually persuaded Diarra not to quit, but the prime minister said in a leaked letter to the president that he would refuse to convene any further cabinet meetings until Gbagbo resolved the political crisis. Diplomats said Diarra was continuing behind-the-scenes efforts to try to get Gbagbo and the G-7 opposition alliance talking to each other again.
Gbagbo's "Young Patriots" accuse the United Nations and France, which maintains a separate 4,000-strong peacekeeping force in Cote d'Ivoire, of not doing enough to persuade the rebel forces to disarm. Im May, thousands demonstrated in Abidjan wearing blue plastic bags and buckets on their heads in mockery of the blue helmets worn by UN peacekeeping troops. In June, gangs of Young Patriots smashed 38 UN vehicles in the city in a more violent round of anti-UN protests.
A mission from the UN Security Council was to visit Cote d'Ivoire for talks with all the main players in the country, which has been split in two since the outbreak of a civil war in September 2002.

In early June 2004, a UN-team set up a radio station to support the cause of the United Nations Mission in Cote díIvoire (ONUCI). ONUCI FM was established under the auspices of a UN Security Council resolution in February 2004  which authorised the creation of a 6,240-strong UN peacekeeping force in Cote d'Ivoire.The station was meant to follow the example of similar radio stations of UN peacekeeping missions in other countries. The UN peacekeeping operations in Sierra Leone and Democratic Republic of Congo operate their own radio stations to provide an independent source of news and to broadcast programmes that promote peace and reconciliation. A similar radio station is currently being set up in Liberia.

The team setting up ONUCI FM, some of whom  previously worked on UN radio stations in the Balkans, said the new radio station would be mainly staffed by Ivorian journalists.They would report on efforts to promote peace, national reconciliation and cohesion, the humanitarian situation, the work of local and international organisations involved in efforts to end the 21 month-old conflict. However, the 24-hour radio station would also carry music cultural, sports and entertainment programmes, the team members said. Initially, ONUCI FM was to broadcast on 95.3FM in Abidjan, but within a few weeks its broadcasts were to be relayed by satellite to several towns in the interior: to Daloa, a government-held town in western Cote d'Ivoire, and the rebel-held cities of Bouake, Korhogo and Man in the north.

The proposed launch of the station coincided with the United Nations coming under increasing attack
from militia-style youth groups in Abidjan that support President Laurent Gbagbo. President Laurent Gbagbo's cabinet has repeatedly accused the UN of being soft on rebels, who hold the north of the country. The president only softened his voice after a private meeting with the UN secretary general. The two men met in New York on 11 June, but UN sources in New York and Abidjan told IRIN that little had been achieved in the encounter.
Annan talked bluntly about the danger of  Gbagbo's  peace agreement with rebels occupying the north of the country falling apart, they added.

Row over UN radio in Ivory Coast
The Ivorian National Audiovisual Communications Council said ONUCI FM was a "pirate station". The UN radio station was also dismissed as a "propaganda station" by Mr Gbagbo's ruling Ivorian Popular Front. According to the media regulator, ONUCI FM had not filed the proper paperworks and has not been authorized to use a frequency band on Abidjan's FM dial. UN officials claim ONUCI FM does not need to formally apply for broadcasting rights.
UN spokesman Jean-Victor Nkolo said the station would promote peace and reconciliation in the divided country. "I really don't see what the problem is," Mr Nkolo was quoted as saying by Reuters news agency. "There is a [UN] radio station for every peacekeeping operation. It exists in Sierra Leone and Liberia. It's meant to assist the peace process," he said. The UN spokesman added that the launch of the 24-hour station - to be called Frequence Paix, or Peace Frequency - was included in the UN Security Council resolution that authorized the peacekeeping operation.
After a crisis summit in Accra at the end of July to put the country's January 2003 peace agreement back on track, the authorities finally gave permission for ONUCI FM to start broadcasting on frequencies originally reserved for state broadcast Radio Television Ivoirienne. Following two months of delaying tactics by the government, ONUCI FM was to start broadcasting on Tuesday, 10 August 2004. Finally residents in Abidjan had to wait until Friday, 13 August, to tune in to ONUCI FM. The new station launched with a speech by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.
Jean Victor Nkolo, the official spokesman of the UN Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (ONUCI), told IRIN that the Abidjan-based radio station plans to reach out to the rebel-held towns of Bouake, Korhogo and Man in the north of Côte d'Ivoire, as well other towns in the government-held south. ONUCI FM would thus become the only radio station broadcasting nationwide in the divided country, since it erupted into civil war in September 2002. Diplomats have frequently lamented the partisan nature of Côte d'Ivoire's local media, particularly the country's newspapers, most of which are closely aligned with particular political interest groups. They have often been accused of whipping up political and ethnic hatred rather than promoting national reconciliation.

Although ONUCI FM went on the air, its relations with the Conseil national de la communication audiovisuelle  remain strained. In a press release (26 August 2004), the Ivorian regulatory body complained of irregularities in the convention providing for the provisional transfer of the 96 FM frequency to the United Nations operation in the Ivory Coast, which was drawn up by Radiotélévision Ivoirienne (RTI) in order to allow it broadcast. One of the complaints relates to the fact that "the new station has been transmitting since 13 August 2004 whereas its promoters have not yet signed the general convention and the specification for use of the frequency".
Fraternité-Matin, 3.9.2004> / 4.9.2004 <>

November 2004 - renewed fighting
For one-and-a-half years, Cote d'Ivoire enjoyed a ceasefire until 4 November 2004 when Ivorian troops from the government-controlled south launched an offensive on the rebel-held north. On 6 November loyalist of President Gbagbo began rampaging and looting their way through Abidjan's streets, angry at former colonial power France, which in retaliation for a deadly airstrike on one of its bases, wiped out almost the entire Ivorian airforce. "Hate messages" against French people and other foreigners filled the air waves and French troops fired into the air to keep back thousands of demonstrators in the streets.
Logistical problems, looting and theft as well as personal threats against foreign aid officials and volunteers stopped most of the aid work. The United Nations has moved to Phase Four, the last phase before evacuation. Agencies have suspended missions in the field and many staff are sheltering at UN military bases, Ibrahima Barry, an OCHA official in Abidjan said.

Reporters Without Borders has welcomed a statement from Ivorian president, Laurent Gbagbo, condemning the ransacking of opposition and independent newspaper offices on 4 November 2004 and the opening of an investigation to punish those responsible. But the worldwide press freedom organisation called on him to go further to ensure these newspapers can circulate freely again and to restore order within the state-owed media.
Further details:

Seizing control of the state media was one of the linchpins of  President Laurent Gbagbo's failed bid to recover all of Cote  d'Ivoire's territory. In just one morning, on 4 November, supporters of the president and his party succeeded in hijacking Radiotélévision  ivoirienne (RTI) and Radio Côte d'Ivoire (RCI). A new staff of  presenters and journalists ready to take editorial orders was put in  place.
Further details:

By décret n° 2004-678, the Radiodiffusion Télévision ivoirienne (RTI, publique) lost its status as "public limited company" (société anonyme) und was reverted to a "state company" (société d'État), with the government now retaking official control of the radio and television services. Once more, it is the State that holds the entire capital of the RTI, set at 6 billion CFA francs. This change in status - which followed on from the
law of 14 December 2004 concerning broadcasting and the Ohada Treaty - is at least the third that the RTI has experienced over the last six years. Before October 2003, the RTI had been a "semi-public company of a particular type", a status which it had known for the first time some ten years earlier.
The RTI's operational regulations have also been modified starting with the composition of its board of administrators. Of a total of twelve administrators appointed with a renewable mandate of three years, the government (presidency, prime ministry and ministries) appoints nine; however, none of the three remaining administrators may be elected to the chair of the board. It is this same board of administrators that appoints the managing director and that also has power to dismiss him/her at any time.
Administering the "new RTI" is the joint responsibility of the Ministries of Communications (for technical supervision) and the Economy (for financial supervision). All of the main statutory, strategic and financial
decisions must have the prior approval of the appropriate ministry.

By presidential decrees published respectively on 4 and 5 January 2005, new administrators were appointed to the Ivorian national broadcasting corporation with a renewable mandate of three years and the election of Oulaï Siéné to the chair of the Board of Administration (PCA) was ratified.
These appointments were preceded by that of Yacouba Kébé to the post of managing director, officially with effect from 3 January 2005. Yacouba Kébé already held the position of managing director of the RTI when he was ousted from the job on 4 November 2004 by Jean-Paul Dahily, himself a former manager of the RTI and close confident of President Laurent Gbagbo. "For security reasons", the full return of Mr Kébé to his post only became effective on 10 January.
It's true to say that in the Ivory Coast the RTI is an emotive, if not a conflictual subject. On 6 January 2005, deputies from the three opposition parliamentary groups (PDCI/RDA, UDPCI and Solidarité) disseminated a press release condemning "the taking hostage and the muzzling by the Presidential camp and the FPI regime of the State media".Opposition groupings complain that radio and television are being used in a way that contravenes the provisions of the media law aswell as the spirit of the Marcoussis and Accra peace agreements. These documents stress the importance of impartiality and neutrality on the part of the public service media. The only point on which there was unanimity was the new status of the RTI (once more a public company), which was approved by the Parliament in December 2004.

Ivorian journalists cross over the front lines
The National Association of Journalists of the Ivory Coast ("Union nationale des journalistes de Côte d'Ivoire", the UNJCI) recently organized a seminar bringing together journalists who are close to the presidential camp along with others who support the "Forces nouvelles". The meeting took place in Yamoussoukro on 29 and 30 January last. It brought together, on the onehand, journalists from "Notre Voie", the "Courrier d'Abidjan" and "Le Temps" (presidential side) and, on the other hand, participants from "TV Notre Patrie", "RTV Denguélé", "Tambour" and "Liberté" (Forces nouvelles). The public servicewas represented by "Fraternité-Matin" and Ivorian radio and television. The UN radio station, ONUCI FM, also took part.
The seminar looked at the issues of conflict coverage and journalists' safety. It was facilitated by a former British soldier. Political issues were excluded from the agenda.
Fraternité-Matin, 4/2/05 <>

Rising tensions as French peacekeeping mission expires
In March 2005, demonstrations in Ivory Coast were being held on both sides of the cease-fire line that has separated the rebel-held north and government-controlled south since a failed coup attempt sparked a brief civil war in late 2002. Supporters of the president kept calling for 5,000 French peacekeepers to
leave, while protesters in the north wanted the force's mandate, which expires next month, to be renewed. President Laurent Gbagbo's supporters in the south say French forces favor the rebels and are refusing to disarm them. French President Jacques Chirac said in February that the French military will not stay where it is not wanted. He said he wants the support of all parties, including the Ivorian government, if the mandate is to be renewed.

Warring Sides Agree to End Hostilities
In joint statement April 6, 2005, civil war foes rejected use of force as a means to resolve their differences. After four days of talks the four main political leaders in Ivory Coast signed an agreement in which they said they would immediately and finally cease all hostilities. President Laurent Gbagbo, rebel leader Guillaume Soro, former President Henei Konan Bedie, and opposition leader Alassane Ouattara also stipulated in the agreement that presidential elections must be held in October 2005 and that these should be immediately followed by legislative elections.
South African President Thabo Mbeki, who has been mediating the talks at the behest of the African Union, told reporters that the commanders of the government and rebel forces will meet in Bouake on April 14 to discuss disarmament and the formation of a national army. The agreement comes four months after a fragile cease-fire was broken by government forces in November with a series of bombing raids and an eight-month impasse in the peace initiative launched by Mr. Mbeki. He was asked by the African Union to intervene when several earlier peace initiatives failed to completely halt the civil war which began in 2002.

ONUCI FM extends coverage in the north of Côte d'Ivoire
On 5 April 2005, ONUCI FM extended its coverage to Korhogo, in the north of the country. The United Nations radio in Côte d'Ivoire uses 95.3 MHz – the same frequency as in Bouaké and Daloa. ONUCI FM is a general news station created by the United Nations to promote peace and reconciliation in the country. The station broadcasts political, economic, cultural and sports programmes in French, 24 hours a day. Programmes in all the national languages are also planned. ONUCI FM team comprises 30 journalists and technicians as well as a dozen correspondents based in different Ivorian cities. The radio was created by Security Council Resolution 1528 and started broadcasting on 13 August 2004 in Abidjan on 96 MHz. It is currently in the process of achieving total national coverage with the installation of a new transmitter, which will cover Yamoussoukro, Man, Odienné, Daoukro, Bondoukou, San Pedro and Duékoué. (Source: UN Mission in Côte d'Ivoire)

Côte d'Ivoire: Elections designed to restore peace set for 30 October
Cote d'Ivoire's government has announced that a first round of long-awaited presidential elections, designed to bring peace back to the divided West African nation, will be held on 30 October. "The next presidential elections in Cote d'Ivoire will take place, for the first round, on Sunday 30 October 2005," government spokesman Hubert Oulai said on state television on 28 April 2005. Hopes that peace might finally return to the world's top cocoa producer, which has been split in two for almost three years, have been growing since a summit in the South African capital, Pretoria earlier in April.
The election date announcement came hot on the heels of a decision by Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo to bow to international pressure and allow his main rival Alassane Ouattara to run against him in October's polls.The exclusion of Ouattara -- a former prime minister who now heads the opposition Rally of the Republicans party -- from the presidential elections in 2000 is considered to be one of the root causes behind a failed rebel attempt to topple Gbagbo in September 2002 that ushered in the civil war.The constitution stipulated that all presidential candidates must have two Ivorian parents, and Ouattara's opponents say his father was born in neighbouring Burkina Faso.
Gbagbo for months insisted that a referendum was needed to change the rules governing who could stand for election but he made an about-turn following a request from South African President and international mediator Thabo Mbeki.Ouattara cautiously praised Gbagbo's decision to let him stand in October's polls as "an incontestable first step toward democracy in Cote d'Ivoire", but warned that this did not mean that all problems
were solved. In New York, UN secretary-general Kofi Annan applauded the breakthrough, "The Secretary-General welcomes this development while stressing that it is vital that the parties take all necessary steps to ensure that the elections are free, fair and transparent and conform to international standards," his office said in a statement.
And with the election date now set, arrangements for allowing Cote d'Ivoire's 17 million people to go to the polls must begin in earnest. Diplomats say that with only six months to go, and the nation still divided, time to organise free and fair elections is tight. Gbagbo ordered the National Statistics Institute (INS) to start compiling electoral lists and sorting out voter cards in preparation for the polls, as has been the procedure for over 25 years. However, critics say voter registration should be carried out by the Independent Electoral Commission (CEI). The INS, they say, is headed by a close Gbagbo ally and impartiality cannot be guaranteed. Opposition leader Ouattara told Radio France Internationale this week that it would be wrong to charge the INS with the job and said it should be done by the CEI in cooperation with the UN mission in Cote d'Ivoire (ONUCI).
(UN Integrated Regional Information Network 29 April 2005)

Ivory Coast President Opens Election to All
On a televised speech on 26 April, President Laurent Gbagbo promised to allow all candidates to run in a presidential election later this year Laurent Gbagbo opened the speech with an attack on the rebels that have occupied the northern half of the country for more than two years. He said the nation had suffered aggression at their hands and that despite previous peace deals they had refused to disarm.
In a surprise move, President Gbagbo also addressed the candidacy of Alassane Ouattara. The popular northern opposition leader was excluded from running in the election that brought Mr. Gbagbo to power in 2000. Mr. Gbagbo said that, for the 2005 election only, he would allow Mr. Ouattara to participate overruling a controversial article in Ivory Coast's constitution concerning nationality requirements At peace talks in South Africa's administrative capital Pretoria earlier in April, President Mbeki asked Mr. Gbagbo to use special constitutional powers to allow all signatories to previous peace deals to contest the presidential election set for October. President Gbagbo had previously said that constitutional article 48, which allows the head of the state to make decrees when the nation's integrity is threatened, did not apply to the civil war.
The move came as the United Nations Security Council was convening in New York to decide whether to grant a request for additional troops for its peacekeeping mission in Ivory Coast. Around 6,000 U.N. peacekeepers and another 4,000 French soldiers are currently in Ivory Coast. Most patrol a cease-fire line between the rebel held north and west and the government controlled south.

President of Ivorian Radio and Television reinstalled
In the Ivory Coast, Maurice Bandaman, the president of the board of RTI (Ivorian Radio and Television Broadcasting Corporation) was reinstalled on 10 May in the presence of Issa Diakité, Minister of Communication ad interim. This reinstallation of the President of the board is in line with the Pretoria agreement signed the 6th April 2005. The Young Patriots occupied RTI, a public service media during the launch of the "Restore Dignity" operation by the FANCI (Ivorian National Armed Forces). The former management team was dismissed and replaced by a new one led by the former Minister of Justice Oulaï Siéné. Issa Diakité, Minister of Communication ad interim said that the RTI will be airing all over the country and will be a peacekeeping and harmony mass media. (United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs)

January 2006: Hate broadcasts again spurring attacks on UN
Ivory Coast radio stations are inciting people to arm themselves and attack the United Nations, the world body said yesterday, calling on the government to immediately halt the hate broadcasts. "This is unacceptable
and must cease immediately," UN chief spokesman Stephane Dujarric said, calling the broadcasts "particularly disturbing" as a wave of attacks on UN peacekeepers went into a third day. Some members of the UN Security Council, meanwhile, said the time had come to impose sanctions on Ivory Coast government or rebel leaders who were blocking the peace process. The 15-nation council authorized sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes, over a year ago but has yet to apply them to any individuals, fearful this could set back peace efforts more than help them. The council plans to meet to discuss the crisis in Ivory Coast for the second time in a week today, and is expected to issue a statement giving a final green light to sanctions, council diplomats said. (Radio Netherlands Media Network 19 January 2006)

RSF says siege of state broadcaster in Ivory Coast has ended
Press freedom watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says it has learned that the siege of the Ivory Coast's state broadcaster RadioTélévision Ivoirienne (RTI) by several hundred Young Patriots was lifted on 21 January 2006 night. RSF says most employees were able to return to their posts and talks are under way to "identify the lessons to be drawn" from the events of the past few days, a source close to the management said.
Some 300 supporters of President Laurent Gbagbo known as Young Patriots overran the RTI building on 18 January and forced technicians to broadcast calls for people "to take to the streets to liberate the country." They then stationed themselves outside the RTI building, located in Cocody district of Abidjan. They were pledging to stay there until the UN peacekeepers and the French Licorne peacekeeping force left the country. After Young Patriot leader Charles Blé Goudé gave his followers the order to end the demonstrations, the barricades and roadblocks throughout the greater Abidjan area have been gradually lifted and the groups have dispersed. Throughout the past few days, Côte d’Ivoire’s journalists have had to work under a constant threat of violence. Some went into hiding. Others were beaten or threatened by demonstrators. (Reporters Without Borders)

UN radio station in the Ivory Coast expands coverage
The United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in the Ivory Coast (ONUCI) has announced that its radio station - ONUCI FM - can now be heard in the Bandama region. ONUCI FM, which provides general information, was created by the mission to promote peace and national reconciliation. Since 15 August 2004, it has been broadcasting news and feature programmes on politics, economics and culture in French. Broadcasts in national languages will be launched soon. ONUCI FM's team currently comprises about 30 journalists and technicians and 10 correspondents in main Ivorian towns. (United Nations News Service, March 13, 2006)

Ivory Coast: Ban on FM broadcasting by RFI lifted after 10 months
The National Council for Broadcast Communication (CNCA) gave its permission on 12 May 2006 for French public broadcaster Radio France Internationale (RFI) to resume broadcasting in Côte d’Ivoire on FM frequencies. In return, RFI undertook to quickly strengthen its regional coverage, pay the CNCA 9 million CFA francs (14,000 euros) and "adhere to ethical criteria and professional conduct in its news coverage in Côte d’Ivoire." The CNCA suspended RFI’s broadcasts on 15 July 2005, claiming that its coverage of Ivorian events was "unprofessional and unbalanced." RFI’s Abidjan bureau has been closed ever since its correspondent, Jean Hélène, was shot in the head and killed by a policeman on 20 October 2003. (Reporters Without Borders)

August 2006: ONUCI FM broadcasts programmes in local languages
ONUCI FM, the United Nations radio in Côte d'Ivoire, started broadcasting programmes in five local languages on 1 August 2006. News and information items on Côte d'Ivoire will be broadcast five times a week in Baoulé, Bété, Malinké, Wé and Yacouba to ONUCI FM listeners. Through these programmes in local languages, the United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire (UNOCI) hopes its message of peace and reconciliation will reach the majority of the population with a view to sharing their daily concerns.
ONUCI FM, which broadcasts general information, was set up on 15th August 2004 by UNOCI with the aim of promoting peace and national reconciliation. It broadcasts political, economic, cultural and sports programmes in French. Created by Security Council Resolution 1528, the UN radio first started broadcasting its programmes in Abidjan on 96FM but can now be heard in Daloa, Duékoué, Yamoussoukro, Bouaké, Odienné, Korhogo, San Pedro, Man, Bangolo, Zuénoula, Daoukro, Bouna, Bondoukou, Blolequin and Guiglo. It hopes eventually to be heard all over Côte d'Ivoire. (Source: United Nations Operation in Côte d'Ivoire)

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