Radio for Peace, Democracy and Human Rights 
A documentation by Dr Hansjoerg Biener

peace radio site

© PD Dr Hansjoerg Biener
created 0107, updated 0602
Comments and contributions are welcome. Material of this page may be re-printed but a complimentary copy of the publication is expected.
the Great Lakes Region Radio Rwanda 
The National Radio Station of the Republic of Rwanda broadcasts mainly in KinyaRwanda, the local language spoken in Rwanda. At times there are also broadcasts in French, English and Swahili. News in English is heard at 1830 GMT in the evening and 0515 GMT in the morning. Apart from local coverage, there is a short wave outlet on 6055 kHz which makes the station heard in the Great Lakes region.
Distance learning course on the role of media in the genocide in Rwanda
Applications are invited from persons living and working in Rwanda to participate in a distance learning course on 'The role of the media in the genocide in Rwanda'.
The 1994 genocide in Rwanda provides a telling case study of two quite separate roles for media in a conflict situation. The genocide was among the most appalling catastrophes of the 20th century, and media played a significant part both internally and internationally. Prior to the genocide, radio stations and newspapers were carefully used by the conspirators to dehumanise the potential victims, Rwanda's Tutsi minority. During the genocide, radio was used by the Hutu extremist conspirators to mobilise the Hutu majority, to coordinate the killings and to ensure that the plans for extermination were faithfully executed.
While a series of terrible massacres of Tutsi were carried out and as the signs of ever-increasing violence grew, Rwanda was totally ignored by the international media. When the genocide came, the erratic media coverage largely conveyed the false notion of two 'tribes' of African 'savages' mindlessly slaughtering each other as they had done from time immemorial. As a result, there was little public pressure in the West for governments to intervene.
In this distance learning course you will study these two facets of the media role in the genocide in detail. You will see how easily the concept of free speech and free press in a local situation can be perverted for foul ends. We will ask how this dilemma could be resolved. We will explore the problem of inadequate or even distorted international coverage of crises and conflicts in areas poorly understood by Western journalists. We will consider whether this unfortunate situation can be improved in the future.
Further details:

According to a French survey in the early 1990´s 50 per cent of the Rwandan audience also listened to Radio Burundi, and a quarter of the audience also to international stations like Radio France Internationale, Deutsche Welle, BBC London and Voice of America. Audience research usually shows a considerable drop of listening to foreign stations when the political climate moves towards press freedom and democracy or when FM broadcasting and domestic alternatives to state radio arrive. So the opening of Radio Mille Collines was destined to be a blow to foreign listening.

The prime example for hate radio in Africa is Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines, founded by advisors to the president of Rwanda. It went on the air in July 1993 and became very popular because of its music and style of presentation. But it also was a voice of radical Hutus. In the words of the prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda set up by UN Security Council resolution 955: »Certain members of President Habyarimana's entourage created hate media with the express intention of ensuring a broad diffusion of calls to ethnic violence and exerting a profound influence over the Rwandan population. The creation of the newspaper Kangura and the Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines are believed to have been an important part of this strategy. Starting in 1993, Tutsis and political opponents were targeted, clearly identified and then terrorised by the media. Some of the targets were later to become the first victims of the April 1994 massacre.«
At the beginning, RTLM was not taken serious by western diplomats, because its propaganda seemed so obvious. Looking at the past however, its broadcasts created a heated atmosphere and greatly contributed to the genocide. The spark was set on 6 April 1994, when the plane carrying Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana and Burundian president Cyprien Ntaryamira was shot down when landing on the airport of Rwanda´s capital Kigali. It is not clear who was behind the attack. Officials blamed the crash on Tutsi rebels fighting the Hutu dominated government. Others blame the attack on radical elements within the Rwandan government. According to UN sources within one hour members of the opposition were arrested and shot. But the killings did not stop there. It is said that some 500,000 people were most brutally killed in the massacres lasting from April to June 1994. RTLM even continued to incite the collective killing when foreign countries intervened and also broadcast messages against the Belgian and French intervention forces sent to evacuate European citizens and establish security zones. When the Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front moved into Kigali Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines moved to Gisenyi on the border between Rwanda and Zaire. With no change to its programme format it broadcast from the French controlled security zone and later moved to Zaire. According to UN and NGO sources, the programmes also caused some two million Hutus to flee toward refugee camps where Hutu militia erected a new terror regime.
In June 2000 a joint trial of three hate media leaders was begun by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda. The accused are Jean Bosco Barayagwiza, former director of political affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, founder of the hard line Hutu party CDR, founder and member of the board at RTLM, Ferdinand Nahimana, formerly with Radio Rwanda and later director of RTLM, and Hassan Ngeze, former editor of the extremist newspaper Kangura and prominent member of the CDR. The charges against them include conspiracy to commit genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide and crimes against humanity. The three were originally to be tried with Belgian former RTLM presenter Georges Ruggiu, who changed his plea to guilty and was sentenced to 12 years' imprisonment on 1 June 2000. Ruggiu was now expected to testify against the other three. The trials are still pending.
Fire broke out on Friday 2 April 2004 at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) based in Arusha Tanzania, destroying documents used in the trials of people accused of taking part in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Also destroyed were audio cassettes of hate radio station Radio Télévision Libre de Mille Collines.
The infamous hate radio station Radio Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) plays a central role in the story line of a new  movie being produced by HBO films to mark the 10th anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda. "Sometimes in April" is written and directed by Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck. The movie tells the story of Hutu Capt. Augustin Muganza who is forced to relive the genocide when he receives a letter from his brother detained in Arusha, Tanzania, for his role as a broadcaster at RTLM.

Addressing the United Nations Commission of Human Rights on 24 May 1994, Philippe Dahinden proposed the creation of a radio station to respond to the effects of hate media. In July, 1994 the Bukavu region in Zaire was chosen as its first broadcast site. On 4 August 1994 Radio Agatashya broadcast for the first time in the South-Kivu province. The station´s name is Kinyarwanda and translates as "the swallow (that brings hope)". In order to prevent abuse, the news and information items were read out both in French and in Kinyarwanda with Hutu and Tutsi checking each others translation. Serving the large refugee camps in Eastern Zaire, the station gave priority to information for the refugees and the reuniting of separated families. The original stations were on the air between August and December 1994 using mobile FM and short wave transmitters. The project was jointly financed by the United Nations, the International Red Cross and private foundations. In late 1994 a bureau was set up in Kigali. An application for the installation of a radio station was submitted to the Rwandan Patriotic Front, but remained without a response as did further requests to the government when the RPF had taken over Kigali. After the capture of the capital, the RPF modelled the programming of Radio Rwanda after its own clandestine station Radio Muhabura. This Tutsi clandestine station was rumoured about in May 1991 and was indeed monitored for the first time internationally on short wave in July 1992.
In March 1995 the Swiss Fondation Hirondelle was incorporated. Taking over the running of Radio Agatashya in 1995, the foundation also organized media coverage for the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda in Arusha, Tanzania. Since the opening of the first trial in September 1996 the Hirondelle Agency provides regular coverage of the proceedings which is also used by other international news agencies and broadcasters and also available through its web site at
In its best days Radio Agatyshya broadcast in Goma, Uvira and Bukavu, for at least eight hours daily in Kinyarwanda, Kirundi, Kiswahili, French and English. More than four million potential listeners, of whom at least one million refugees and displaced persons, were able to receive several news bulletins about the situation in North and South Kivu, Rwanda and Burundi. Programmes of the Hirondelle studios were also broadcast on Radio Rwanda, Radio Nationale Burundaise, Radio Unamir and Radio Kwizera.
On 27 October 1996 Radio Agatashya went off the air when the rebel Banyamulenge and Laurent-Desiré Kabila launched a new rebellion in the east of Zaire. Much of Radio Agatashya's equipment was lost, while the staff managed to escape. At the time it employed some 80 people, only two of them non-African. Although it no longer runs the station, the Hirondelle Foundation is still reporting on the work of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

When the massacres started, the first reaction of many international stations was to add frequencies to the target area. Unfortunately, none of the international stations had programmes in Kinyarwanda at the time. Later, both the BBC London and the Voice of America started services in Kirundi and Kinyarwanda to Burundi, Rwanda and the Great Lakes region. Because the languages are mutually intelligible they are both used in the same broadcasts. Currently, the Voice of America airs its service in the morning local time and BBC in the evening. Much of the programming is also relayed by FM stations in the target area.

The BBC World Service started broadcasting in Kinyarwanda and Kirundi in 1994 as a 15-minute service for the refugees and later expanded the »Great Lakes service« to a 30-minute programme. The programmes concentrate on regional news, health and agriculture as well as messages from refugees and returnees. The programmes are funded by external donors, the main ones being the British government's Overseas Development Administration, the UNHCR and a consortium of British non government organisations. Programmes also included the soap opera Urunana made for the BBC in Kigali by Health Unlimited and focusing on women's health.
In February 2006, the BBC announced the launch of two more FM relays in Rwanda to ensure nation wide coverage: Karongi 93.3 MHz and Butare 106.1 MHz.
On the occasion, Ally Yusufu Mugenzi (editor of BBC Great Lakes service) referred to BBCís ďspecial broadcasting history in Rwanda and the Great Lakes region. Throughout the events of the past decade our shortwave radio broadcasts were seen as a lifeline service for millions of displaced and distressed people. The two new BBC FM relay stations mean more choice for more Rwandans who want to be in the know about developments in their region, across Africa and across the world." Head of BBC World Service French and Great Lakes, Tim Cooke added: "BBC Kigali 93.9 FM has been relaying BBC World Service programmes since 2003. I am thrilled that with BBC Karongi 93.3 FM and BBC Butare 106.1 FM we can now reach Rwandans practically anywhere in the country, bringing them programmes from the BBC Great Lakes service, in Kinyarwanda and Kirundi, as well as our English for Africa, French and Swahili programming."
BBC Karongi 93.3 FM and BBC Butare 106.1 FM  broadcast the BBC Great Lakes service for 30 minutes, BBC Swahili for 45 minutes, BBC Afrique for 3 hours and 30 minutes. The rest of the daily schedule is made up of the BBC World Service English language output for Africa. (BBC Press Office)

The Voice of America began its Kirundi/Kinyarwanda programmes on 15 July 1996 as a 30 minute weekday service.  In response to the crisis in Eastern Zaire and the exodus of Rwandan refugees, the service added 60 minutes on Saturdays and Sundays at the end of November 1996. Beside news, the service broadcasts features on conflict resolution and a variety of topics related to the process of democratisation. A refugee trauma team from Harvard's School of Public Health prepared a series of scripts to be broadcast by VoA. Several thousand listeners have requested that the programme be aired again. In late 1996, the Voice of America established a hotline in the Great Lakes region to broadcast the whereabouts of refugees and their relatives. This service, launched on 30 November 1996 and made possible through a grant from USAID, has reunited some 5000 families.
In recent years, programming has included interviews with major public figures from the Great Lakes region, such as Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza, Rwandan President Paul Kagame, and Paul Rusesabagina who inspired the movie "Hotel Rwanda," a story about the 1994 Rwanda genocide.
The Service also gives a voice to ordinary listeners by airing in-depth features on HIV/AIDS patients, orphans, single mothers, medical professionals, NGO leaders and separated families. "The Service's health, conflict resolution and human rights segments have proven very valuable in a region trying to recover from years of civil
conflict," said Service Chief Robert Daguillard. "But I'm convinced the crown jewel of our special anniversary broadcast on July 15th will be an interview with families that have been brought together thanks to our family reunification segments."
VOA has also earned praise for Ejo Bite?, a programme aimed at young refugees. The 30-minute weekly programme, which translates as "How About the Future?," is financed by the State Department Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. Started in February 2003, the programme is produced by young refugees in camps along the Burundi and Rwanda borders. The refugees, trained by professional journalists, produce reports on health, conflict resolution, life choices, HIV/AIDS awareness, education and social issues.
VOA's Central Africa Service broadcasts seven hours each week at 0330-0430 UTC to the Great Lakes region on shortwave (6095, 7340 and 13725 kHz), as well as on VOA's own FM frequency in Kigali, Rwanda.
VOA also broadcasts on FM through Radio Publique Africaine in Bujumbura, Burundi and Radio Kwizera in Ngara, Tanzania.   (Voice of America)

With the ongoing tensions in Burundi and Rwanda and the war in former Zaire peace seems far away in Central Africa while hate stations still go on the air.

Radio 10, the first private radio station since the country's historical genocide, officially launched on 25 March 2004. On the occasion, information minister Prof Laurent Nkusi and Eugene Nyagahene, proprietor of Radio 10, called on the business community to support radio stations as part of boosting the economy through advertising. Nyagahene had earlier announced that, Radio 10 would not air any political views or programmes citing lack of experienced journalists to handle such programmes. He further added that, airing of such political stuff would take at least the first two years. In June 2004, a second privately-owned radio station was launched. Radio Communautaire de Cyangugu (FM 92.9) will initially cover the western province of Cyangugu as well as  Bukavu in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.

For the past decade, state-run Radio Rwanda and Television have been the only stations in the country. According to Prime Minister Bernard Makuza in March 2004, six private broadcast licences were issued to Radio 10, Radio Contact, Radio Flash, National University of Rwanda-School of Journalism Radio, Radio Maria owned by the Catholic church and another FM station owned by the Seventh Day Adventist Church. The government has been cautious after Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines was responsible for the hate campaign in the early 1990s that led to the genocide, in which, according to the government, at least 937,000 died.

Dutch foundation to finance radio drama in Rwanda

A Dutch NGO is providing funding to help make the  people of Rwanda aware of the consequences of
political propaganda and manipulation via radio. The RLB/Humanitarian Tools Foundation ( is spending a million euro to support a drama series to be  broadcast on Radio Rwanda, and developed with the help of a group of internationally renowned  psychologists. The national media campaign, to be launched in May 2004, comprises two types of radio programs: a twice weekly soap series, and a weekly factual program. The factual program endeavours to teach people about mass and individual behaviour patterns that give rise to ethnic hatred and generate trauma. According to experts in psychotrauma,  understanding the patterns of group violence helps to overcome these traumas. The program encourages the audience to understand such patterns. Combined with a number of community and grass roots activities, the radio shows enable people to deal with their own history and begin their healing process. The RLB Foundation  hopes that  knowledge about the patterns of genocide and ethnic tension will function as a preventative measure against ethnic violence.
The RLB Foundation  is sponsored by a number of  governmental and non-governmental organisations
and companies, among which the Royal Embassy of  the Netherlands in Kigali, the Belgium Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Development Cooperation, Philips ,USAID and  Stichting Democratie en Media (previously named Stichting het Parool ). The activities of the  RLB Foundation take place  under the guidance of several academic experts  from the University of Massachussetts (USA), the  Trauma Research Education and Training Institute (TREATI) and Yale University
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UNESCO Supports Capacity Building for Media Professionals in Rwanda and Burundi

30-08-2004 (UNESCO) UNESCO continues its support to media professionals in Rwanda and Burundi by funding a series of training activities at the Press Houses in Kigali and Bujumbura to enhance their role as professional resource centres by organizing seminars, workshops and debates as well as   providing local journalists with access to the Internet and through that to various networking   activities. Part of the support will also be utilized for the Press Housesí expenditures for rent, small   renovations and newspapers subscriptions.
The two Press Houses offer a forum for media professionals to gather together, analyze, comment and discuss various current topics and events in the country and in the region.  UNESCO opened the Press House in Kigali in 1996 and in Bujumbura in 1997. From the beginning, the main purpose was to encourage regular contacts between journalists and   provide a place where free discussion could take place. The houses have been offering local  journalists access to Internet and a possibility to all kind of exchange of information. Often in  conflict and post conflict areas where the possibilities of travelling are most restrictive, ICTs  open a window to the world. Over the years, the Press Houses have grown into important  meeting and working places, where journalists have access to series of facilities necessary to practice their profession.

Journalists based in the war-torn nations of Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda can take part in a series of "peace reporting" courses run by Swiss media organizations. In November 2004, the first group of four journalists flew to Switzerland for a technical short course on techniques for responsible reporting on reconciliation and peace negotiation. Swiss-based InfoSud News is underwriting the training, in collaboration with Syfia International and the Swiss Development Agency. The training is designed to help develop a more reflective, better-researched, more contextual approach to political reporting in central Africa. The initiative also seeks to network journalists across the region, encouraging them to share resources, information and insight.
In the annual worldwide index of press freedom published by Reporters Without Borders in October 2004, Rwanda was listed as no. 113 of 167 countries surveyed.

Movie "Hotel Rwanda" features hate radio station RTLM

Don Cheadle stars in "Hotel Rwanda", the true-life story of Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager who housed over a thousand Tutsi refugees during their struggle against the Hutu militia in Rwanda. One of the aims of the movie is to establish the degree to which the extremist Hutu radio station RTLM fomented the genocide by spewing nonstop hate and venom against the Tutsis. The film, nominated for three Golden Globes, is rated PG-13 in the US.
The Official Website for Hotel Rwanda is at which includes
 a direct link to the Rwanda page of the Radio Netherlands in our dossier Counteracting Hate Radio. Click on 'facts' and then 'Rwandan Radio Announcements'. The owners  of were pleased because in response to this measure the special interest pages suddenly started getting an average of several hundred page views each day

Former 'godfather' of Hate Radio wants more time to file appeal

One of the founders of the extremist radio station Radio-Télévision Libre des Mille Collines (RTLM) has requested more time to prepare his case which is now pending in the appeals chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Jean Bosco Barayagwiza, 55, was a member of the steering committee of the RTLM station, which incited the 1994 genocide of Tutsi and the massacres of Hutu members of the opposition.
On December 3, 2003, he was sentenced to 35 years in prison in a trial that lasted slightly over three years. He boycotted the entire proceedings in protest over what he termed "partiality" of the judges. He even refused to recognise lawyers assigned to defend him. When Barayagwiza was convicted, he decided to appeal. He said that he had only boycotted his trial session because he did not trust judges in the lower chamber.
During a status conference held on Friday, Barayagwiza requested more time to prepare his appeal arguing that his case was "complicated". He had been given three and a half months to file his pre-appeal briefs but he considered the time given to be too short and wanted it to be pushed to 12 months. "I find myself in a very unusual position. I do not have to be limited or be discriminated against. My co-accused were given more time."
Barayagwiza was jointly accused with the other partner in RTLM, Ferdinand Nahimana and Hassan Ngeze, former editor of the radical anti-Tutsi newspaper, Kangura. He blames the Registrar for dragging his feet in appointing a new defence counsel. Mr. Donald Herbert was assigned to Barayagwiza November 30, 2004.
"I am the one prejudiced and you expect me to pay for the Registrar's delay?" the accused asked Judge Ines de Roca from Argentina who was chairing the hearing via video link from The Hague. Judge Roca informed Barayagwiza that the interests of his co-accused should be taken into account as well as they had requested for a hearing without delay. The Argentinean judge advised the accused that if he was not satisfied with the arrangements, he could appeal to the complete five-person chamber and not a sole judge. (Source: Hirondelle News Agency via Radio Netherlands Media Network)

Former hate radio station now a tourist attraction in Rwanda

The latest edition of Newsweek says that "cities on the rebound from genocide, war and destruction are not afraid of using their brutal legacies to help lure tourists." In the case of Rwanda, the article says that "the warts-and-all strategy appears to be working." It reveals that "the official Kigali City Tour, run by the Rwandan government, features a visit to the Radio Milles Collines, a Hutu-owned "hate radio" station that broadcast bile against Tutsis."

Read the full article: Back from the Brink

National University of Rwanda to launch radio station
The first university / community radio station in Rwanda was officially inaugurated on 18 November 2005 in the Southern town of Butare, where the National University of Rwanda (NUR) is located. The Director, Martin Semukanya, says the radio project is an initiative of the students of the School of Journalism and Communication, who forwarded the proposal to the university administration for consideration. "Students of journalism developed the idea believing that it would develop their skills in the media industry," Semukanya added, and said, "the radio station will act as a link between various services activities at the university, the local community and other parts of the country. The station will be called 'Radio Salus', a name derived from the university motto Salus Populi that means 'The Light and Salvation of People.
Radio Salus broadcasts 16 hours a day primarily in the KinyaRwandan language and has the potential to reach some two third of the Rwanda population. It was created by NUR under a UNESCO project funded by the European Commission. The frequency is 97.0 FM.
A variety of news, educational and entertainment programming is produced by a team of four professional journalists headed by Martin Semukanya, in cooperation with lecturers and students from the school of journalism and from other NURís faculties, in addition to input from other rural, urban, and student communities.
The station is overseen by a Council of Advisers chaired by NURís Rector and composed of three other members from the academic Senate including the dean of the School of Journalism and Communication, two representatives from studentsí associations, one representative from the ministry of information and three members representing both the local, urban, and rural communities.
Since 2004, ten years after the genocide, when the government opened the air waves to private radios, five other radio stations have received licenses and started broadcasting in Kigali in the three national languages (Kinya-rwandan, English and French).

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