Former Ugandan journalist speaks on media activism

By KIRSTEN FENN

Through a career in broadcast media, David Okidi helped end a 20 year conflict between the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and the Ugandan government.

Okidi, who is a journalist, former manager of Mega FM radio in Uganda and Farm Radio International’s first African board member, spoke to students at Carleton University on Nov. 5 about the power of media in peace building.

As conflicts between the Ugandan government and the LRA plagued Gulu for two decades starting in the late 1980s, Okidi started open dialogue amongst citizens and sought communication with rebel soldiers through Mega FM.

The purpose of creating the independent radio station, said Okidi, was to end the violence in northern Uganda.

The presentation he gives to students is really about sharing how media can have a positive impact on human rights conflicts, he said.

“We played a crucial role, publicizing the law that rebels could put down their guns, come back home, and be protected by the law,” he said. “And the rebels actually responded quite well to what we did on the radio.”

Kevin Perkins, Farm Radio International’s executive director, spoke of Okidi as an esteemed broadcaster and manager with years of experience working towards peace through the radio sector.

“Now radio is playing a role in helping to rebuild and redevelop Northern Uganda,” said Perkins.

Radio, as opposed to print, is the most suitable medium to foster communication in Uganda, said Okidi, because there is a large portion of the population who are illiterate.

Audience members were keen to ask questions and engage in Okidi’s radio, participatory journalism, and post-conflict Uganda discussion.

“It was an interesting take on their development on media, rather than our take on it,” said Taylor Gregory, a fourth year communications student at Carleton University.

Okidi said that in times of conflict, rumours become the main source of information, allowing the media to spark communication and get to the truth.

These rumours demonstrated the need for an independent radio station in Gulu, he said.

“I am proud to be the person who started Mega FM, and ran it for ten years,” said Okidi.

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