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Backstory: Congolese radio show gives war victims a voice

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Welcome, dear listeners, to the newest program of the series, Interactive Radio for Justice.... In this program, we receive questions about justice from the population.

This is how the show starts. The words are in French during the first broadcast, Swahili in the second – the better to reach the people of Ituri, the most war-scarred and volatile region of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Almost anyone with a radio can tune in. The show's technicians – after getting caught in Army-militia crossfire twice – finally managed to put up antennas in the region's more remote rain forest areas. So now the signal is strong across Ituri – a good thing, says Wanda Hall, a former International Criminal Court (ICC) employee who started the radio program, because there is no part of this region that does not desperately need justice.

Your questions can concern the way justice is organized, the way it functions, abuses and violations of human rights.

Officially at least, the war in Congo is over. It lasted from 1998 to 2003, during which 4 million people died – from violence as well as war-related hunger and disease. Now, the newly elected Congolese government and a slew of international organizations are working to repair the damage. One of their main focuses is justice: creating new courts and a new army, and working with the ICC to prosecute war crimes.

Ms. Hall, an American who has worked on justice issues in Central Africa for a decade, started Interactive Radio for Justice because she wanted to help people understand what these concepts actually meant, and how they should be impacting life in eastern Congo, a resource-rich but infrastructure-poor region. She teamed up with local radio journalists who travel the region to record people's questions, which they then pose to Congolese and UN officials. The show sounds as if authorities are answering locals directly, as if for a moment, the powerful and voiceless are equal.

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