Since the nineteenth century, eastern Kenya’s Tana River county has often been the scene of violent conflict, largely between two ethnic groups, the dominant Orma, who are nomadic cattle-herders and the Pokomo, who are farmers.   Many of the disputes have been over land use and access to water, however the intensity of these conflicts has increased in recent decades.  This has been fuelled by the easy access of weapons flooding across the nearby border with Somalia, growing poverty, the pressure caused by poorly managed resources and political interference.  Add to that toxic mix, the extremist group Al Shebab, which is trying to destabilise Kenya and Tana River County, is at risk of descending into violent conflict.

Tana River

The tranquil Tana River, Kenya’s largest river, has often been the scene of violent conflict over many decades

Now there’s a new voice in town, promoting peace and community cohesion.  With the help of equipment and training from HCR UK, Tana FM is now on the air broadcasting test messages from the capital Hola.  While they wait for the licensing authority to issue the licence, the community is seeking to demonstrate that it has not only the capability, but the passion to deliver a new message – one of hope and harmony.  The station is already attracting the attention of a number of key stakeholders, who believe it will make a difference.  Former MP and prominent anti-FGM campaigner Jebii Kilimo, believes the station will be a powerful tool for getting the message out to difficult-to-reach communities.

HCR is working with local and international partners to build local capacity and planning to extend the reach of the station, to ensure that coverage gets to the areas at greatest risk, often where  rumours and misinformation fuel tensions.  Shedrack Hiribae, CEO of Kenya Sustainable Health Aid(KESHA), who first had the vision for a radio station, believes this “new voice in town” will  fill a gap in getting reliable and objective information to the community as well as being a voice for the community.  “Tana FM will not only promote peace, it will help development and be a force for positive social change,” he said.

Man with spear

Ancient weapons used in past conflicts are giving way to modern weaponry which come across borders from conflicts in neighbouring states, like Somalia, with devastating effect