The Catholic Radio Network, with its nine radio stations, reaches out to the people of South Sudan and of the Nuba Mountains as a means of communication and information that builds peace and reconciliation.
The Catholic Radio Network (CRN) is a vocal means of communication in the youngest nation of the world, the Republic of South Sudan.
The project started in 2006 as Sudan Catholic Radio Network (SCRN), masterminded by the Comboni Family (Comboni Sisters and Comboni Missionaries). The Comboni Family provided personnel and funds for the network’s central office, and personnel in those dioceses where they were lacking, in order to launch the project and then progressively hand it over to the local Church.
In 2004, the radio network was being planned whilst the Sudan civil war ravaged. On 9 January 2005 the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, and the initial radio project was revised. A feasibility study, conducted in 2006, showed that there was no common language in Southern Sudan.
The 85 percent illiteracy rate and the evident fragmentation of languages prompted the replacement of the only AM station with a network of community-based FM stations, one in each diocese. The Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference requested the frequencies and licenses for the FM radio stations; only the autonomous Governments of Southern Sudan and of Southern Kordofan granted them.
Every diocese named its own radio in consultation with the native population, and each radio produces culturally sensitive local programmes in indigenous languages. However, to avoid consolidating Southern Sudan’s existing fragmentation and to promote “unity in diversity,” the radio network develops common programmes across all stations: “We wish to cultivate the sense of belonging to a nation, beyond tribal affiliations” – says the project coordinator.
The vision of the Sudan Catholic Radio Network, renamed Catholic Radio Network after South Sudan’s independence, is a reconciled society, built on human and spiritual values, rooted in justice and honesty. The network does not side with any political party; rather it helps the listeners form a mature civic conscience.
Its mission is to reach out to people by means of communication and information promoting peace through reconciliation. It also aims to contribute to spiritual welfare spreading good information and providing civic education, paying special attention to vulnerable groups. Since 9 July 2011, the mission has focused on the Republic of South Sudan and the Nuba Mountains, fostering integral human development, respect for human rights, and promoting the peaceful coexistence of the different ethnic groups.
The dioceses participated actively in developing the project, and each diocesan representative was involved in elaborating the policies and programmes of the network, which has been a vital support system for the past six years. At present, CRN radios broadcast in 18 different languages, and are a privileged means to reach out to the rural population and the illiterate. One can implement national campaigns with a localised character and can thus be more effective. In February 2013, CRN was the South Sudanese national broadcaster with the best outreach outside Juba, and the only media able to mobilise local communities thanks to its diocesan roots.
The network’s central office is located in the Sudan Catholic Bishops’ Conference Secretariat in Juba. It provides administrative and logistic support for all radio stations, and produces daily news and common programmes for civic education and peace building.
The first CRN station was Bakhita Radio, in Juba, established in December 2006. The second was Radio Voice of Peace, in the Nuba Mountains, Southern Kordofan, which has been on air since April 2009. Radio Emmanuel in Torit and Saut-al-Mahabba in Malakal followed suit. Radio Easter, in Yei, and Radio Good News, in Rumbek, began broadcasting in January 2010. Radio Anisa (we are one in the Zande language) in Yambio and Radio Voice of Hope in Wau went on air after South Sudan’s independence. Radio Don Bosco Tonj, in Rumbek Diocese, run by the Salesians of Don Bosco, joined CRN in 2009, when its efforts to go on air alone did not bring fruit. Each bishop appoints the directors of the radio station. Most programmes are locally produced in indigenous languages, paying attention to the cultural values of the different regions, and promoting native music.
An external evaluation, conducted in 2011, revealed that CRN has been quite effective in improving the life of the people in South Sudan and in the Nuba Mountains. In 2010, Radio Voice of Peace in the Nuba Mountains, through health education programmes conducted in local languages, helped reduce infant mortality. Since June 2011, when war broke out again in the area, the radio has sustained the hope of the people. CRN played a very important role in preparing the people for the first democratic elections in Southern Sudan, held in April 2010, and for the historical referendum on self-determination held in January 2011. CRN radios also contributed to prepare the population of Southern Sudan for their independence, marked by a special coverage on 9 July 2011, when the Republic of South Sudan was born. CRN is presently enlightening its audience on the Transitional Constitution of South Sudan 2011, using live programmes in local languages.
CRN News is a joint venture between the central news desk and the local stations, which contribute news items from different parts of South Sudan and translate the English bulletins into local languages. Each station is a forum for discussion on issues affecting the local population, though at times live programs with calls-in can become controversial due to the tensions of a newborn country, where democratic media laws are not yet a reality. The latest estimates indicate that CRN has a combined audience of about seven million people in South Sudan and the Nuba Mountains.