May 12, 2012
Search for Common Ground opened Studio Ijambo in 1995, a year after the genocide in neighbouring Rwanda. For years Burundi media had helped fan the flames of hatred between Hutus and Tutsis. By 1995 more than 200,000 Burundians had been killed in the conflict and it seemed that the country was following Rwanda’s lead in destruction.
The transformation in Burundi was painful and slow, beginning in a small studio known as Ijambo, meaning “wise words” in Kirundi. “Studio Ijambo would become a place where Hutu and Tutsi journalists, writers, producers and broadcasters would together create programs to dispel the rumors, stereotypes, and hate messages that had permeated the Burundian public sphere.
While most media reported atrocities committed by the “other” side, Ijambo journalists covered them all. Teams, one Tutsi and one Hutu journalist, ventured together into conflict zones, refugee camps, and devastated lives, seeking to make sense of events and share their knowledge with their fellow Burundians.
By 1999, Francis Rolt (who used to work for Radio Netherlands) was the manager of Studio Ijambo. We made this portrait of the challenges for media in this country with his help. The programme also had other news in brief, including a tribute to the founder of Sweden Calling DXers, Arne Skoog.