People for Peace: Likiso Irene Lasu Silwa, from fleeing war to building peace, one show at a time

May 23, 2022

More than one million peacekeepers have served for peace under the UN flag, but they are not alone in the pursuit of peace. Peacekeeping is powered by strong and diverse partnerships. In this new series, we bring you the voices of peacekeepers and partners across the world, to mark the International Day of Peacekeepers, 29 May.

Written by: Filip Andersson and Gaëlle Sundelin / Edited by : Urjasi Rudra

Likiso Irene Lasu Silwa has very few memories of her early childhood. She was only a few months old when her mother fled the violence in her native city of Yei, with Likiso and her sisters, during the Second Sudanese Civil War, when the country was still unified. They sought shelter and safety in a refugee camp in neighbouring Uganda. Likiso finally returned in 2015 to find that Yei was now part of a new country, South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation. Today, Likiso, better known as Irene to her listeners, is 31, and a host on Radio Miraya, the radio station supported by the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS). One of the most listened to radios in South Sudan, Miraya partners with community leaders and the people of South Sudan in the pursuit of offering reliable news to the entire country and engage in peace efforts.

Photo: Likiso Irene Lasu Silwa in the radio Miraya studio, South Sudan, in May 2022. (UN Photo/UNMISS)

“Radio was the only source of information and entertainment that kept my family going in the refugee camp. My mother would listen to the radio to keep up with what was happening back home. It was the only way we could access information.

It is this experience, growing up listening to the radio in the camp, that made me want to become a mouthpiece for my community. And here we are today. Just like the radio in camp was our only source of information, Miraya is the only nationwide radio, with correspondents over the country’s 10 states. That means a lot of people rely on us for accurate information.

Amidst rising violence and insecurity, communities rely on radio for news and stories of hope

The nature of the stories that come in here is marred in brutality, from rape to killings. Recently one such story sent the nation into shock, me included. It was one of a child raped, murdered and whose body was found discarded in a pit latrine. If that is not difficult to report, then I don’t know what is.

Once in a while though, there are stories that give hope, like this young man who decided to return home from the refugee camp he was living in to help homeless women. He started building decent housing for them using discarded mineral water bottles. At the time of my interview with him, he had already managed to take 10 women and their children off the streets.

In South Sudan, community radios have proven to be an effective tool to provide access to information for marginalized groups and hard-to-reach communities. Radio offers South Sudanese women and youth the opportunity to be informed about and participate in community affairs and issues. This, in turn, helps hold local leaders accountable.

But our situation is fragile, and we are worried about the growing threat of mis- and disinformation that risks exacerbating the communal (tensions) in the country. Radio Miraya looks for sources, mostly community leaders who are trusted and authoritative voices, and features them in different programmes to debunk misleading information and call for calm.

Message from Irene on the International Day of UN Peacekeepers

On this International Day of Peacekeepers, let’s shine a light on the unsung heroes who have laid down their lives in lands far from their own in the service of peace. I would like to specifically recognize the efforts of those serving with UNMISS and appreciate all efforts geared towards walking with South Sudan in this pursuit of peace.”

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Related Links:

More #PKDay information: https://peacekeeping.un.org/en/international-day-of-peacekeepers-2022

Join our campaign: https://twitter.com/UNPeacekeeping https://www.facebook.com/unpeacekeeping https://www.instagram.com/unpeacekeeping/

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