“Come back home,” a radio program famed for helping more than 20,000 people to return from the bush during the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) insurgency in northern Uganda has been revived.
The program that airs on the state owned radio Mega FM in Gulu, contributed immensely to the return of peace in northern Uganda.
The program locally known as ‘Dwog Paco’ has played the important role that the media and its actors play in peace building. Fifty nine-year-old John Oryema Lacambel, the program host explains that the idea of the program was conceived way back in 1987 at the time when the then Uganda People’s Democratic Army-UPDA rebels were battling with the National Resistance Army now UPDF.
Oryema says that through their radio program the Chief Political Commissar of the now defunct UPDA, one Lagang Okwanga, became the first high ranking rebel to surrender to government forces after listening to the radio program.
Oryema popularly known as Lacambel says he together with a colleague, Richard Omona, approached the then Resident District Commissioner of Gulu Louis Otika with a proposal to air the ‘Dwog Paco’ program from a Radio Uganda repeater station in Gulu.
He says the late Otika together with the then Army Spokesman Shaban Bantariza supported their plan which led to the opening up of Radio Freedom later renamed Mega FM to urge the combatants to abandon rebellion and return to their homes.
Lacambel explains that the program hosts invite the victims to the radio where they pass messages of reconciliation while the parents and relatives urge their sons and daughters to come out of the bush and abandon rebellion.
He says other combatants who have given up rebellion also appear on the program to give confidence to those in the bush that life out of the bush is better.
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The program according to Lacambel was liked and hated in equal measure by the rebels. He says the popularity of the program made Joseph Kony, the fugitive leader of the LRA, to propose that the two meet during the 2005 peace talks.
He however says one of the demands made by the rebels during the Juba peace talks was that the program be suspended because it was allegedly causing mass defection among their rank and file. The program was put off air.
But two weeks ago, Invisible Children, the organisation behind the film “Kony 2012”, revived the program and it now airs every Thursday from 10-11pm.
Lacambel argues that reviving the program will enable the children who are still in captivity and other abductees to consider returning home. He says a recording of the program airs on shortwave on the state-owned UBC Radio, where the rebels who are currently in Central African Republic can listen to it.
He also says other recordings of ‘Dwog Paco’ program are aired by Radio Okapi in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Lacambel, who has basic training in journalism, boasts that the program has made him popular to the extent that foreign universities usually invite him to ‘lecture’ on peace journalism.