EAST AFRICAN REPORT

BY CHRIS GREENWAY

ARTICLE FROM COMMUNICATION - EDITION 166 -  SEPTEMBER 1988

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CLANDESTINE BROADCASTING UPDATE

 

There have been several changes to the clandestine radio scene in east Africa since my last articles on this subject appeared in “Communication” (May and September 1987). The two major developments causing these changes have been an upsurge in the activities of groups opposed to the present government in Ethiopia and an improvement in that country’s relations with Somalia.

 

The Eritrean People’s Liberation Front (EPLF) is the largest and most active of several organisations which have been fighting against the Ethiopian government since the early 1960’s. These groups wish to restore to Eritrea (a region of northern Ethiopia) the autonomy it enjoyed in the period after the Second World War. In March 1988 the EPLF launched a massive military offensive in Eritrea. This offensive attracted considerable attention abroad and the EPLF’s radio station, “Voice of the Broad Masses of Eritrea” (VOBME), played a major role in publicising the Front’s victories which, it was claimed, included the death, injury and capture of tens of thousands of government troops.

 

In the neighbouring region of Tigre, the Tigre People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) used the preoccupation of government forces with the EPLF to intensify their own campaign of guerrilla warfare. The TPLF and EPLF also took the opportunity of the improvement in their fortunes to re-establish co-operation between themselves, co-operation which had broken down a few years ago over ideological differences. Following this renewal of bilateral relations, both VOBME and the TPLF’s own station, “Voice of the Tigre Revolution” (VOTR), began to give publicity not only to their own activities but also to each others’ and to those of other rebel groups opposed to the Ethiopian government. VOTR itself has been heard again after a period of inactivity. Some years ago both stations shared the same transmitters; now the VOTR seems to have acquired its own facilities. Both VOBME and VOTR claim to broadcast from “liberated areas” of Eritrea and Tigre respectively and I, for one, think those claims are genuine, given that it is known that much of the two regions is in rebel hands.

 

Meanwhile, other opposition stations continue to broadcast their message from outside Ethiopia or, to be more precise, Sudan. In the past Somalia has also acted as a base for anti-Ethiopian radio activities. However, in April 1988 Somalia and Ethiopia reached an agreement providing for the normalisation of diplomatic relations, the exchange of POW’s captured in the 1977-78 war between the two countries and the cessation of hostile propaganda activities. Within a few days of this agreement two stations had closed down: “Radio Halgan“ (which broadcast from Addis Ababa in support of two Ethiopian-backed Somali opposition groups) and “Voice of the Western Somali and Somali Abo Liberation Fronts” (which broadcasts from Mogadishu to the ethnic Somali population in the Ogaden desert region of eastern Ethiopia, or “western Somalia” as they referred to it).

 

Although the Somali-Ethiopian “radio war” has come to an end, that between Ethiopia and Sudan continues, despite peace talks between the two governments. In fact, the propaganda battle has intensified and there are now three clandestine or semi-clandestine stations operating from Sudan, almost certainly from the same site. Two are aimed at Ethiopia: “Radio Voice of Ethiopian Unity” (RVEU - which supports a US-backed opposition group) and “Voice of Oromo Liberation” (VOL - the Oromos are a large ethnic group who live mainly in southern Ethiopia). The third station is “National Unity Radio” (NUR), which started life in 1986 as a “black” operation designed to counteract the propaganda of the rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA). However, since October 1987 NUR has adopted a more “official” line. Suspicions that all these three stations are using the same transmitting facilities in Sudan were heightened when they all went off the air at the same time when Sudan was hit by the recent disastrous floods.

 

Meanwhile, “Radio SPLA” continues to broadcast from Addis Ababa, and in recent programmes has been criticising the Sudanese government’s handling of the disaster.

 

Schedules (all subject to frequent variation):

 

VOBME:   0400-0700, 0900-1100, 1400-1700 on 14330 & 7485 (both highly variable).

VOTR:    0400-0500, 1500-1630, 1900-2030 on 9343, 9311 & 7830.

RVEU:      1800-2000, try 11180, 9665, 9660, 9655, 9430, 9425, 7200, 7100 (1 or 2 freqs used).

VOL:         1530-1600 on 9550.

NUR:       1400-1500 on 11710, 9550, 9435, 7100 (1 or 2 freqs used)

SPLA:       1100-1200, 1300-1400 (including English) on 11710 & 9550.

 

Reception of all these stations in theoretically possible in the UK. Happy hunting! Chris

 

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Updated: 6 Nov 2001