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Program 9837
September 15, 1998


Hakki Atun, Turkish Cypriot leader

Makj (Mikey) Basdermadjian, Greek Cypriot

Joseph S. Joseph, Creek Cypriot professor

Vehbi Mehmet, Turkish Cypriot construction worker

Waldemar Rokoszewski, spokesman for the UN force in Cyprus

Chistos Stylianides, Greek Cypriot government spokesman

Nakis Yiorgallis

Various citizens of Bujumbura, Burundi

This text has been professionally transcribed. However, for timely distribution, it has not been edited or proofread against the tape.


JEFF MARTIN: This is Common Ground, a program on world affairs and the people who shape events.

[Greek music begins to play]

MARTIN: In this edition of Common Ground, we go to Cyprus, where for nearly 25 years UN peace keepers have patrolled the divide between Greek and Turkish Cypriots, but where little progress has been made on the underlying differences between the communities

MALE VOICE: He is forced to be nice. He is forced to be good. He wants a solution. He is a Greek Cypriot. Cyprus is a Greek Cypriot island.

MARTIN: And then later to Bujumbura, Burundi, where some courageous radio journalists are trying to do fair and accurate reporting intended to counter this kind of hate radio:

HUTU RADIO ANNOUNCER: [via a translator] We have always said that the vampires of Bikamagu only know how to attack pregnant women, children and old people. This is also what they did at Butarela, where they surprised the innocent population and began to massacre them.

MARTIN: Common Ground is produced by Stanley Foundation. I’m Jeff Martin.

Since 1974 Cyprus has been partitioned into Turkish and Greek Cypriot areas. An ongoing source of tension in the Mediterranean. Earlier this year the Greek Cypriot government bought Russian-made S300 anti-aircraft missiles. The United States and other Western powers worry that the actual delivery of the missiles will seriously destabilize the region and possibly lead to military confrontation between Cyprus, Turkey, and Greece. Reese Ehrlich reports from Nicosia about the latest crisis and overall efforts to solve the Cyprus problem.

[sound of marital music in the background]

REESE EHRLICH: Turkish Cypriot soldiers solemnly march in a military parade, the band plays martial music as fighter jets zoom overhead. [sound of low-flying aircraft while someone is speaking to a large crowd] The show of military strength reflects the growing tension on this island divided into a Turkish Cypriot north and Greek Cypriot south. When the Greek Cypriot government ordered the Russian-made S300 missiles Turkey and Turkish Cypriots strongly objected. Hakki Atun is President of the Turkish Cypriot Legislative Assembly on the north of the island.

HAKKI ATUN: The Turkish government, right from the beginning, has declared that it will take countermeasures. And it won’t allow the deployment of these S300 missiles. In case they are deployed it is true that we may have a rising tension and maybe even a military action.

EHRLICH: If the Greek Cypriot government deploys the S300’s Turkey could attack the missile emplacements, possibly leading to military retaliation by Greece. Such a conflict could quickly escalate into a regional war. Greek Cypriot government spokesman Chistos Stylianides concedes that such as scenario is possible but defends his government’s right to purchase the missiles for self-defense.

CHISTOS STYLIANIDES: [via a translator] We certainly don’t think that they change the military balance in the area. Despite the fact that we have been aiming for demilitarization for a very long time we see that on the other side not only is there no progress on the resolution of the political problem, no movement in that way, they are continuing to arm and to upgrade their military power on the other side. They’re there at battle positions.

EHRLICH: The Greek Cypriots are under heavy international pressure to cancel the missile order. So the Turkish Cypriots have no motivation to come to the bargaining table at the moment. Joseph S. Joseph, a Greek Cypriot professor of international relations at the University of Cyprus, says his government may have to back down without winning significant concessions from the Turkish Cypriots.

JOSEPH E. JOSEPH: I’m afraid they did not realize that they could get all the kind of not-so-positive reaction from the United States, for example, or European countries. At this point it appears that only Russia and Greece support the S300 deal and I think this kind of international reaction is not something which the government of Cyprus can ignore. But personally I think the S300 are unlikely to arrive in Cyprus.

EHRLICH: No one knows exactly how the missile crisis will be resolved. But even if the Greek Cypriot government postpones or cancels the order, the long-term problem of a divided island remains to be resolved.

[Greek music begins to play]

EHRLICH: In 1974 the right-wing military government of Greece sponsored a coup in Cyprus. Turkey invaded the island saying it was protecting ethnic Turks. Nationalists on both sides engaged in ethnic cleansing, resulting in a partition of Cyprus. Turkish Cypriots established a separate area on about one-third of the island in the north, while Greek Cypriots maintained control of the official government in the south. For the past 24 years the UN has patrolled a buffer zone between the two sides. Turkish Cypriots say that before 1974 they suffered from discrimination and periodic massacres by Greek nationalists. Asked if he is better off today, this Turkish Cypriot man living in the north says:


EHRLICH: Why? In what ways?

TURKISH CYPRIOT MALE: They got the freedom. They got the freedom. Before the war we couldn’t go anywhere, even women, children, when they get ill or sick, we couldn’t go straight to a, just jump in the car and take them in the hospital. Even if we go to hospital they wasn’t looking after for us. You know what I mean? So now we are free. The best thing.

EHRLICH: Would you want to see the, Cyprus reunited again?

TURKISH CYPRIOT MALE: I don’t think so.


TURKISH CYPRIOT MALE: We are free like this.

[sound of conversation in background]

EHRLICH: Greek Cypriots have just as many horror stories to tell. Mikj Basdermadjian walks over to the stone wall that serves as the Green Line in this part of Nicosia. She points to some houses 100 yard away in the Turkish Cypriot zone.

MAKJ BASDERMADJIAN: The Greek house, they are the Greek house. All these line is my house.

GREEK CYPRIOT MALE: And she cannot go, she is coming over here every weekend and she is, saw her houses were there. Over there they are living, soldiers.

BASDERMADJIAN: The green in ?? and the green in the middle, they are soldiers. t


BAZARMADJIAN: The Turkish soldiers.

EHRLICH: Mrs. Bazarmadjian has not been able to visit her house for 35 years.

[Greek music begins playing]

EHRLICH: Since the 1974 war the two communities have lived in two separate zones with a notable exception.

[sound of men playing a board game]

EHRLICH: Pyla is the only village left in Cyprus where ethnic Greek and Turkish communities still live side-by-side—inside the buffer zone, protected by UN troops. Balding men with thick mustaches sit rolling tiny dice on a backgammon board here in a Turkish Cypriot café. Across the village men Greek Cypriot men sip beer and watch another equally intense backgammon game. Before 1974 a majority of both communities in Pyla voted for the ethnic Greek and Turkish Communist Parties and that common political identity helped them live together peacefully. Turkish Cypriot construction worker Vehbi Mehmet says the two communities co-exist today because the residents all grew up together.

VEHBI MEHMET: I live, I live here with Turk and Greek.

EHRLICH: If the United Nations left would you stay here?

MEHMET: Yes, yes, of course. Because I said to you, we are, my neighbor is Greek. Greek, we learn together in this village. And I think no problem.

[sound of car traffic]

EHRLICH: On this sultry evening crickets chirp and all seems peaceful. At one end of the central square Nakis Yiorgallis sits sipping beer in a Greek Cypriot café. While he gets along with his Turkish Cypriot neighbors he’s not real happy about the process.

NAKIS YIORGALLIS: [via a translator] He is forced to be nice. He is forced to be good. He wants a solution. He is a Greek Cypriot. Cyprus is a Greek Cypriot island.

EHRLICH: And there’s the crux of the problem. Greek Cypriots constitute about 80% of the population so many see this as a Greek Cypriot island. Turkish Cypriots say that concept ignores their history and contributions. They say they have been treated as second class citizens and need their own territory to protect their rights. That gap in attitudes prevails even here in Pyla. The two communities exist side-by-side but they live separately. Greek and Turkish Cypriots shop at their own stores, send their children to separate schools, and they don’t intermarry. Waldemar Rokoszewski, spokesman for the UN force in Cyprus, says left on their own, Pyla residents could get along fine. But they are buffeted by nationalist sentiments from both sides of the Green Line.

WALDEMAR ROKOSZEWSKI: In fact there are long periods of quiet domestic life in Pyla Village. I think both communities in Pyla and the United Nations would like to see Pyla as a kind of laboratory of peace. Regretfully Pyla Village is also a perfect sparring rink for certain political forces which bring some unnecessary developments within the village.

EHRLICH: Each community interprets the Pyla experiences differently. The Greek Cypriot government says Pyla shows the two sides, even under difficult circumstances, can live together. That argument bolsters the Greek Cypriot plan for a federal system for the entire island. University of Cyprus Professor Joseph Joseph explains:

JOSEPH: The two communities will have their separate, their own regions or zones or states, the meaning that states have in the United States. Not independent states. But separate regions, zones, in which to some degree the two communities will have some kind of autonomy when it comes to taking care of their ethnic, cultural affairs—religious matters, so on and so forth.

EHRLICH: Turkish Cypriot leader Hakki Atun on the other hand, argues that the experience in Pyla Village shows a federal system is insufficient to protect his community’s rights.

ATUN: A federal solution in the sense that they understand—and they have understood for the past 34 years—is not on the table any more. So a two-state system, a two-state structure, is, can be on the table. And can be a starter.

EHRLICH: While calling for a two-state solution, Atun remains intriguingly ambiguous what a sovereign state means. He says, for example, that the two sovereign states could have a loose central government.

ATUN: All we are asking: two equal states in a structure, but each having their own sovereign rights to run their states with a central, loose central government, with one membership to the United Nations. This is what we mean actually. I think it is our destiny that we should live on this island. Where should we go? We have to live on this island. But the conditions of living is now, from 1974 onwards, on two separate zones.

EHRLICH: In theory an agreement could be reached for the two communities to live in their own zones with guaranteed protections for one another’s rights. But in reality they remain far apart about the nature of a central government and how much power it would have.

[sound of martial music]

EHRLICH: This military band is playing while tanks rumble down the streets in the Turkish Cypriot zone, a reminder that both sides remain militarily prepared to fight the other. Greek Cyprus maintains an economic boycott of the north; Turkish Cyprus has turned to greater economic integration with Turkey. So while the general framework for settling the Cyprus problem exists, no one expects is to be resolved any time soon. For Common Ground, I’m Reese Ehrlich in Nicosia, Cyprus.

MARTIN: We’ll break for a moment and when we return, a report from Burundi, where some courageous journalists are challenging the prevailing atmosphere of ethnic hatred, trying to report the truth.


Anyes Nindorarab: There is a lot of risk. Like going into the interior on roads without security. This is a risk we understand because we have to go and find out what happened. We have to discover the truth.

MARTIN: Printed transcripts of Common Ground and audio cassettes of this program are available. Listen at the end of the broadcast for details on ordering. Common Ground is a service of the Stanley Foundation, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that conducts varied programs and activities meant to provoke thought and encourage dialogue on world affairs.

In 1994 between 800,000 and 1,000,000 persons were slaughtered in Rwanda in a round of some of the most savage ethnic violence seen in this decade. The rival groups are Hutu’s and Tutsi’s. Those groups also make up the bulk of the population in neighboring Burundi. Tensions between Hutu’s and Tutsi’s remain high in both countries, fueled in part by extremist leaders who use many tools, including official radio, to keep their populations in a state of fear, anger and hatred. But in Bujumbura, Burundi, a group of radio journalists are swimming against this tide trying against the odds trying to report the truth. The following report on their efforts was prepared by Search for Common Ground, a nonprofit organization which seeks to build bridges between people in areas where they are in conflict. They work in many parts of Africa and this report was prepared for broadcast on English-language stations across that continent.

KOMOTSO MATSUYANE: The world over people have mixed feelings about the media. Some see radio, television and newspapers as a vital part of democracy. Others see them as tools to manipulate and control people. The reality is that the media is only as good or bad as those who work on it: the reporters, as well as those who own and control it. The media has been used both ways in Burundi and Rwanda. In those two countries so-called “hate radio” was used to stoke up ancient enmity between people.

HUTU RADIO ANNOUNCER: [via a translator] We have always said that the vampires of Bikamagu only know how to attack pregnant women, children and old people. This is also what they did at Butarela, where they surprised the innocent population and began to massacre them. Here too, they left only desolation behind them. Also, in the case of the extermination of Hutu intellectuals and democrats in every province, the Tutsi natives of Karuzi, working here in Bujumbura, had a meeting to finalize their macabre program.

MATSUYANE: That was broadcast early one morning in April 1996 in the Great Lakes region. The station, the Radio Voice of Democracy, became internationally notorious for its role in promoting genocide in the conflict between Tutsi’s and Hutu’s. Run by Hutu’s, its broadcast has demonized the Tutsi military in Burundi, waging war with words, and it helped to create an atmosphere of distrust and fear in which killing seemed the only solution.

[sound of male radio announcer accompanied by upbeat music]

MATSUYANE: Studio Ijambo, founded in 1995, has very different objectives. It aims to bring former enemies together as part of the long process of establishing peace. It’s not a radio station itself, but rather a studio which supplies programs to radio stations broadcasting in the area. In English Ijambo means “wise words.” Its news, public affairs and cultural program seek to bring together people who are at war with one another.

[sound of male radio announcer accompanied by upbeat music, followed by a female radio announcer accompanied by upbeat music]

MATSUYANE: Anyes Nindorarab presents a weekly current affairs program on Studio Ijambo. She and her fellow journalists, who talk to both sides in a highly charged situation, put themselves in great danger. Studio Ijambo journalists Panfiel Zambize was killed in June 1995 on his way to work. Anyes understands only too well that she and her colleagues run.

Anyes Nindorarab: [via a translator] There is a lot of risk. Like going into the interior on roads without security. This is a risk we understand because we have to go and find out what happened. We have to discover the truth. The Tutsi population thinks that a Tutsi journalist should assimilate into the population and not speak. They forget that I am not a member of an ethnic group when I work as a journalist. They forget that I shouldn’t pay attention to political opinions of my ethnic group when I do my work and that I am determined to do my work. Because as an independent journalist my credibility depends on the manner in which I treat the information and the manner in which I broadcast this information objectively.

MATSUYANE: Anyes is 33 years old. And 79 members of her family have died in the civil war.

Nindorarab: [via a translator] As a Burundian I am also a victim of the crisis. My parents were killed and the survivors of my family are displaced. And I’ve had to leave the countryside.

MATSUYANE: Despite these tragedies, committed in the name of tribalism, she chooses to do her job and live her life in defiance of those seeking revenge.

Nindorarab: [via a translator] Hutu and Tutsi here together in the studio work very well, but I prefer that we recognize each member of the editorial staff as a journalist. I am not pleased, the tag Hutu or Tutsi. That has nothing to do with the work we do. But, on the other hand, when I look back and analyze the problems we’ve had getting access to information as either a Hutu or a Tutsi journalist, it is an advantage that we are a mixed team. Because for example a Hutu journalist is able to go where a Tutsi may not.

MATSUYANE: Anyes is one of the few journalists in the region who has the courage to continue investigating human rights atrocities.

Nindorarab: [via a translator] As an independent journalist I do not subject my work to anyone else’s control. And it’s there that frequently after a broadcast there are consequences. Many times I receive threats, indirectly by telephone from my neighbors who say I should quiet down. I live in a military regime that uses the means necessary to clamp down on things that don’t please them and anyone who denounces certain things.

MATSUYANE: One of Anyes’s colleagues is journalist Adrian Sendayaga. He is one of the very few Hutu students who survived a massacre in 1995 when fellow Tutsi students killed 22 classmates in a bathroom at the university. Of the survivors, he was the only one who dared come forward to accept his diploma in public.

ADRIAN SENDAYAGA: [speaking in English] I saw so many friends dying. Because of this crazy violence. Journalism is a good profession because it makes a sort of link between the leaders and other people—I mean the governed people. So as a journalist you have to make a sort of go-between. And if you do it you are aware of serving your nation.

[sound of African vocal music]

MATSUYANE: Working as a go-between is all in a day’s work for Adrian. On the streets of Kamenge, a town destroyed by fighting between Hutu rebels and the Tutsi-dominated Burundi Army in 1995, Adrian interviews a resident who had fled by now has returned. The program he is preparing aims to get listeners to think of practical ways to bring peace to the towns and villages of Burundi.

SENDAYAGA: [speaking in French, translated into English] What could be done so that the different ethnic groups can all go back to their homes?

MALE AFRICAN VOICE: Efforts have to continue to bring people together and to reinforce reconciliation. It is possible. That is what I think.

MATSUYANE: Through what became known as “hate radio,” words were turned into bullets and machetes. Studio Ijambo’s work is to turn those bullets and machetes back into words. They aim to restore debate between enemies who have fought so hard that dialogue is virtually impossible. One of the major achievements of the studio was to host a meeting between the political leader of Uprona, the party associated with Tutsi’s, and the acting head of Fodebo, the party associated with Hutu’s. The two are almost never willing to be seen in public together, let alone talk. But because the studio is seen to be impartial they were willing to meet there. This is an extract from the program.

MALE VOICE: [via a translator] The people must again find their trust and as a consequence from that point find the guilty parties responsible. And they should ask to be pardoned.

MALE VOICE: Do you have a question or a solution to conclude, Charles Naquissie.

MALE VOICE: [via a translator] You aren’t going to ask a criminal that he pardon himself. Genocidal killers don’t do this. Tribalists don’t do this. Genocidal killers must be tracked down throughout the world. It is true the fight against immunity from justice that will help build peace. That this injustice will not be imposed on the next generation.

MATSUYANE: Around the table in the studio, the two leaders, Charles Naquissie, and Frederick Bombougyanvera, found they did have something in common, however small: the desire to track down those responsible for the genocide. This was a small step, but at the same time a giant leap forward. Afterwards, they and another studio guest, Terrence Nyanmana chatted informally about the interview.

MALE VOICE: [via a translator] We discuss, we give viewpoints; at least we are not shooting at one another. We tried to convince each other. It’s already a good thing. My feeling is that the people here discuss while we ask our militants to go out and kill. This is irresponsible. And we have to stop.

MALE VOICE: [via a translator] That is a beautiful admission. I find it fantastic. If we could recognize it publicly every day, it would already be the beginning of the end of the war.

MALE VOICE: [via a translator] I think what we need in the country is to multiply the discussions so that the militants and the people understand the different positions. The leaders must understand that the people……..

MATSUYANE: There’s a saying that talk is cheap. Perhaps talk is only cheap when life is cheap. Restoring the value of dialogue, Studio Ijambo is helping to create a climate in which civil society and the value of life can be re-established in the aftermath of genocide.

SENDAYAGA: It’s now or never. For politicians to sit together and talk frankly so as to try to find out the solution to these problems which are destroying the country. Because, you know, when we sweat in discussing it’s not so difficult to get peace.

[sound of upbeat African music]

MARTIN: That report is part of “Africa’s Search for Common Ground,” a 13-part radio series on conflict and its resolution across Africa. It was produced by Common Ground productions of Washington, DC, and Ubuntu TV and Film of Cape Town, South Africa.

Our theme music was created by B.J. Leiderman. Common Ground was produced and funded by the Stanley Foundation.

Copyright © Stanley Center for Peace and Security