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A local radio program gives Eritreans a voice

Nazareth Yemane, a cab driver in Halifax, hosts popular CKDU show

4 min read
caption Every Sunday, Yemane sits in the booth to do his video program. He doesn't want to show his face on camera since he feels dangerous.
Sixian Zuo

There is a Halifax local radio program about Eritrea, a small country in the northeast part of Africa in the language of Tigrinya. For voiceless people in Eritrea, this radio program is their window.

Nazareth Yemane is the host and programmer of Voice of Eritrea on CKDU. Every Sunday, from 2 p.m to 5 p.m., he sits in a booth at Dalhousie University, surrounded by radio equipment and CDs.

“Radio is like a big power in the world,” said Yemane in an interview.

Yemane is from Eritrea. He first arrived in Canada in 1984 and has been in Halifax since 1999. During the week he drives a taxi cab.

caption When Nazareth Yemane drives his cab, he thinks about what he’d like to include on the next Voice of Eritrea. He wears sunglasses since he doesn’t want be recognized.
Sixian Zuo

He first started at CKDU in 2000 playing African music. He said people kept asking him where he was from, and he kept having to explain the history, geography and demographics of his home country.

In 2000, he did a special seven-and-a-half-hour long broadcast called Eritrea: A Victim on CKDU. He spoke with seven scholars and professors from United States, Canada and Eritrea, about tensions between Eritrea and its neighbour, Ethiopia.

Now, with his radio program, Yemane invites guests all over the world to phone in and share their experiences. 

“All of them (guests) went through hell, they went through revolution, they were killing machine guns, fighting against enemy to achieve independence in Eritrea for 30 years,” said Yemane. 

Yemane lets his listeners ask, check facts or even argue with guests through his show. These unedited conversations range from personal experiences or opinions to the revolution in Eritrea. Last Sunday, in his show he invited a veteran, Ocbai Tesfay, from Eritrea.

caption Yemane doesn’t want to show his face on camera because he feels in danger because he speaks for Eritrean people.
Sixian Zuo

Even though CKDU is only heard on the radio in the Halifax area, several websites share or broadcast Yemane’s program all over the world.

“At the same time I am talking to U.K., I am talking to America,” said Yemane. He receives calls from listeners in countries including the United States, Italy and China.

Francella Fiallos, the programming and development director for CKDU, said Voice of Eritrea is one of the most popular radio programs on CKDU. She feels it’s important to have diverse voices on the air.

“CKDU’s like a lot of campus community radio stations; we feel we have to give voice and perspective that are not heard from the mainstream,” said Fiallos.

Yemane wants to show his respect to the veterans who were in the war, to tell the truth and to educate the younger generation. “The only radio station in Eritrea speaks as government propaganda,” he said. “I speak for the voiceless Eritreans.”

“The country is under dictatorial government since independence of Eritrea 1993, officially. Now 24 years (later), we don’t have constitution; there is no law in and order, which means when there is no law, there is no justice,” said Yemane. “The government can do anything they want to do.”

He tried to do his radio program in English around 2005, but complaints were made. He realized that he needed to speak his native language to reach the people he wanted to connect with.

“If I want to hurt the system, I have to speak their language,” said Yemane.

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