Countering Violent Extremism in Chad Through Theater

Speeches Shim

Actors on stage
Actors from the Bol theater troupe present their winning sketch on Boko Haram recruitment to a packed auditorium.
Radio sketches depict real-life dramas to raise awareness
“I think the whole audience was terrified, and it made me think about how much terror one person or group can cause.”

February 2016—Radio programs in Chad are harnessing the power of story to counter violent extremism and to help listeners make meaning of their lives and transform their perceptions of the world.

The radio programs, which are supported by USAID’s Peace Through Development II project, employ sketches and mini-dramas to broach sensitive topics, and recently added full-length soap operas to their repertoire. While fictional, the dramas are designed to mirror society and engage listeners with relatable storylines reflecting their own hopes and struggles. The stories also demonstrate strategies to help listeners resolve conflicts and overcome obstacles in their own lives. 

In September 2015, the project held a radio theater contest in N’Djamena, the capital of Chad, hoping to add diverse voices from around the country to the extremism dramas. More than 14 troupes from focus areas in Chad submitted dramas to compete for top honors and cash awards.

The awards ceremony drew more than 200 people and featured live performances of the winning sketches. The winner, the YAL HILLE troupe from Bol, submitted a sketch on Boko Haram’s recruitment of youth. Placing second was the ATAG group from N’Djamena for a drama on violence within schools; and in third place, the Tourea acting troupe from Oum Al Hadjar for their sketch on herder-farmer conflicts.

All sketches were broadcast via partner radio stations to listeners across the country, raising the profile of the winning theater groups and raising awareness of violent extremism issues among local audiences.

For YAL HILLE, the contest was especially meaningful; not only did it mark their first foray into professional competition, but it also marked their first time appearing in the capital city of N’Djamena. Their performance caught the audience’s attention from the start when the lead actor emerged dressed as, and using the gestures of, Abubakar Shekou, the leader of Boko Haram, causing quite a stir in the audience.

“I jumped in my seat and shivers went down my arms when I saw him,” said one spectator. “I think the whole audience was terrified, and it made me think about how much terror one person or group can cause.”

Following performance of their powerful sketch, the troupe received a standing ovation; the audience included Secretary General of the Ministry of Culture Hourmadji Moussa Doumngor. The team also announced that they would use their winnings to purchase video and sound recording equipment to produce audiovisual dramas and further raise awareness in their community.

The Peace through Development II project assists communities in Niger, Chad and Burkina Faso to reduce their risk of instability and increase their resilience to violent extremism. The project, which runs from November 2011 to October 2016, applies a holistic, community-led approach to address socioeconomic, political and cultural drivers of violent extremism. It focuses particularly on addressing the concerns of young men and women, who are at greatest risk of being targeted or recruited by violent extremist organizations.


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