Democratic Republic of the Congo: Committed to community radio (Syfia)

    | August 22, 2011

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    At first glance, there is no evidence of a radio station inside the colonial style building. Perhaps the two antennas on the roof and solar panels that provide electricity offer a clue. Inside, the entrance leads to an isolated room. The room looks more like a repair shop than a broadcast booth. There are two microphones on a round table. Converters, cables, and speakers are piled all around. Kasoki Tembo is busy preparing tonight’s program. The sound of a baby crying indicates that this is a family affair.   

    Mr. Tembo is the founder of Kalembera radio. It’s a small radio station in Masisi, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. The station has a range of about 40 square kilometres.

    Mr. Tembo is in his fifties, with graying hair and a white beard. He is married with 15 children. And he is considered a pioneer of radio in the east of DR Congo. After taking several courses in communication, he began his radio adventure in 1986. He helped set up the first stations in North Kivu. For example, he contributed to the establishment of radio Star Goma, which was replaced by the National Radio Television of Congo (TRNC).

    Now Mr. Tembo is technician, trainer, and journalist for Kalembera radio. The station operates with basic equipment in these times of digital broadcasting. But Mr. Tembo defends his station with passion. The most important thing for him is that the inhabitants of Masisi have the right to information and entertainment.

    With few resources, but helped by his family, he brings information to people who have little access to media. A listener says, “Before installing this radio, we could hear foreign radio stations broadcasting on shortwave. But there was little information that was relevant for us. With Papa Tembo, we are informed about what is happening closer to home.”

    However, some listeners complain about the way the radio is managed. One says, “I am a faithful listener of FM Kalembera, but I think the station is very poorly managed. With the father as director and journalist, the wife as technician and presenter, and children in various functions, it’s hardly professional.”

    Mr. Tembo cites lack of resources to hire professionals. He emphasizes, “The most important thing for me is that people are well informed. But I cannot commit to take financial risks by hiring staff that I could not pay.” Despite these difficulties, Mr. Tembo is working hard to continue his radio adventure and communicate with his community.