'Together we can' the slogan of our new radio station, just on air as we support World Radio Day.

Good timing has been a key factor as Umoja FM began broadcasting from its studio in Nobili in the Democratic Republic of Congo. 

Local member of the Kinshasa parliament, Albert Baliesima Kadukima, welcomed the team from Feba UK and partners Health Communications Resources (HCR) and local NGO, Esader, as they set up equipment and trained staff for the community radio station.

Albert Baliesima Kadukima with local children in Nobili

As people gathered to view the broadcasters in action, Albert said: "This is a project we have been dreaming about for many years. The people are very happy.

"We have begun our journey to set up Umoja FM that will give the community a voice, and enable them to tackle the issues that are holding the community back. This is community radio, a close-knit partnership between the station, the community, NGOs, local churches and local businesses. Together we believe we can improve the health and wellbeing of the community to bring abundant life. We will work to bring peace and security.”

This is a project we have been dreaming about for many years. The people are very happy.

Radio Umoja FM bringing hope for the future

Conflicts dating back to 1992 in North Kivu have created insecurity; and Albert described how the local population have witnessed killings, slavery and sexual violence. In this forested area of the Congo, mineral rich in diamonds, gold and oil, instability has resulted from years of demands by different interests and exploitation of natural resources.

Albert, who helped to set up Esader, emphasised that these struggles have created misery and the current situation from which the people of Nobili want to emerge. A hard-working, resilient and peace-loving community – while fighting continues 20 miles away – they believe their voices will be clearly heard speaking against conflict and for peace.

Learning to set up equipment during training

'God's timing'

Massive amounts of help and goodwill (as well as hindrances) contribute to a new project. Although our engineers were in place in Nobili with much of the equipment, Ugandan customs had slowed the arrival of the mast from Kenya.

But while our team were in Kampala they met Philip Betts, owner of Esco Uganda Ltd, which has cocoa processing plants across Uganda and DR Congo. Philip is a Fairtrade producer and a Christian, and hugely supportive of what the team were doing. Philip arranged with his maintenance crew to help erect Umoja FM’s antenna on the top of one of his warehouses – fortunate timing as he already had scaffolding in place! His staff assisted in building a secure box for the transmitter and Philip also agreed to supply power to the station from Esco’s generator.

Philip said: "I applaud the initiative of broad-based radio and spiritual issues that will enable this community to transform their lives, their environment and their economy; and after that, to change hearts and what's within.”

I applaud the initiative of broad-based radio and spiritual issues that will enable this community to transform their lives, their environment and their economy

At the launch, the chairman of Umoja FM’s board, local Catholic Abbot Roger, welcomed the station’s arrival, sharing his hopes for its benefits to Nobili. "Radio programmes are amazing - how speech passes so quickly from the mouth to the ears and informs us. Umoja FM will also help us from a health standpoint, because in this place we have many diseases. With radio, the information that goes out will really help our people."

Abbot Roger (right) and Albert Baliesima Kadukima (centre) awarding certificates at the end of training

Anglican Archbishop of DR Congo and Congo Brazzaville, Henri Isingoma, spoke enthusiastically of Umoja FM. “Radio will develop our community here because it plays a big role, not only in providing information, but in raising awareness spiritually and in a material way. That’s development; it can help people develop fully in a holistic way. There’s the Word of God that we can listen to together; and there is communication that is able to bring benefit to people physically, that’s to say, for the wellbeing of society.”

‘We have begun our journey’

As the Umoja FM team put what they’d learned about interviewing, cueing, scheduling and managing the station into practise, Albert Baliesima Kadukima said: “When the trainers from the UK arrived, our team had little experience of computers, let alone how to run a radio station. But we are intelligent and highly capable.”

After the first morning’s broadcast the transmitter faltered. But the Umoja FM team immediately set about sourcing another one locally. Soon back on air, their local ownership and its sustainability further highlighted the positive aspects of the station.

Albert said: “As our slogan says: 'Pamoja tunaweza – Ensembles nous pouvons – Together we can.'"

Published: 13th February 2016