By Sekombi Katondolo
Speaking to my friends living abroad over the Christmas period, many were surprised to hear that I spent December watching rap battles, acrobats and fire-eaters in Goma – a city most people tend to associate more with conflict and poverty.
Around a month ago, we launched the Buzz Art Festival – a week-long celebration of local talent in arts and culture. With a series of music concerts, modern and traditional dance classes, and art exhibitions, we sought to promote and support some of the incredibly talented young artists here in eastern Congo and the wider region, at once promoting peaceful coexistence and challenging some of the more negative stereotypes about the DRC.
I’m the Director of Mutaani, a dynamic youth-led radio station here in Goma that organized the Buzz Arts festival. Providing North Kivu province with its only source of independent information, we train young journalists to produce high-quality news coverage and analysis. While so many radio stations and media outlets in this country merely serve elite political interests, and exist to advance the agendas of various leading politicians, we are a truly independent and impartial source of information for the local population.
We have partnered with Eastern Congo Initiative since 2011, acquiring high-quality technical radio equipment to expand listener coverage and to train and equip the young journalists here at Mutaani.
We’ve made incredible progress since Mutaani – meaning ‘in the city’ in Swahili – was founded three years ago. My team and I were delighted to learn in late 2013 that we are now officially the most listened-to radio station in the city of Goma – a large metropolis with over one million inhabitants. In a country where the vast majority of people receive information through radio, this shows how many people are dependent on Mutaani for news and information. This success is down to the bravery, hard work and exceptional talent of the young journalists on our team – who are out on the streets gathering stories and talking to people every single day.
Gerry is a great example of this. He is our most senior cameraman, using videos and multimedia to tell compelling human stories from eastern Congo. Prior to joining Mutaani, Gerry learned how to use a camera through YouTube videos and local training programs in Goma. I witnessed his exceptional talent and invited him to join the staff at Mutaani and to receive further training. He’s now a key player in our team. You can watch a great video Gerry recorded and produced about a local basketball academy – Promo Jeune Basket – here in Goma on YouTube here.
Festivals such as Buzz Art are a critical part of our mission to champion freedom of expression and information in eastern Congo, and to celebrate local arts and culture. To learn more about our work, and for all the latest news and analysis on events in the DRC, please visit our website at www.mutaani.com or like us on Facebook.
Sekombi Katondolo is the Director of Mutaani, a dynamic youth-led radio station in the city of Goma. Mutaani have been an ECI partner since 2011