A documentation by Dr Hansjoerg Biener
peace radio site
Dr. Hansjoerg Biener
created 0107, updated 0709
Comments and contributions are welcome. Material of this page may be re-printed but a complimentary copy of the publication is expected.
on the radio system
Government and private broadcasting started in the Belgian Congo even before the second world war. When in the 1990´s Zaire was divided among government forces, regional warlords and rebel groups, regulars from neighbouring countries and rampant militias, the scattered radio transmitters of the old networks were used for factional broadcasting but the groups also brought new equipment into service. Some of these stations were heard internationally but for the outsider it was difficult to discern the users as groups splitted, merged or lost control of the transmitter site. There has been some independent re-broadcasting of international stations on FM but this has been restricted to the capital since 1999 and been suspended from time to time.
In the annual worldwide index of press freedom published by Reporters Without Borders in October 2004, the Democratic Republic of Congo was listed as no. 141 of 167 countries surveyed, one rank behind Russia and two behind Ukraine.
Since 1997 the Democratic Republic of Congo has experienced civil war, touched off by a massive influx of refugees from Rwanda and Burundi. In May 1997, the government of president Mobutu Sese Seko was toppled by a rebellion led by Laurent Kabila. Kabila's rule was challenged by rebels backed by Rwanda and Uganda, while Angola, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Chad and Sudan intervened in his support. The Democratic Republic of the Congo and five regional States signed the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement on 10 July 1999. To maintain liaison with the parties and carry out other tasks, the Security Council set up MONUC on 30 November 1999, incorporating UN personnel authorized in earlier resolutions. On 24 February 2000, the Council expanded the mission's mandate and size.
With the ongoing tensions in Burundi and Rwanda and the war in former Zaire peace seems far away while hate stations still go on the air. A more recent example was the return of Radio Liberté in early 2000. The station which has also been heard overseas on short wave was the voice of Zairian warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba based in Gbadolite at the border with the Central African Republic. On 16 January 2001 Kabila was assassinated and Joseph Kabila followed his father as president. Despite numerous attempts to end the fighting, brutal killings erupt time and again in different regions of the country.
Radio and TV
In September 2001 the official Congolese National Radio and TV [RTNC] received a long awaited 100-kW short wave transmitter which would be able to cover almost the entire DRC. In a surprise move RTNC bought international airtime on Gabonese commercial station Africa No. 1. Beginning in early January 2002, the station has been heard internationally via Gabon 04.00-06.00 and 16.00-19.00 h on 9770 kHz. Reception in Europe was reported soon afterwards.
Radio Okapi: joint peace radio effort of UN Radio and Fondation Hirondelle
international shortwave schedule for
0400-0600 UTC: 11690 kHz (Meyerton 250 kW / 342°) French/Lingala
1600-1700 UTC: 11890 kHz (Meyerton 250 kW / 330°) French/Lingala
0400-0600 UTC: 9635 kHz (Meyerton 250 kW, 342°)
1600-1700 UTC: 11890 kHz (Meyerton 250 kW, 330°)
|local FM stations
Aru: 98,0 MHz
Bukavu (Sw Fr): 95,3 MHz
Bunia (Sw Li): 104,9 MHz
Butembo: 92,9 MHz
Gbadolite: 93,0 MHz
Goma (Sw Fr): 105,2 MHz
Isiro: 90,1 MHz
Kalemie (Sw Fr): 105,0 MHz
Kananga: 93,0 MHz
Kanya Bayonga: 96,0 MHz
Kikwit: 103,5 MHz
Kindu (Sw Fr): 103,0 MHz
Kinshasa: 103,5 MHz
Kisangani (Sw Fr Li): 94,8 MHz
Lisala: 93,0 MHz
Lubumbashi: 95,8 MHz
Mahagi: 96,0 MHz
Matadi: 102,0 MHz
Mbandaka (Li Fr): 103,0 MHz
Mbuji-Mayi: 93,8 MHz
local programme production
To counteract misinformation
and propaganda, the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations and the Swiss
Fondation Hirondelle started preparing their biggest ever radio operation:
A peace radio network for Congo, both in government- and rebel-held territory.
station, which was to have around 100 - mostly Congolese - staff, would
broadcast news about the peace process, as well as informing people about
human rights, health programmes and the activities of the UN Observer Mission
in Congo (MONUC). As in previous projects, it is
hoped the station will become sustainable and last after peace comes. David
Smith formerly with Radio Minurca and later at the UN radio headquarters
visited potential sites in Summer 2001, locating secure areas for the stations
to be built. 
Radio Okapi is named after a rare African forest animal, related to the giraffe. Significantly it has the same name in all of DR Congo's languages. Like the swallow (hirondelle in French), the okapi is considered to be a symbol of peace. The project was to cost some 2.767m Swiss francs/ 1,7m USD.
On 1 December 2001 the Swiss and British governments pledged support for the first year. It was hoped that the key station in Kinshasa would be on the air by mid-to-late November 2001 in English, French, Lingala, Swahili and Tshiluba, with regional outlets going on the the air by spring. Originally, five regional stations at Goma, Kalémié, Kananga, Kisangani and Mbandaka were to relay Kinshasa part of the time, and opt out for local programming mornings and evenings. The most important regional station was thought to be the one at Goma on the Rwandan border. The RCD controlled area, backed by Rwandans, has suffered from several desasters beside the Congolese wars. It neighbours Rwanda where hate Radio Mille Collines once called for genocide and millions have been displaced during the Rwandan and Burundian civil wars. In 2002, nature struck too, when volcano eruptions destroyed much of the area. The stations at Kisangani and Mbandaka are in rebel-controlled areas, also. Further regional studios were planned in Gbadolite, Kindu, Bukavu and Bunia.
Later, Radio Okapi was scheduled to begin broadcasting at the beginning of February 2002, coinciding with the start of an Inter-Congolese Dialogue, involving the parties to the conflict. Finally, on 25 February 2002 FM broadcasts went on the air in Kinshasa on 103.5 MHz, in Kisangani on 94.8 MHz and in Goma on 105.2 MHz. Short wave broadcasts started one day later on an old 10 kW transmitter on 9555 kHz with three additional transmitters expected by March. Short wave broadcasts were on the air 6.00-8.30 and 17.00-19.30 h UTC but reception outside Africa was severely hampered by co-channel interference. 
On 31 March 2003 Radio Okapi added a FM frequency in Beni (105.2 MHz). The station also covers Kinshasa on 103.5 MHz, Kisangani on 94.8 MHz, Goma on 105.2 MHz, Kalemie on 105 MHz, Kananga on 100 MHz, Mbandaka on 103 MHz, Kindu 103 MHz, Gbadolite on 93 MHz, Bukavu on 98.6 MHz, Butembo on 92.9 MHz and Bunia on 105.2 MHz. For country wide coverage the station relies on short waves 6030, 9550 and 11690 kHz. According to observations in January 2004, Radio Okapi seems to be regular now on 9550 and 11690 kHz. While these frequencies were reported with stronger signals, 6030 kHz is difficult to be monitored internationally because of propagational reasons and interference from other short wave stations. Radio Okapi offers programmes prepared under the supervision if the Hirondelle Foundation. Apart from news and information, the station focuses on humanitarian education and conflict resolution.
Getting the children involved
In the 2004 OneWorld / UNICEF competition “Children’s Lives, Children’s Voices”, the prize for the best radio feature (1-5 minutes) produced by, for and with children, was won by Sisi Watoto (We, the children), by Search for Common Ground in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Presented by children aged 16 and 17, the programme gives a voice to Congo's children affected by the war. To listen to all the entries go to: http://radio.oneworld.net/section/childrensvoices
Awards 2004 for
Radio Canal Révélation
|Richard Pituwa receives the award in London
on behalf of the RCR team
Some of the volunteers outside in front of a station poster
Some of the station's editorial staff
In June 2004, the Trustees of the One World Broadcasting Trust honoured Radio Canal Révélation for its role a community medium in war-torn Bunia in the Northeast Congo. Established in 1987 by broadcasters from ITV and BBC, the The One World Broadcasting Trust aims, through encouraging the effective use of media, especially broadcasting, to promote a clear and balanced awareness of human rights and global development issues. Richard Pituwa founder of the station, was flown (by UNDP) to London to pick up the award on behalf of the station team and received a standing ovation from an audience of 400 broadcasters, filmmakers, aid agencies and NGOs.
Radio Canal Révélation (RCR) is a small community station in Bunia, in the north-east Ituri province of the Congo. Bunia has been a focal point of an ongoing conflict plaguing the Eastern Congo since 1995. Out of this horror, Radio Révélation was started in 2000 by Richard Pituwa and his colleagues. In a region with little or no print and visual media, it reaches 200,000 people using equipment fashioned from scrap metal. Relying on individual spirit and informality, it raises its money through individuals dedications played on the air.
The station is run by 70 or so volunteers from all sides of the community. They have continued broadcasting throughout the conflict, determined to explain what is really happening without causing offence to any one hostile group. Broadcasts are in French, Swahili and Lingala covering a mixture of music, news and, in view of the lack of education facilities available, informative programming on AIDS, human rights and reconciliation.
The station is caught in the complicated
conflict that at one time saw five factions fighting for the town. On 6
March 2003, the Lendu, supported by the Uganda Army expelled the Hemas
from Bunia. Then on the 18 May 2003 the Hemas recaptured the town with
extreme violence. "It was hard," says Richard, of the slaughter,
massacres, looting and rape which took place in Bunia. This time RCR was
not spared -- one of their team was beheaded in his home by the attackers.
With the town drowning in blood and RCR's gate pock-marked by bullets,
a Lendu Commandant stopped his militias from taking over and looting the
station. According to theCommandant, RCR had always remained neutral in
With the UN enforced peace, the population is slowly coming back home from where they had fled. Agriculture and cattle-keeping are just beginning to revive, RCR is ready to accompany the youth in particular in getting back to normal and seeing something in the future. Schools are open, but many youth can't afford to go back or feel too old or are starting, perhaps accidentally, families.
DR Congo community
stations call for "day of silence"
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, community radio stations are calling for a radio "day of silence" on 20 February 2005. These protesting radio stations are demanding the withdrawal of a ministerial decree forbidding them to air political broadcasts.
On 18 January, broadcasts of Canal Congo TV, Canal Kin TV and Radio Liberté Kinshasa were suspended without any warning or court order. The Binza Méteo transmission centre received a call instructing it to cut the signals of all three stations, on the orders of Press and Information Minister Henri Mova Sakanyi. In addition, specialised and religious radio and television stations were told they can no longer broadcast talk shows and phone-in programmes or political programming. In a statement released on 18 January, the press and information minister said religious and specialist radio and television stations were being banned from "broadcasting political and news programmes" because of their "persistent excesses." He added that, "in accordance with the regulations," these radio and television stations were banned from "serving as a support for political propaganda," and that "all phone-in programmes are suspended until further notice."
International press freedom watchdog Reports Without Borders (RSF) immediately condemned a sudden crackdown on broadcast media in the Democratic Republic of Congo. "Suspending or banning news media in this fashion is never an appropriate solution to editorial excesses. Religious and community radio stations are the principal news and information source for citizens throughout the country, so it is unacceptable to prevent these stations from covering the news" . RSF added that the best way to avoid dangerous abuses was to "make journalists aware of their responsibilities."
The three stations belong to former rebel leader Jean-Pierre Bemba, who is now one of the country's four vice-presidents under a power-sharing agreement. Bemba's relations with President Joseph Kabila are currently very tense. Journaliste en danger (JED), a local RSF partner organisation, said the decision to suspend the three stations' broadcasts was taken after a press conference held by former transport and communications minister Joseph Olenghankoy, who heads the Renovating Forces for Union and Solidarity (Forces Novatrices pour l'Union et la Solidarité, FONUS), a member of the shaky ruling coalition. Olenghankoy reportedly referred to President Kabila as a "foreigner" and accused him and his associates of embezzlement, "collusion with the forces of aggression" and of possessing a "private militia consisting of Interahamwe and former members of the FAR [Rwandan Armed Forces]," who were responsible for the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Journaliste en danger reported that the three stations began broadcasting again on 21 January after the Binza Météo transmission center in Kinshasa restored their signals. However, the ban on news, political and phone-in broadcasts by religious and other specialist stations is still in force.
On 18 May 2005, at 7:30 p.m. (local time), Radiotélévision Débout Kasaï (RTDK), a community radio station based in Mbuji-Mayi, capital of East Kasai province, was allowed to resume its broadcasts. The station was allowed back on the air following a one-hour meeting between Provincial Governor Dominique Kanku and RTDK management representatives. The governor accused the station of having "read on the air the contents of a pamphlet distributed throughout Mbuji-Mayi that encouraged local citizens to join street demonstrations." RTDK staff denied airing the contents of the pamphlet, saying they merely broadcast a segment about the pamphlets' distribution. A few hours after the meeting, Major Israël Kantu visited RTDK and ordered the police officers who had been guarding the station to leave the premises.
On 17 May 2005, at 8:30 p.m., RTDK was raided by a group of officers from the Congolese National Police's Special Services, led by Major Kantu. The police closed the station and ordered the staff to leave the premises immediately. Major Kantu told JED he had "acted on the orders of Provincial Governor Kanku." Six officers stayed behind to guard the station. On the same evening that RTDK was closed, a demonstration in Mbuji-Mayi was brutally suppressed by police. According to Kinshasa newspapers, police shot and killed between three and seven demonstrators. Demonstrators also ransacked the party offices of President Joseph Kabila and Vice-President Jean-Pierre Bemba.
DRC: JED Shocked at „absurd“ verdict
in UN reporter murder trial
Journalist in Danger (Journaliste en danger, JED) and Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières, RSF) accused Congolese authorities of conducting a farcical investigation and trial that led to four people
being hastily sentenced to death for killing a UN journalist.
A military court in Democratic Republic of Congo convicted two demobilised soldiers on 28 August after they confessed to gunning down UN radio reporter Serge Maheshe on 13 June in the eastern city of Bukavu. Serge Muhima and Alain Mulimbi, two of Maheshe's close friends who were with him at the time of his murder, were found guilty of organising the contract killing. Six others were acquitted.
The trial was "riddled with absurdities," says RSF. "We never imagined that the Bukavu military tribunal would take its incoherence and denial of justice this far." The trial opened a day after Maheshe's killing, sparking criticism from human rights campaigners that it was being rushed through.
According to JED and RSF, the verdicts against Muhima and Mulimbi were largely based on the testimony of the two former soldiers, who said they acted at the request of Maheshe's two friends in exchange for a promise of USD 15,000 each and a ticket to South Africa. But the soldiers' statements were inconsistent, and no motive was ever established for those who ordered the murder, nor was any material evidence produced at the trial, say JED, RSF and the UN mission in the Congo. The court itself even underlined that doubts remained.
Maheshe was news editor for Bukavu's Radio Okapi, a UN-backed station set up to support the peace process following Congo's 1998-2003 war. Shortly before his murder, he alerted UN officials that members of the
Republican Guard (the former Presidential Guard) had threatened to kill him. RSF says the authorities have produced no evidence that these two soldiers have been questioned. When Maheshe, Muhima and Mulimbi were leaving a friend's home in Bukavu on 13 June in Maheshe's car that bore the UN logo, two men in uniform asked Maheshe his name and shot him in the legs and chest.
Lawyers for Muhima and Mulimbi say they are planning to appeal the decision. JED and RSF are calling for the Maheshe case to be reopened and heard before an independent tribunal.
Threats and intimidation against journalists are common in DRC, which last year held its first free elections in more than four decades. At least four journalists have been killed since 2005 in the country.
Visit these links:
- JED (French): http://tinyurl.com/3af378
- JED (English): http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/85899
- JED on Bapuwa Mwamba case: http://tinyurl.com/2echyx
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=23449
- UN Mission in DRC (MONUC): http://tinyurl.com/394qs8
- Reuters: http://africa.reuters.com/wire/news/usnL29762382.html
December 2007 Media ban explains record
number of attacks on media
Nearly 40 Kinshasa-based radio and television stations have been banned in the Democratic Republic of the Congo since October, in what the government says is an effort to "clean up the profession." The ban largely accounts for the record number of violations against journalists and the media in the country in 2007, says Journalist in Danger (Journaliste en danger, JED), which marked International Human Rights Day on 10 December by denouncing the "programmed death" of the opposition media.
"The general situation of the press is of concern," says JED. "Not only have media outlets been forced to toe the official line to ensure their survival, but…(those) who have upset the authorities have already been reduced to silence."
Twenty-two television channels and 16 radio stations have been banned since 20 October 2007 for "failing to conform to laws" regulating the media industry, for not paying taxes or for not having valid licences, according to Information Minister Toussaint Tshilombo. But Tshilombo admitted that the decision to "clean up the profession" stems from a government meeting in March, the day members of the Congolese Armed Forces violently clashed with guards of Jean-Pierre Bemba, an exiled former vice president, rebel leader and an arch-enemy of President Laurent Kabila. The ban in particular affects a television channel and radio network owned by Bemba.
Although several stations report they have since paid their dues or submitted required documents, they have not been allowed to reopen. "The government is doing nothing to settle this terrible situation," says JED. "Parliament is looking elsewhere while media professionals are suffering with unemployment, and forced to become beggars."
The broadcast ban is symptom of a larger deterioration of press freedom in the DRC. In its annual report, JED found that one year after the elections and the establishment of new, "democratic" institutions, violations against journalists and the media increased by a whopping 30 percent since 2006. In 90 percent of the 163 cases, the very institutions that should protect journalists are those carrying out the attacks: the police, the army and state security forces.
JED's hefty annual report investigates attacks against journalists and the media in DRC as well as six other countries in Central Africa - Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Gabon and Rwanda. Work in the region is done on behalf of the Central African Media Organisation (Organisation des Médias d'Afrique Centrale, OMAC).
Download the report (available in French only) here: http://www.jed-afrique.org/_fichiers/documents_url_26.pdf
IWPR Congo Radio Show Launched
IWPR Netherlands has launched a radio programme
aimed at increasing public awareness in the Democratic Republic of Congo
about war crimes trials taking place at the International Criminal Court,
ICC, in The Hague.
The fortnightly programme, Facing Justice, was broadcast for the first time in October 2008 in Lingala, Swahili and French. IWPR's partner is Search for Common Ground, which will distribute the programme via a network of more than 90 partner radio stations around the country.
Facing Justice will draw on contributions from IWPR-trained journalists in DRC, staff at IWPR Netherlands, legal experts, civil society, political analysts, human rights activists and government representatives.
"The aim of the programme is to help Congolese citizens understand and contextualise the role of international justice in their country by providing them access to a broad range of voices knowledgeable on questions of the ICC and the challenges that the DRC justice system faces," said Stephanie Wolters, producer of Facing Justice. "The programmes will draw upon local and international experts, activists, ICC personnel, ordinary Congolese citizens and Congolese government officials in its efforts to provide a comprehensive and objective picture of the ICC's activities, and the many challenges that Congolese face accessing justice in their own country."
The show was conceived after the IWPR Netherlands project team met local journalists and editors in the DRC. They confirmed that independent and balanced reporting on sensitive issues such as war crimes is currently lacking and that radio was an effective means of disseminating such reports. Though the DRC has five nationals indicted before the ICC, recent surveys suggest most Congolese know little about the court. The vast majority believe it is important to hold those who committed war crimes accountable and that this will be necessary to secure peace in the country. Congolese people including the victims of war crimes would like to participate in ICC related activities but few know how to access information on the court.
Lena Slachmuijlder, director of Search for Common Ground in DRC, explained that Facing Justice is important because information on ICC proceedings is so limited in the country. "It is very important to give out correct information to establish the impartiality of the ICC in the eyes of the Congolese, because it is not evident that it has that credibility," she said. Slachmuijlder said that major delays in the ICC's first ever case, against DRC militia leader Thomas Lubanga, are hard for Congolese people to understand. Many have interpreted this as a signal the court is a political body. "The collaboration with IWPR will help us bring out credible voices from the ICC to give information to the people in a regular way, so they can understand what is happening with the trial, and what the constraints and opportunities are with international justice," she said. "Through IWPR we have access to clear, insightful information, and more information from the people who are actually running the ICC and who can help to explain it."
The ICC has issued indictments against five Congolese - Thomas Lubanga, Germain Katanga, Mathieu Ngudjolo, Jean-Pierre Bemba and Bosco Ntaganda. Lubanga was due to go on trial in late June 2008, accused of recruiting child soldiers in the Ituri region, but the case was indefinitely postponed when judges said prosecution errors meant he could not get a fair trial. Prosecutors have appealed.
Judges recently confirmed charges including, rape, murder and sexual slavery against Katanga and Ngudjolo with their trial expected in 2009.
The charges against Bemba, Congo's former vice-president, relate to crimes of sexual violence allegedly committed by his troops in the Central African Republic. His confirmation of charges hearing is scheduled for early November 2008.
Ntaganda, accused of war crimes in Ituri, remains at large. He currently commands the military wing of Laurent Nkunda's rebel force in North Kivu province.
Facing Justice is produced by IWPR Netherland's International Justice Programme. Launched in April 2008, IWPR-NL has media development projects in DRC, Uganda, Sudan, Serbia and the Balkans. It offers intensive hands-on training, extensive reporting and publishing to build the capacity of local media. IWPR-NL serves as a platform to give responsible local media a voice in their effort to contribute to justice and the rule of law. The mission of the worldwide IWPR network is to build peace and democracy through free and fair media. IWPR assists early democracies and societies in transition through the power of journalism.
For more information please contact: Lisa
Clifford, +31 (0) 70 338 9016,
lisa @ iwpr.net or Stephanie Wolters, +27 (0) 72 433 4808, stephanie @ okapi.cc.
 David Smith,
interviewed by Sheldon Harvey and Bill Westenhaver on CKUT International
Radio Report Sept 16, notes by Glenn Hauser for DX-Listening Digest 1-129,
17 September 2001
 Glenn Hauser for DX-Listening Digest 2-010, 16 January 2002
www.un.org/peace/, mission in Congo, MONUC.
 Andi Sennitt 25.2.2002, Hans Johnson 26.2.2002