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Lauren Vopni ,
JHR Intern

Lauren Vopni's Notes From the Field

September 27, 2007 — Beyond rape: Sexual violence in the DRC

Sexual violence in the DRC [mp3]

For ten years, a brutal civil war has been raging in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and to date, nearly 4 million people have been killed. But there are other victims who number in the tens of thousands, the women of Congo who have been systematically kidnapped, raped, mutilated and tortured by soldiers from all sides of the conflict.

In a country that held its first ‘democratic’ elections in 2006, years of conflict have taken their toll on the civilian population with figures now emerging about sexual violence that are almost ‘beyond’ comprehension.

The resurgence of violence in Eastern Congo is fuelling fears that women will continue paying the price.


September 20, 2007 — The African green revolution: Can it unlock the door to peace
and stability?

The African green revolution [mp3]

Earlier this month policy makers, government officials, NGOs, farmers, entrepreneurs and business leaders gathered in Olso, Norway to plan a revolution – a Green one. Now in its second year, the African Green Revolution Conference has become the forum to discuss increasing agricultural productivity on the Continent; a plan, which many believe could hold the key to ending poverty.

Although championed by many throughout the international community, the African Green Revolution, which aims to use existing science and technology to transform agriculture into a vehicle for economic growth, is controversial. A growing number of researchers fear that the current plan for the Green Revolution could lead to the loss of African food sovereignty and potentially, an erosion of genetic wealth. The debate is just beginning.


September 12, 2007 — Staying in touch with Rwanda

Colour can symbolize different things, depending on the context.

The colour pink in Canada might recall the fight against breast cancer for some but here in Rwanda it represents the uniform colour of prison inmates, many of whom now wear it for their involvement in the genocide.

Following the horrific events of 1994, purple was transformed into a colour of remembrance for the million lives lost and for one man, it also became symbolic of hope.

The logo of Contact FM (CFM), Rwanda’s leading radio station, is emblazoned with deep violet and gold, a deliberate choice made by Station Director, Albert Rudatsimburwa as a way of honouring the countries tragic past by making an investment in its future.

Launched on December 26, 2004 by flooding its airways with the mastery of Miles Davis’s ‘So What’ from the 1958 album Kind of Blue, CFM now has over 2 million listeners to its news, music and talk radio programs across Rwanda, and another 80,000 who listen online and throughout the Diaspora.

“My contribution is through what I know best and that is cultural enterprise, which to me is one of the pillars of development,” says Rudatsimburwa proudly from the stations office in Kigali. “One kilo of culture is worth more then one kilo of coffee, tea or anything else we export right now.”

Rudatsimburwa’s goals for the three-year old private radio station are simple but have the potential to create a deep impact throughout the region and beyond.

By building a radio station which seeks to embrace its cultural roots rather then silence them, Rudatsimburwa is working to empower a unique voice albeit one that is broadcast in 6 languages - Kinyarwanda, French, English, Swahili, Lingala, and Luganda. For a country such as Rwanda, still emerging from the ashes of 1994, the opportunity to define itself in its own terms within an evolving global community was exciting for the tireless ‘cultural entrepreneur.’

“Our very recent past was a serious trauma and we have only begun to see the tipping point of that crisis,” says Rudatsimburwa, who sees CFM as daily nourishment for progressive souls. “We don’t know what the future will hold, it’s an ongoing process and every minute there is progress.”

But innovation is not without its challenges. Rudatsimburwa’s vision to transform CFM into a media standard in the Great Lakes Region, while ticking forward, remains a long way off.

Finding trained people to work at the fledgling station is a frequent struggle and while Rudatsimburwa notes that it would be nice to have a location van or a car to send reporters into the field, paying salaries at the end of the month is a bigger concern.

“We are trying to survive in an environment that has a vision of sophistication without yet the capacity for it,” adds Rudatsimburwa looking up confidently at a large the purple and gold CFM poster behind his desk. “That’s not to say Rwanda won’t get there soon.”


August 27, 2007 — Contact FM 89.7 (CFM), Kigali, Rwanda: A day in the life of a newsroom

The door opens, and another day at Contact FM (CFM) begins. The three-year old private radio station currently broadcasts in 6 languages- Kinryawanda, French, English, Swahili, Lingala, and Luganda with news programs in Kinyarwanda, French, English and Swahili. Over 2 million Rwandans tune in to CFM daily and over 80,000 more listen online. With an additional 80,000 listeners throughout diaspora, CFM is the most popular radio station in the country and is working to build its news service to provide a wide selection of current affairs programming for their growing audience.

CFM reporters gather for the morning editorial conference, led on this day by International Knight Journalism Fellow, Sputnik Kilambi (standing). Kilambi will be working with CFM for a year to help build capacity and develop programs for the station, bringing with her over 20 year of radio experience.

Teta Kayitaba takes notes during the morning editorial conference. While most reporters speak two or more of the broadcast languages, the meeting is usually conducted in French, with frequent pauses to ensure everyone is on clear on the days top stories.

Sputnik Kilambi writes down the editorial agenda on the newsroom white board, assigning stories to reporters. A second meeting around the board will happen later in the afternoon to follow up on story developments and the status of interviews before setting the broadcast que sheet.

Reporter JMV Mutesa (seated) jots down the headlines highlighted by Sputnik Kilambi (standing) for the Kinyarwanda news flash at noon. While CFM continues to build complete news teams in each language they broadcast a mid-day news flash in Kinyarwanda, French and English and 15 to 20 minute evening news program in Swahili, Kinyarwanda and French each day ,with a five to 10 minute English news focus report several times per week.

CFM’s tireless Director Alberta Rudatsimburwa (seated, right) attends the morning editorial conference each day, providing feedback to the team and input for the news agenda. Rudatsimburwa, a ‘cultural entrepreneur’ with a passion for music, media and art, launched CFM on December 26, 2004 by playing Miles Davis, ‘So What’ from the 1958 album Kinda of Blue.

(At table, from left) Intern Boss Brown and reporters Micheal Gebrial Mudimbi, Mariam Kabendera, Jean Jill Mazuru and Sulah Nuwamanya edit sound and begin writing their news scripts after lunch. With only four computers, limited recorders, two cell phones and functioning recording studios, CFM’s 11 reporters must work together, sharing resources and communicating between the language teams for translation, in order to deliver the news on time.

Sulah Nuwamanya does research for the English news flash. The lone Anglophone, Nuwamanya has a background in print journalism and is working to learn the ins and outs of radio.

JMV Mutesa (standing, front) works with fellow members of the Kinyarwanda team, Beata Niyonshuti (seat) and Abdou Nyampeta (standing back) to finalize an interview in CFM’s studio. While the station waits for a new server to connect the studio with the newsroom, audio files must be transferred using flash disks.

Abdou Nyampeta records an interview for the Kinyarwanda news. Fluent in both Kinyarwanda and French, Nyampeta frequently does voice over and translation for both newscasts.

Sputnik Kilambi works with recent CFM recruit Claude Gilbert Kamba to edit an interview to be used in the French news. Successful interviews on key news topics often run at the end of a newscast as a five-minute ‘Invite de la redaction’ or guest spot.

Jean Jill Mazuru, an experienced reporter, in training to take over as the CFM News Editor and Chief, prepares a sound bite for translation. Maintaining consistency when working in four languages is among the greatest challenges for the CFM news team.


August 15, 2007 — Olympic Dream for Darfur

An interview with Mia Farrow [mp3]

A symbolic Olympic torch was lit at the Ecole Technique Officielle in Kicukiro, Kigali on August 15, as Darfur advocates call for an end to all genocides.

Rwanda is the second stop for the ‘Olympic Dream for Darfur’ campaign, in a six-country tour, that began in Darfur on August 9, exactly one year before the 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing. Due to China’s economic interests in Sudan, the organization argues that leaders in Beijing are in a unique position to persuade the Sudanese government to end the atrocities in Darfur.

American actress and UN Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF, Mia Farrow, was among the Darfur advocates in Kigali today for the event and shared her thoughts about what genocide survivors can share with the international community.



Sept. 27, 2007 —
Beyond rape

Sept. 20, 2007 —
The African green revolution

Sept. 12, 2007 —
Staying in touch with Rwanda

August 27, 2007 —
Contact FM 89.7, Kigali, Rwanda: A day in the life of a newsroom

August 15, 2007 —
Olympic Dream for Darfur





    © 2006 Carleton University School of Journalism and Communication DESIGN: SMDESIGN