Radio gives Congolese a voice

At a radio station in Kinshasa, a political debate airs between members from different political parties.

I am outside a private radio station in Kinshasa, waiting for a show to start.

It promises to be a good one – a political debate over the radio between members from different political parties.

As I wait patiently, a group of very colourful musicians walk past. They have an interview in about half an hour and want to prepare.

Suddenly people start cheering and shouting “Koffi” – and there is one of perhaps the most popular soukous singer in the Democratic Republic of Congo – Mr Koffi 0lomide.

I am not a fan, but I know his music and it was nice to rub shoulders with a celebrity while I waited for the debate to start.

We spoke briefly about politics and his concerns about the violence in the east of the country.

When the debate starts Edmond Mutshipayi, the host of the show asks listeners if President Joseph Kabila should go.

People call in with different opinions, some want a change in government, others don’t. It was a very lively debate.

Afterwards Edmond tells me: “People are generally scared to call in and talk about politics. But when the M23 rebels took Goma, they realised the fighting could reach the capital. They started calling, asking questions, demanding politicians end the crisis.”

Edmond says the crisis has encouraged people to talk more about politics, in a country where some are still scared they will be victimised for expressing their opinions.

They have good reason to be afraid. The interior minister has announced no one is allowed to protest or demonstrate in Kinshasa anymore, until the crisis in the country’s east is resolved.

The government is trying to contain the situation and avoid an uprising. Opposition groups and university students plan to defy the government order in the coming days.

For now, the private stations seem to be another way Congolese are expressing themselves – one can choose to remain anonymous if they don’t want to give their name out on air.

I wonder if officials will try clamp down on them soon.

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