Burundian radio in exile

The story of Radio Inzamba, daring to report on human rights abuses, told by Giedre Steikunaite

‘When the government destroyed our independent media they thought they had silenced us,’ Patrick Nduwimana says from exile in Kigali, the capital of neighbouring Rwanda. ‘But we’re still here and we still defy them.’

More than 400,000 Burundians have fled since 2015, including dozens of journalists whose radio and TV stations were violently shut down.

In order to reach audiences back home, Nduwimana has co-founded Radio Inzamba (‘trumpet’ in Kirundi, Burundi’s national language), which broadcasts two news programmes daily from Kigali, online and via WhatsApp.

Together with Télé Renaissance and RPA-Humura, Radio Inzamba is one of the few media outlets that dare to report on abuses in Burundi, whose government actively hunts down dissenters at home and abroad.

Radio Inzamba relies on a network of clandestine reporters and trusted sources whose identities remain anonymous, with their voices digitally altered for broadcast. Their news bulletins are shared in secret by reliable networks of people with smartphones, and deleted immediately afterwards.

‘I didn’t agree with the way the state radio was working. I hated censorship,’ says Patrick Nduwimana. ‘Here we’re committed to supporting human rights. We’re for the people, against oppression. I guess that makes us human rights defenders.’

The crisis in Burundi exploded in April 2015, when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would run for a third term – a move that is illegal under the constitution and contravenes the Arusha peace agreement, which was signed in 1993 after the 12-year-long civil war.

Thousands of Burundians took to the streets, defying a state ban on demonstrations. They were met with brutal force, which has since increased. Government forces are now under investigation by the International Criminal Court for numerous killings, forced disappearances, abductions, torture, rape and arbitrary arrests.

Pic: US AFRICOM Command