By Gordon Nary
Gordon: Where is your parish?
Tobby: In many places in Africa, especially in the countryside, we really do not join a parish; rather we are just born into the life of a Catholic community, just like in other Christian denominations and other religions present in our spaces. I was born into a parish community, called Amukura, covering a radius of over 50 km, then, which later was subdivided into two, in Western Kenya. I do not have the exact population figures because it is a vast area covering several villages, but it is a massive Christian community, with over 40 outstations in one parish, and over 200 Small Christian Communities.
Gordon: When you attended Arrupe College and how did your Jesuit studies influence you life?
Tobby: As a Jesuit in formation, the period of studies is always an interesting experience because it exposes us to new cultural worlds. At Arrupe College, about 15 nationalities were represented in a community of about 100 Jesuits, being the largest Jesuit house of formation in Africa. The result of this in the life of most Jesuits, obviously in my life, is a merging of new horizons, and a deepening of love which is a very important aspect of preparation for ministry.
Gordon: When did you appoint Deputy Director at Radio Kwizera Tanzania and what are you primary responsibilities?
Tobby: I was asked by my superior to help at Radio Kwizera in the day to day running of the Radio.
Radio Kwizera was began by the Jesuit Refugee service in Western Tanzania due to an influx of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and Burundi. The idea was to have a radio that would give announcements in the refugee camps, reconnect people displaced by unrest, and offer programming that would offer some hope to them.
A lot has changed because most of the refugees relocated back home, and others settled in other countries. The radio has therefore shifter its focus to the local community that faces challenges of infrastructural development, lack of adequate educational facilities, poverty, disease and other challenges. What we do is to set the agenda and serve as the mouthpiece of the people, steering change by bringing dialogue between leaders and the community on several issues including education, health and justice.
My responsibility is to help in the day to day running of the radio, but also to develop community centered communication initiatives that sustain our mission as Jesuits in Eastern Africa
Gordon: How are your daily broadcasts planned?
Tobby: Our daily program runs round the clock. We begin at 5 am with a morning prayer; usually the breviary pre-recorded and played on the radio with a series of reflections. Our broadcasts then follow centering on pre-researched issues and having different target groups depending on the time. The schedule, as pointed out runs for 24 hours, and there are several programs on several issues, including news, both local, national and international; live talk shows; children programs; youth educative and entertainment programs among several other programs.
Gordon: What are some of the principal challenges of Radio Kwizera?
Tobb: Radio Kwizera faces challenges of operating as a community media house in a frontier. Since the departure of many humanitarian organizations that partnered with the Radio during the humanitarian crisis, Radio Kwizera has had to stand on its own because of the needs of the local host community. Due to the needs, like other humanitarian organizations who feel like their mandate has come to an end, phasing out for Radio Kwizera is not an option. As a result, Radio Kwizera has to compete with other commercial media broadcasters, based in the cities, whose interest is not primarily service to the community.
Such competition demands that Radio Kwizera positions itself to build sustainability and therefore continue to offer its services to the poor.
The infrastructural challenges in the countryside make Radio Kwizera continue to experience technical challenges occasioned by constant power interruptions, breakdown of broadcasting equipment due to weather challenges and specifically recurrent thunder, and challenges with transport to the most remote locations due to poor road networks causing frequent breakdown of vehicles. Despite all these, we continue to serve the poorest of the poor.
Gordon: Thank you for a great interview and sharing your insights with our readers who may not be well equated with our bothers and sisters in Africa