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Radio Katwe; the Loudhailer that Keeps Katwe Residents Awake

A few proceeds from those that found his work worthy, saw him advance to a communicating with a mega phone. This automatically meant bigger opportunities and as years passed by, he became the biggest and most trusted source of information, ‘the face of Radio Katwe’. With no job in 1999, he thought of taking advantage of his Luganda Language and perhaps posed his father’s musical genres to become “ a walking communication medium”
24 Jan 2020 17:22
Radio Katwe on his day of duty

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31-year-old Ali Ssenkya is a household name in Katwe Sub County, Kasese District, known among the young and the old as the authority on anything that is happening in the area and beyond. 

To many, he is referred to as Radio Katwe, a name he won as a result of the routine announcements he makes, using a megaphone. 

After losing his father shortly after completing primary seven, Senkya’s first attempt at work was fishing at Lake Edward. But because of his age and lack of skills, the job did not yield anything. 

In 1999, he thought of using his ability to speak Luganda and a little bit of talent to become “a walking communication medium”. With no capital and a bleak future, Senkya began a thorny journey to deliver community information. 

His first attempt was with local businesses; shops, bars, restaurants, and saloons, where operators picked interest in a young boy who voluntarily offered a service for a soda, a piece of soap or even a promise for anything small. 

A few proceeds from those that found his work worthy, saw him advance to a communicating with a megaphone. This automatically meant bigger opportunities and as years passed by, he became the biggest and most trusted source of information, ‘the face of Radio Katwe’. 

Soon after, he was the go-to person for local organizations and government entities that wanted to spread information on various programmes.  The latest was spreading Ebola messages, in the wake of an outbreak that spilt over from the Democratic Republic of Congo, where thousands of lives were lost over the last year. 

Senkya begins his broadcast at 6 am, with a diverse line up of activities. They include commercials, announcements and news updates.  On average, he takes between 4-5 hours moving around the Town Council. On the trek, he collects information, delivers, markets his service and signs new deals. 

Senkya says he uses the evening hours as a field Reporter looking for news for his morning broadcast. His work, he says, is a blessing to the community, adding that the local government at Katwe has since embraced his work and empowered him through training in areas of community health.     

Luganda //Cue in; guno omulimu natandika…  

Cue out…ebintu ebigwa tebiraze.”//   

Radio Katwe charges between 5,000-20,000 depending on the kind of announcement, coverage and the number of times it will be aired. He makes an average of 10,000 – 30,000 Shillings a day. But death announcements, calls for those seeking aid, lost children and health warnings are aired at no cost.   

Luganda //Cue in; “Mpozo ebilala ntwala… 

Cue out…nebamuwayo ku ka sente.”//    

Ssenkya says that the job has been the sole source of income for him and his family of four children. He has been able to take them to school and provide for them.      

Luganda //Cue in; Nsobode kusomesawo abana...  

Cue out… balita jabesi.”//   

Like any business, “Radio Katwe” is prone to people who don’t pay on time, those that default or even undervalue his work. But this doesn’t sweep off his energy.       

Luganda Cue in; “Ntambulira kukigere   

Cue out…Lye linya lwebakozesa.”//   

His call to the government is to establish a community radio station in Katwe that he can be part of. 

Luganda //Cue in; Nsaba government nga… 

Cue out…kwenakola nga nakikwatirirae.”// 

Kasaija Robert, a resident of Katwe Town Council praises Senkya for keeping their community informed. “Whenever Radio Katwe is away and a need for communication rises, we suffer, we don’t have any other person who does this apart from him,” Kasaija says. 

Rutooro  /Cue In;  onu Omusaija kayamba… 

Cue Out… akukwata omuzindaro akabaza.”//   

Margaret Alinda, another resident says that Radio Katwe has been an essential part of her business.   

 

Runyankole //Cue in;  Ogu omushija ogu… 

Cue out… nabasa kurabwamu akarango.”//    

With nearly two hours needed from Katwe to Kasese town, where the nearest community radio is, Senkya’s role remains one of the most important for locals in the area.

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