His flight to war-torn South Sudan was almost a nerve-wrecking experience for a young Motswana radio personality who had never experienced war in his life time.
Brando Keabile, a household name in music circles, has been on local private radio. The United Nations recruited him solely to set up a radio station in Dhurbha, South Sudan.
He kissed his show at Gabz fm goodbye in 2007 when he got an offer to go and set Radio Miraya in Dhurbha. Armed with his experience from local private radio station where he coÔÇôhosted a number of shows at Yarona and Gabz fm, Brando was excited, although apprehensive that he was going to work in a war-torn country that had seen combat for decades.
Keabile says after the UN convinced him that the internal fighting had stopped after Sudan’s Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) was signed between the South and the North.
He took the job, which entailed setting up a studio for Radio Miraya (Mirror of Sudan) to broadcast live in the South and to some parts of north Sudan.
“I saw it as an opportunity to be part of the history in the making as the country was being rebuilt from ashes and rubble. Radio was of paramount importance and an integral part in disseminating information to the populace of South Sudan. As a medium of communication, the UN found it fit to set up a radio station to keep in touch with those in the Diaspora,” he said.
Keabile explains that it was a challenge to train presenters. He said that he managed to cope well with other employees after he learnt Arabic, which was used by most of the employees.
He explained that though there was fear among presenters and journalists who were sometimes arrested and beaten, he continued to motivate them.
According to him, setting up a media house was a challenge since most of the people, including soldiers, were skeptical about the presence of radio. With the help of the UN, he knew well that he was protected because the radio was housed at the UN camp in Durbha.
“We were relieved and we were not even thinking of bomb attacks that were part of the history in that country. The camp was manned by soldiers from Bangladesh and Rwanda who always made sure that we were protected,” added Keabile.
He said that as times revolved, people understood and became part of the radio station, which broadcast in Arabic and English. He says he felt proud to be part of the history in the making on the African continent. He further stated that his four years in Sudan actually opened doors for him in the line of humanitarian work and feels honoured that his work there attracted many journalists from reputable media houses such as Al Jazeera and BBC.
“Journalists approached me every time when they wanted to know what was happening on the ground. The humanitarian part of my work also gave me an opportunity to meet with influential humanitarians such as Desmond Tutu, Kofi Annan and movie stars like George Clooney,” he said.
He added that his stay in Sudan was a life-changing experience for him where he physically saw the country being rebuilt, saying it was almost a heartbreaking experience to see old tanks, rubbles of buildings, artillery and remnants of war.
Keabile is thinking of going back to Sudan but this time he is going back as an entrepreneur. He advises the business community to take advantage of business opportunities in Sudan because they are many opportunities.