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Community Radio Fosters Cohesiveness in Kenya’s Most Populous Settlement

Pamoja FM is located in the heart of Kibera, Kenya’s largest informal settlement.

Pamoja, which means ‘unity’ in Swahili - started operations in 2006 and is run by local residents for the local community - made up of a million people from diverse ethnic backgrounds.

Today, 40-year-old station program manager Philip Muhatia is winding up a show on peace. Muhatia said he takes pride in the community trust the station has earned and its role in healing some of the divisions after the 2007 post-election violence here. “This show and this radio station has actually helped the people of Kibera and its environs to stay as one,” he said.

Pamoja FM is run by volunteers and offers internship opportunities to budding journalists.

When Adam Hussein founded the station, he hoped to give a voice to disempowered residents by highlighting issues that directly touch their daily lives. “Our programming is entirely educative to our community and [we] give them information on what is happening within them, around them and also entertaining them,” he explained.

And this is exactly why Anthony Malalu, a vegetable vendor at a nearby market, is one of Pamoja FM’s most ardent fans. Malalu said he never misses a program and has been listening for 7 years.

“Pamoja FM is grassroots. It educates us about peace. They have great programs that touch on issues affecting locals and neighbouring areas. Also it encourages unity and community in all the villages that make up Kibera,” Malalu stated.

The station transmits over a 40-kilometer radius around Nairobi and has a listenership of approximately 800,000 people. Pamoja FM runs on a monthly budget of $1,200 just to cover overhead. It relies on contributions.

Muhatia said having a positive influence in the community means more to him than financial gain. “This is not an employment; this is a service I am rendering to the community because what we are doing is a lot of job, a lot of work. You can’t compare it if you would then ask ‘pay me’. You would [then] request a lot of money, but this is typically service that I am giving to the people and I like it,” he said.

For locals like Anthony Malalu, Pamoja FM has lived up to its billing and has remained true to its name of Unity.