The RTLM site is located in the Town of Kigali. Click on the image for a slideshow of photographs. All photographs © 2002-2008 Jens Meierhenrich.

“Ernst & Young, Certified Public Accountants,” says the sign adorning the second-floor balcony of this non-descript corner building in downtown Kigali, Rwanda’s capital. Previous tenants include Ferdinand Nahimana and Gaspard Gahigi, co-founder and editor-in-chief respectively of the infamous Radio-Télévision Libre des Mille Collines, better known by its acronym RTLM.

Starting in July 1992, Gahigi, together with a dozen or so other on-air personalities —among them the ever-popular Kantano Habimana and the notorious Valérie Bemeriki—in this downtown location put together programming so compelling and irresistible that it took the capital city (and from July 8, 1993 onwards also the countryside) by storm.

RTLM’s seemingly effortless blend of contemporary pop music (especially popular were tunes from what then was Zaire), lively commentary on current events, and a conversational, interactive style found immediate popularity with Rwandans raised on the stale fare offered by the state-owned Radio Rwanda. Yet over the course of a few years, this self-styled Radio Sympa (“Lovely Radio”) turned itself into what Rwanda’s Tutsi population came to fear as Radio Machete and La Radio Qui Tué (“Killer Radio”).

A recent content analysis by Mary Kimani of 1,249 RTLM broadcast segments revealed that Gahigi et al. in 417 instances issued either direct calls from downtown Kigali for the extermination of Rwanda’s Tutsi or encouraged Hutu to fight against and kill their ostensible enemies.

Copyright © 2010 Jens Meierhenrich. All rights reserved.