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Broadcasting live from the commemoration service
The hastily constructed satellite van was used all over the country
In April, Rwanda marked ten years since the genocide in 1994 in which more than 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutus died.

Newsgathering producer Kevin Bishop describes the challenges facing the team reporting on the week's memorial events.

The first sign that things in Rwanda were going to be different from my last visit five years ago was when our fixer, Gabi, texted me from Kigali that I should scan and email him our passport details.

The last time I went to Rwanda you could barely phone ahead to see if you had a hotel room.

On the surface, life in Rwanda today seems to be on the up. Mobiles, internet cafes, new construction and a veneer of calm make it appear one of the calmest African countries I've visited.

What lies below the surface is another matter, but I'll concentrate here on how we made the week of live reports happen.

My aim was to mirror what the Jerusalem bureau had achieved with their day of broadcasts from the barrier earlier this year.

Scratching of heads

I wanted to go live from as many locations as possible in and around Kigali, giving News 24 and BBC World a mix of scenarios, guests and live events.

The main challenge was to do this without the use of a mobile satellite van.

The home made satellite truck

I put the proposal to the guys in the location facilities department (Facs) - there was some scratching of heads and a small intake of breath, but before long we had a plan.

If we couldn't take a sat van to Kigali, we'd build our own when we got there. In a day.

In the space of a few hours, Facs engineers Martin Doyle and Bob Rae set about converting a flat-bed Toyota and a mini van outside the wonderfully named Hotel Gorillas (you should try their Gorilla Cassoulet).

The dish and generator were mounted on the truck and the rest of the equipment in the mini van.


The aim was to strap everything down inside the two vehicles and drive slowly along the bumpy roads from location to location.

A canopy for cover from sun and rain, and a few cans of petrol, and we were set. Amazing how quickly a mound of silver boxes can be transformed into a two-camera outside broadcast unit.

We realised pretty soon that we'd need a live camera, so we flew one in from Rochdale, as you do.

Cameraman Zurab Kodalashvili, on his first African trip, did wonders and we'd not have been able to do half of what we achieved without him.

Kevin Bishop in the operations van
Local residents watch Kevin Bishop at work
Meanwhile, I set about the Byzantine process of getting us accredited.

Initially, and most importantly I soon found out, we had to pay. A snip at $200 per head.

To hand over the money I had to go to the Ministry of Revenue and Taxes and queue up with Kigali's driving offenders.

Rwanda implements its traffic policies very seriously. No speed cameras as yet, but seatbelts must be worn and there's no using mobiles or running red lights.The Kigali road police all sport a very natty line in fluorescent yellow jackets.

After several days of running from ministry to ministry, I thought I had finally cracked the accreditation nut (the Minister of Information himself had to sign each card).

Bright ideas

However, on being presented with the completed accreditations I was somewhat deflated to learn that these merely served as the basis on which to get another set of passes.

Still, it kept me out of trouble. If I'd had more time on my hands I'd only have come up with more bright ideas of what we could do with the dish.

With the sat van built and the permissions in hand, things went more or less swimmingly.

There were long days and weather that varied from torrential rain to blistering heat. We set up at a mass grave, a modern hotel, outside a former presidential palace, in a centre for victims of rape and HIV, and inside a football stadium.

Correspondent Mike Wooldridge with some children
Local children were fascinated by the visiting crew
Everywhere we went we became the centre of attention for the local kids.

Funny white men in floppy hats and red faces attract attention in Africa at the best of times. If you have a satellite uplink with you as well, it's worth taking the day off to watch.

The only real hitches came on the main day of commemoration at Kigali stadium.

We'd been given permission from President Kagame's office to park the truck on the running track, but the message hadn't filtered down to a very annoyed head of security at the ground.

But Gabi, our fixer supreme, made a couple of quick calls and we witnessed the Rwandan equivalent of Condeleeza Rice phoning a jobsworth on a gate and telling him to open it, or else.

At the end of the day, security did get their revenge and conspired with the rain to keep us locked in the stadium until Kagame had spoken. Gabi didn't make himself popular at this stage by pointing out that Kagame was definitely going to wait until after the rain and that he rarely goes to bed before 0400.

In all, it was an excellent first outing for the brand new Advent dish, UKI 1078, in Africa.

There were possibly one or two dodgy camera mixes from the Cornish director (who shall remain nameless), but it was otherwise a flawless technical achievement.


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