A tribute to my mentor Sputnik Kilambi

Behind every person who considers himself or herself successful, it is almost inevitable that there is a mentor, a person this person looks up to, or owes this success.
Eugene Anangwe
Eugene Anangwe

Behind every person who considers himself or herself successful, it is almost inevitable that there is a mentor, a person this person looks up to, or owes this success.

I like calling myself successful, mainly because of where I came from in as far as this trade called journalism is concerned, and to me, such a person is Sputnik Kilambi, a tireless and passionate journalist and former Knight International Journalism Fellow.

She died on July 6 after a battle with liver cancer. She was 55.

I met Sputnik when I was fresh from college, still making my baby steps in the media industry and she discovered me while on a trip to Kenya together with Albert Rudatsimburwa, owner of Contact FM, one of the most popular FM stations in Rwanda.

This was in 2008. Sputnik and Albert were on a scouting mission; in search of radio journalists with enough skills to join the company on a long journey of reclaiming its glory when it came to cutting edge in current affairs programmes and news.

At about this time, I had made appearances at almost every audition, voice and screen tests but without any luck. At some of the auditions, I was told how I was not ready for the media.

Some were even bold as to tell me that I had not yet achieved the celebrity status to get a position in the media industry in Kenya. In other words, I had not made a name yet.

But to Sputnik, this nameless young man, with no experience in the media industry, who was just volunteering at a catholic radio station (88.3 Radio Waumini) had what it takes to work for an international media house. 

Together with Albert, she gave me a chance to bring out the best in me. While in Rwanda, she generously shared her skills and knowledge with me and the entire news team. 

Under her supervision and guidance, Contact FM became the talk of town. She once shared an sms supposedly from one of her friends that was one of Rwanda’s top officials that read something like, “We no longer have to listen to BBC news anymore to be informed of what is happening around us”.

Even though I was miles away from home, I had no worries because Sputnik was more than a mother to me. During stressful and trying moments, she would call me aside and hear me out. She would freely share words of wisdom whenever I was not sure of what to do or a decision to make.

Whenever we had rough moments at work or brushed shoulders with Sputnik, she would never let the day end without sorting out the issue. Sputnik loved and appreciated her team. She would invite us over for some wine and seized the opportunity to make us feel appreciated for the job we were doing.

Today, thanks to Sputnik Kilambi, I can stand on my two journalistic feet and hold other budding journalist’s hands and show them direction. Thanks to Sputnik Kilambi, I now have a name; “Eugene ANANGWEEEEEEEEE……….”

To Sputnik

Some in the team may have felt that you favoured me a lot at some point but I know you believed in me. You believed in my potential and you did not just sit there. You did something about it.

Even as you rest, always know that the team that you worked with and those who had a chance to interact with you, are and will forever be proud of you Mama. You fought a tough battle. Thank you for the selflessness, the kindness, opportunities and for discovering me. The only gift we can give you is to also uphold the same values that you had.

It is time for us to also hold the young journalists’ hands and show them direction. It is time to speak out against social injustices and become the voice of the voiceless in society. I love you and will forever miss you. Till we meet again.

About Sputnik Kilambi:

A veteran broadcaster, Sputnik had worked in Africa, Asia and Europe covering wars and humanitarian crises. She also trained teams of reporters dedicated to journalistic excellence and promoting peace in countries wracked by violence and poverty.

Working as a Knight Fellow in Ghana in 2011, she trained and mentored journalists at Joy FM, one of Ghana’s leading English-language radio stations, to create in-depth features on social issues, economic development and poverty.

The award-winning “Hotline” show they produced set a new standard for radio in Ghana.

Earlier, she worked as a Knight Fellow in Rwanda, where she trained radio journalists and helped create a tri-lingual news and features programme at Contact FM.

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