The Uganda Radio Network (URN) newsroom is where you will find this young, inquisitive and focused gentleman. The sky is not the limit for him. He is an investigative journalist that seeks to ask those hard questions. He is a loved and a trusted source by Ugandans for his hard work and trustworthy stories, His name is Mujuni Raymond Qatahar a Journalist, a blogger, poet, debater and volunteer. He recently asked the president of Uganda tough questions. We are all still waiting for the answers and by the way his blog The Mast is a must follow.
Briefly tell us about yourself.
I am a journalist currently working with Uganda Radio Network, Majorly when I am here, I do security reporting and investigative reporting, in other capacities, I write for the Buzz Feed on assigned stories that’s basically it for now.
Investigative pieces-“Risky” Do you feel safe doing this kind of work?
Of course, the idea of investigation arises out of the very notion that some people have things they don’t want said. Well, there are insecurities that are broadly open, there are people who will threaten you. But on the greater part of it, I am safe.
Tell us about Journalism school, your path to where you are right now.
Actually, I didn’t study Mass Communication or Journalism at University, I joined URN in my vacation but I was doing journalism way before I joined URN. I used to write for T-Vibe magazine, then I did some little work for the New Vision, then I joined URN where I officially got employment. I also got employed by New Vision again then I left New Vision for the Buzz Feed and I finally came back to URN.
Though, I have done an introduction to journalism an online institution and I am certified, I have done a lot of studying from the African Media Centre of Excellence on Data journalism and I have gone through oil and gas reporting for bloggers and journalists. So I have done a lot of studying but with journalism, you learn something new every day.
Tell us about law school & how you juggle journalism besides a Bachelor in Laws at Makerere University
Huh, that is a trick… I go to Law school in the evening, so I am doing evening, during day I am at work. I study at Makerere and yeah, I am doing a Bachelor’s degree and I am in my final year.
The newsroom! Does this place warm your heart? Why?
If you are passionate about storytelling, the newsroom is your place to be, there is a lot of news that goes through this newsroom every day, interesting and sad stories. This is a hub of information.
Tell us more about Buzz feed, what is Buzz Feed, Why Buzz Feed?
Buzz Feed is the fastest growing media organization at the moment, it is read more than the New York Times or the Washington Post. It’s because they have ushered in a new style of doing stories, they have ushered in a style of doing journalism that appeals to the people out there. They haven’t done most of the Ugandan work, I mean I do the Ugandan Work, but they take in like only four stories from Uganda in a year. So, I work for Buzz Feed on assigned stories, whenever they need a story, I get it for them.
Uganda Radio Network (URN) is not a radio as many might think, it is an agency that supplies news stories to radio stations. Most of the investigative pieces can be found on the URN website.
What do you attribute your success to?
(Laughs) that will mean I have succeeded right… it’s a lot of hard work to start with, a lot of persistence, hard work and learning. Journalism as you might know it’s not a profession that you can completely get from the blackboard. so u have to keep learning, every day you meet a source who teaches you something new in your journalism sphere, so it’s a lot of hard work. It’s a lot of persistence because you will not get the goals you want from journalism in one day, you’ll have to wait a long period of time to get what you want from journalism.
Journalism is largely a passion, it’s something that has to appeal to your heart, there is no way you can call journalism a job, journalism is a service that requires passion, persistence and an open mind.
Who inspires you in the world of journalism?
There is one Kenyan John Allan Namu who is a Kenyan Investigative journalist, this dude has done more investigation work than any other East African Journalist, and he has uncovered some of the world’s most shocking stories.
Charles Onyango Obbo, has also done a great job, then Allan Kasujja of BBC, is also one of my greatest inspiration.
As a writer and blogger, how do you fight the “writer’s block?”
The block happens to every writer, but the idea is to keep practicing, keep writing, and keep writing. But also a writer’s block will only happen when you have completely run out of experiences. Writing is all about experiences so you have to go out and start a whole new string of experiences. It’s impossible to have a writer’s block in journalism because there are stories that should be told on a daily basis. Everyone has a story they have to tell, so you can’t get a block when people have those many stories to tell. It’s impossible
#PoeticJustice is the name of your poetry blog, why is your poetry still hidden to the masses?
I share my poetry with a group of people, the lantern meet of poets. Poetry for me is a form of expression. Expression from the deep that I don’t like putting out to the public, but I put it on a blog. Those who can access the blog, well and good. Those who know me very well will get to the blog and read it, those who don’t, wont.
You are the Director of Campus Ninjas a now dormant humorous online campus site. What happened to campus Ninjas as it has been dormant for quite a while now, what happened to the Ninjas?
Campus ninjas was a dream we were chasing when all of us were still too young at campus. We put in too much investment in terms of time, investment in terms of money. It was running well until all of us got too busy for it. each of us that were writing, the five ninjas, we all have a job that keeps us busy 24 hours… we were hoping that we would get some people at campus who would take on the blog from where it had stopped, there have been positive responses but we haven’t found people with much humor to run the blog as it is. For now it will be there until someone comes and takes it on.
What is Social Impact Activism?
Social Impact Activism Is the ability to use social media places like; twitter, Facebook, your blog to impact society that you live in … I do much of this with 40 days over 40 smiles. It’s the ability to know that for every follower that you have, they can positively contribute to a cause if that cause is reported to them, so you use social media to show them the cause so that they can contribute. And of course in Uganda there is a lot of poverty, there is a lot of disagreement and people have to keep up. So, it’s incumbent on every person with a social media space at least a sizeable forum to devote some of that space to a social cause.
That said, you are very active in 40-40 events, are you one of the founding Fathers?
(laughs) I am not a founding father of 40-40 but a committed member of the team. There is a lot of work to be done, and that work can’t be done unless some people volunteer to do it. Its open volunteering but there is not as many people that are willing to devote their time towards charity. So whenever I can, I devote my time to 40-40, which is most of the time.
Talking of Social Impact Activism, tell us about 40-40’s upcoming events at least those within this month, so we can also be part of this “Social Impact Activism.”
We have an activation this Saturday 9th May at Makerere grounds in partnership with the Global Health Corps who devoted their day which was supposed to be a field day to 40 Days 40 Smiles to raise money for a school called Elohim Children Foundation where disadvantaged and orphaned children go to in Luweero. These children dance for a living, it’s the food they eat, the school fees they pay. And we are thinking we can help them, hence we want to raise funds so we can build them a dormitory. So every penny from the event will be dedicated to building these children a dormitory.
You were ranked by Green Light Movement Polls as one of Uganda’s ten best debaters in 2013, what you have to say about the future, and structure/life of debating in this country.
The culture of debate in Uganda is appalling, it is very appalling, people don’t have the skills to debate but much less they don’t have the audience and the norm to take in debate. There are basic principles of debate that people do not want to uphold to, which would be vital to the running of society. People don’t want to listen to other opinions, people don’t want to take in opinions that are varying from their own opinions. There are many people sharing information and opinions that is not research based or backed by data. So the culture of debate at the moment is very appalling. Every person should go through a phase of their life where they learn how to debate, when they learn how to have a conversation with someone who doesn’t fully believe in them or whose opinion is totally different from theirs.
What about debating at University level?
University would have been a good sample case, but go to the high level, start with the Parliament its self, you watch a Parliamentary session and you can’t positively identify one issue that people are having a conversation about. Which is why the proactive debaters/members of Parliament are able to push through bills that would otherwise be considered infamous by people outside parliament. But at University also, there is an appalling culture of debate, I have watched Guild Debates, and you notice that the culture of debate in Uganda is at an all-time low.
There has been a case of yellow journalism in Uganda. What do you think about it?
I think every story is worth telling, whether it’s good or bad or whether people perceive it as bad, every story is worth telling. Yellow journalism has already done its fair share of disrepute to the journalism fraternity, you can see that the papers that are being sold every year are on the low side and people are no longer buying newspapers because they don’t see value in them but every story is worth being told, whether it is good or bad. The balance has to be struck by editors who have a wholesome view of journalism at a whole, but the journalists who do the day today work, our biggest challenge is to identify stories that mean something to society, we need to move away from official press statements and we talk to people who are affected by these press statements. I think we are having our moment of reconciliation with the facts as journalism. Every media manager is talking about how social media is stealing money from journalism, every media house is now actively considering an online platform and how they can invest in it and how to tell better stories. And soon, we shall be telling better stories that impact on society as a whole.
Do you blame the negative publicity on the international scene especially out of Africa on Yellow journalism? I mean people think Uganda is all about Kony, Idi Amin or Obote!
No, the way people decide to perceive Uganda is the way International Media decided to report about us, because many of these people learn about us through the International media so, If International Media proactively construes us as a nation or continent with wars and whatnot, we shall be perceived as that, but also the struggle is of us journalists to tell our own stories, we can’t keep waiting for International Media, we have to do this ourselves and I think the trend has started to change. You have seen BBC Is now looking for stories like Katoto. It has changed because of the great amount of debate that was put in, in the year of 2013 and 2014 into “how do you report about Africa.” And BBC invested time to understand how to report about Africa, they are now thriving which I can’t say for the other International Media Houses.
What was your tweef with the President really about? It all started with, “Naye @KagutaMuseveni ddala kiki, can we jointly get you something more attractive to do than lead us to our graves as a country?” what inspired you to attack this account or rather the personality behind the account?
Well, it wasn’t exactly a tweef but there was a pointing out of over the time what has appeared to me as hypocrisy by the President. If you visit his social media spaces you will realize that he has made a string of promises which when placed if context of the things he has been doing, he has largely delayed on these promises. So what I really did was sit down and point things out because a few weeks ago, the same president had made a contribution towards the treatment of a cancer patient and here is a country struggling to build a cancer ward. People are having marathons day in day out to build a cancer ward which should be UGX 700Mn, and here is a President who says he is committed to fighting cancer but on the other hand, he is purchasing UGX 3bn Land cruiser V8s for Party Officials. So I feel, there is a right or an obligation for every citizen to ask for accountability where they must ask for it, and that is all I was doing.
The problem is when people Critique Mr. Museveni, they want critique the regime but I think the first level of critique of Mr. Museveni should be the personality that is Mr. Museveni who is the president. So his personality is in question for many things, then his leadership based on his actions. At the end of the day if each citizen is able to see the glaring Hypocrisy, the failures of this person, they are able to make an informed decision during the coming elections.
Recently, a concerned citizen (Sam) posed some very factual and interesting questions via Twitter, he mostly challenged Journalists. What do you have to say about this?
I think he asked the questions, very justified questions that I think we as the media need to ponder and think about. Some of the questions Sam asked have been actively answered in some of our stories and some have not been answered. I think journalists cannot be able to answer some of Sam’s questions unless we drag the editors into the equation, some of the questions like organ harvesting at Mulago is a broad investigation that requires a commitment of resources that can’t be done without editorial approval. So, some of the questions he asked are justified questions to our journalism, but they should also be asked to the editors, the media managers the people that make the decision on how much money is spent.
At thisis256.wordpress.com we are fighting to bring out the Ugandan positive stories, from the bourgeoisie to the low people, it’s a tough thing I must say, any word of advice for us?
There are stories within Kampala that haven’t been told, lots of them and when you get to the bone of journalism, do fact driven stories, like the old school kind of journalism. Tell the stories because they have to be told.
Mentoring of journalism is expected to improve Uganda’s journalism, unfortunately, not many journalists are willing to mentor these students mostly at a free cost. What do you have to say about this?
You must admit that journalism is a very busy profession, so the person you are telling to mentor you is extremely busy in terms of live interviews and such. So I think the best form of mentoring in journalism is to stick to the person, see what they are doing, move with them, talk with them on a daily basis, ask those questions, and call them. Because it’s easier for them to respond to partial questions than sitting down and designing you a curriculum. Go with them to the field, go interview people with them, just tag along and you will get the broader view.
How This Group of Young Men is Creating Employment Through Art and Craft
BY MARVIN MUTYABA
A group of 6 youths in Makindye has embarked on a life changing journey, turning their passions and skills into a profitable business.
After attending a crafts exhibition at the National Theatre in 2015, these friends were inspired by the attractive crafts on display to start their own workshop making and selling crafts.
“We talked to Mr. Muwembo, the craftsman who was showcasing his work. He offered to give us training as we worked for him. His workshop was in Kanyanya so we used to come from Makindye every day to Kanyanya. It took us over a year to master how wood craft is done,” said Mark.
While at this apprenticeship, these young men started making their own pieces which they sold, using the profit to purchase their own equipment.
“We had a strategy. Every month we had to buy equipment. After a year, we had developed skills and were able to start our own workshop,” said Malakai, one of the proprietors of the workshop. “To start any business, it needs commitment, passion, and ready to take risks, consistency and involvement.”
In 2016, these committed youth started their workshop on a small piece of land given to them by Malakai’s father at Lukuli, Nanganda.
“After two months, KCCA came and demolished our workshop saying that they wanted only built up structures on the main road. Even all our equipment and materials were taken. We went back to zero and all our savings had been used to buy these things,” narrates Mark. “We visited KCCA offices several times trying to see if we could recover the materials. We had lost wood, vanish, paints and tools like small axes, carving tools, pry bars, clamps, hammers and marking tools. We never got any back so we gave up on them”
As a result, their work was put on a standstill for some time. This was a very big set back to their dream of building a very big craft shop. Their next challenge was getting another location.
“Towards the end of 2016, KCCA advertised a funding opportunity for the youths who had business ideas and also those that had running businesses. We wrote a proposal but this took a while and we never not get any feedback.”
Desperate for capital to start over, they sought loans from their parents to no luck. Only Abdul’s parents supported them with a small loan that wasn’t sufficient to cover the cost of materials and new equipment.
“During that time, there was a road construction project. we asked for jobs and worked there for 6 months. We saved all our money and rented a small piece of land where we put up a workshop. This time it was not on the main road. We started working again and lucky enough, we had market from our time at Muwembo”s workshop,” narrates Mark.
Due to their hard work, these six young men have managed to create jobs and employ more eleven young people who distribute and take on other tasks like filing, shaping, chiseling, painting among others. The group is constructing a workshop and a showroom on the main road in Lukuli. By next year, they believe, the workshop will be done.
“Basing on the current situation in the country, we are able to earn a living and also employ other people,” says Abdul.
When asked about their goals, this inseparable team wants to have at least 100 employees by the end of next year and also start exporting their craft. They encourage their fellow Ugandans to follow their passion and find a way of earning from it.
*This is a guest post by MARVIN MUTYABA, a student at Makerere University Business School, currently pursuing a Business Administration in his second year. He is passionate about entrepreneurship, skills development and fitness.
How Kasule Is Changing The Lives Of Children Of Prisoners One By One
BY SHANINE AHIMBISIBWE
Jimmy Kasule Chan is a 29-year-old man who has dedicated his life to supporting the children of prisoners in Uganda. With over sixteen children from twelve families in his programme today, he is working towards his vision of a prosperous future for the children of Ugandan prisoners.
His desire to change the lives of prisoner’s children was awakened in 2012 when he was wrongfully detained at the Harare remand centre in Zimbabwe for six months.
“My friend had told me to go with him to South Africa for work. When we got there, things were very tight and we decided to come back home after two weeks with some electronics for sale. We thought this could be our business. On our way, we had to go through Harare but we did not have some stamps in our passports. Because Uganda does not have an embassy in Zimbabwe, we had gone through the Tanzanian embassy but the people at the border could not understand this. We were taken to Interpol and on getting there, we were arrested for Border Jump. We were detained in Harare remand centre for 6 months without having any real contact with anyone. There were 12 Ugandans in total” he narrated. “My wife was seven months pregnant at that time and I kept thinking, what if I never go back to Uganda? Who will help my child? I resolved to help children of prisoners if I ever got out of this prison.”
Jimmy described his time as a prisoner in a foreign country as horrific and inhumane, with poor feeding and little to no medical care.
“It was terrible. The food was the worst and sometimes not cooked properly in fact, people used to get sick all the time. One Ugandan died from a stomach infection. We used to eat something called “Chingwa”, that tasted like spoilt bread. Winter was the worst because we were given these thin blankets and no mattress.”
With the tireless help of his wife, jimmy was released from Harare remand centre in 2012 and on getting back to Uganda, the first thing he did was to get a job that would give him the funds to support these children.
“A friend introduced me to a gentleman who gave me his car for business. I used to transport people most especially tourists and pay him UGX 300,000 every week. I got a very nice client called Mona, who I found out was the president of Children of prisoners, Sweden. After she left, I sent her an email asking for a meeting and she agreed to meet me. I told her about my vision and she seemed very excited about it. She was happy to meet someone who shared her vision.”
A few months later, Mona asked Jimmy to visit one of the children her organization sponsored, Chrispus, at his school.
“When I visited him, he was excited that a stranger could come to see him. I kept visiting him on Visiting Days. He told me about his father who had been serving a long sentence in Luzira. I went to visit him and I asked him to introduce me to other people in the prison who I could talk to. I met people who would directed me to their families now my wife and I go to visit them and take for them some things.”
For four years now, Jimmy has conducted monthly visits to families of prisoners and has taken on the guardianship of Chrispus, who he regards as his first born. He also hosts an annual Christmas party for the children where he invites other children from the neighbourhood to make merry and meet father Christmas.
Jimmy believes that children, more so whose parents have been imprisoned, need to be loved and cared for so they do not find the need to commit any crimes and end up in prisons as well.
Would you like to support children of prisoners or volunteer on family visits? Please call/text Jimmy on 0774739500 or send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Turning Rubbish into Money In The Fight Against Unemployment
BY: MARVIN MUTYABA
Meet Calvin Matovu, a twenty-five-year old graduate from Makerere University who recycles wastes and rubbish into charcoal.
After attaining a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental science in 2013, Calvin searched for a job in vain. His life started becoming difficult as he had no source of income and he found it senseless to finish university and sit at idly at home.
In the struggle to fight unemployment, Calvin harnessed the idea of collecting wastes and rubbish from the community with his friends, to make some money.
“I asked myself, all this waste we collect and KCCA burns, can’t we reproduce a product out of it?’ Basing on my knowledge from campus, I came up with the idea of recycling wastes into charcoal.” Says Calvin at his factory in Erisa zone, Kyebando.
He set his plan in motion by gathering jobless youths in his community to create employment for themselves. Calvin and his team of seven started reusing wastes, especially organic wastes from agricultural products for example peelings from matooke. These are mixed with ash, clay, carbon and water to make a final product.
“At first we did not have market because people were already using charcoal from firewood with no clue about charcoal from wastes.” He says.
The idea of reusing garbage to make charcoal seems so unrealistic until he breaks down the process through which waste can be made useful and environment friendly.
“The raw materials include banana peelings, paper, clay, cow dung, cassava flour basing on your income level for example one can use clay or cow dung or cassava flour. The machines used are: a charring drum, crushing machine and a stick briquette machine. Peelings are collected and dried then sorted and grinded. Then they are burnt and put into the charring drum. The binder, which can be either cassava porridge, clay or cow dung is added to the wastes mix and the mixture is then poured into the briquette machine. the last step is to dry the briquettes to produce charcoal. This is done in the drying rack.”
Calvin and his team have faced a number of challenges but this has not stopped them from going further.
“In the beginning, we used our hands to mould the charcoal which was very tiresome and it left our hands spoilt with dead skin in the palms. Our quality also wasn’t that good. The market too was very low but we never gave up.”
“Use what surrounds you” is a common saying that we often do not give attention too, but instead, we keep asking our leaders for help yet what’s surrounds us can be very useful in our daily life.
Basic principles of Physics state that “Effort + Load = Work done.” Calvin’s hard work and desire to see his brilliant idea boom led him to overcome all the challenges that he and his team met. After months of several dynamics, critics and mental exhaustion, the season ended and he harvested fruits from his tree. Schools and some small companies started making orders for his charcoal. He has since received support from KCCA in form of a a manual machine that ended the hands era.
Calvin Matovu now he employs twenty young people from his own community in Kyebando. The charcoal briquettes they manufacture cost UGX 1500 and last for over seven hours, which minimizes the daily costs also reducing demand for firewood.
“Anyone can do this anywhere at any time.” He says in conclusion. “Every person should base on talent at least 50% of their daily economic activities.”
This is a guest post by MARVIN MUTYABA, a student at Makerere University Business School, currently pursuing a Business Administration in his second year. He is passionate about entrepreneurship, skills development and fitness.
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