Uganda’s Top PR Gurus & What Makes Them Tick
By John V Sserwaniko & Moses Semakula
Cynthia Mpanga: She is a young adult who works with Standard Chartered bank. She is rated highly by media people because she promptly gets back to you with very good answers. She is passionate and knowledge about the institution she speaks for. Her prowess was recently recognized when peers elected her to be president of PRAU under which they unite. At StanChart the communications department was recently boosted by the coming on board of Hellen Nangonzi.
Sam Apedel: He is a veteran editor from Sunday Vision who now oversees NWSC’s PR needs and is the man behind the entity’s improved image to the extent that today it’s a model of excellence when it comes to successful parastatals not only in Uganda but regionally. MD Eng Silver Mugisha’s team has done a good job and Apedel’s role is to ensure the values the entity stands for are well articulated to the public.
Jim Mugunga: He was originally a business reporter at Monitor newspaper and also reported politics at Parliament with peers like Pius Katunzi, Ofwono Opondo & Robert Mukasa etc. As a business reporter, he scooped the story of the Greenland Bank scandal having been good friends with its owner Kiggundu and bosses at BoU. After doing graduate studies abroad, Jim left along the newsroom to speak for the Ministry of Finance. He sits in Communications House in the offices of Privatization Unit but is always available to answer anything regarding the powerful men across the road in the Ministry of Finance. He is humble and respects his political and technical bosses at the Ministry. Once called upon he will cross over to the Ministry building at lightning speed. He is always available on phone and mail. He can even drive to the newsroom to drive the point home. He is parental and a mentor who never allows a scribe to leave his office without some professional advice. He would do even much better if Muhakanizi would logistically facilitate his office.
URSB’ Nangobi: She speaks for a fairly new agency mandated to handle all trade mark and business registrations in Uganda. Peers say she is very energetic and likes her work. She never misses taking a call from a journalist and always has her facts on her finger tips. She has fully studied her organization and its PR challenges in such a short time. She replies text messages and mails from reporters. She is a fast mover who will make you speak to the relevant manager even without appointment. She understands the truth that news is perishable and must be handled with the timeliness it deserves. Her other name is Provia and is one of the few PR persons without a lot of newsroom background.
UEGCL’s Simon Kasyate: He is a veteran journalist who likes Andrew Mwenda more than anything else. Critics accuse him of even trying to speak and behave like Mwenda who got him from the dust and turned him into a big media celebrity. Kasyate grumblingly left Daily Monitor where he started as a “Coffee Break” writer shortly after Mwenda’s acrimonious departure. He went to NTV as a reporter and news anchor where he left after quarreling with his Kenyan supervisor. He went to work with energy firm Eskom and now works with Uganda Electricity Generation Company Ltd (UEGCL) which has somehow tamed his appetite to talk to the media. Unable to do without media visibility, Kasyate ate a humble pie and returned to NTV uninvited and now co-hosts the Morning show which he uses to defend Museveni and his government image. He has also worked with the EU where he left after exhausting his unrenewable contract. Prior Monitor newspaper, Kasyate was an entertainment report for UTV and later on WBS. At EU, Kasyate picked a quarrel with Monitor colleagues who were making his work hard by writing stories hostile to government and attributing them to EU sources. Tabu Butagira was among those he picked bones with. He is forceful, eloquent and passionate about his UEGCL job.
Mak’s Ritah Namisango: She speaks for Uganda’s premier University and this Masscom graduate has held this job since the days of Prof Luboobi as VC having replaced larger than life Hellen Kaweesi. She is a survivor because when he became VC, Baryamureeba tried to oust her but failed. Instead it’s Baryamureeba who had to leave Mak and left Namisango intact. Namisango likes communicating by email and is available 24/7 including Sundays. She personally knows all scribes covering Makerere and their respective strong and weak points.
UCC’s Isaac Kalembe: He is a former journalist and works with UCC as a communications manager directly reporting to Fred Otunnu who is corporate affairs director. Kalembe is versatile and prompt when required to organize for scribes to meet and interview his boss Godfrey Mutabazi. Kalembe, who wedded recently, remarkably loves RP reporters because he finds them reliable & timely when it comes to running UCC stories.
OPM’s Julius Mucunguzi: He is a former daily Monitor journalist and benefited a lot from the Besigye 2001 story. He was the one assigned to cover candidate Besigye and was assured of the lead story every day through the campaign period. This gave him prominence that took him places until he found himself working with the Commonwealth secretariat in London whereafter he returned to Uganda to work as Communications consultant for PM Ruhakana Rugunda who is like his foster father. Mucunguzi is friendly, approachable and likes his job. He was inspired by Mwenda into journalism after Mwenda appeared to his High School and addressed that year’s S6 candidates. He liked the way Mwenda was a close friend to 1st son Muhoozi Kainerugaba. Mucunguzi is very effective using social media.
Sarah Kagingo: Peers at Kibuli Mosque where she prays from fondly refer to her as DIGITAL. This is because of the social media revolution she championed around the Presidency and personally took President Museveni to facebook and twitter and managed his personal accounts until envious colleagues ganged up and forced her out. Instead of giving up and feeling sorry for herself, Kagingo fell back on the good contacts she had made in the region as she moved with the President and started her own media/PR company called SOFT POWER with offices at Sheraton. It’s with this firm that she consults for some of the regional presidents who used to admire Museveni for having such a versatile lady on his team. In Uganda her clients include OWC headed by her other mentor Gen Saleh. She also does some work for Kibuli Muslims and Buganda kingdom.
OAG’s Gloria Namugera: This pencil-thin lady works for the Office of Auditor General as their publicist directly supervised by AG Muwanga’s deputy Keto Kayemba. The fact that this office has never been embroiled in any major scandal is proof Namugera is doing her job well. She has her reliable team of journalists in all major media houses. She also works well with Parliamentary reporters because her entity is part of Parliament. Just like NWSC’s Mugisha, Muwanga is a high performer which makes Gloria’s work easier.
NBL’s Sumin Namaganda: The former Monitor sub editor is the communications person for Nile Breweries and she is very good at identifying capable reporters to be on her media team which explains the good publicity for the brand she speaks for. It’s also true she speaks for a client who facilitates her adequately unlike people like Jim Mugunga who operate without any facilitation. Mugunga only gets a salary and airtime and nothing more. He can’t even take scribes out for dinner like Sumin does sometimes.
Abel Kyamutetera: He does a lot of digital communications for a number of brands including NSSF. He is a good writer and insightful on business matters and has a business magazine called CEO. Kyam started out as a business reporter at Monitor where he was helped to join by Alex Atuhaire who used to visit a lady that was a roommate to Kyam’s girl friend. After many years, Kyam left Monitor to work with ZK Advertizing after which he co-founded Fire Works where he employed many fellow reporters. He fell out with colleagues over the morality of the Pension scandal and is now studying law at Makerere University in his 2nd year. Kyam is wealthy, has mentored many and does charity during his free time. He is also very good at originating CSR ideas for his clients.
DTSV’s Tina Wamala: She does communications for Multi-choice Uganda which requires her to speak for DSTV and Gotv. She previously worked with Record TV where she was among the best presenters, which explains why she was easily snatched by prospects of better pay. Record TV had a reputation of not properly remunerating its workers. Wamala is completing her MBA at Makerere.
Vivian Nakalika: She is perhaps the youngest publicist for a government entity. Married to NBS’ Solomon Serwanja, Nakalika speaks for the Ministry of Health, a feat many think is too big for such a young girl. She replaced her good friend and mentor Rukia Nakamatte who was joining a UNICEF project. Nakalika is now having a good time because she works well with Minister Jane Ruth Aceng who was her personal friend during her days as a news reporter. She has also found favor with Dr. Diana, the new PS. There is also NBS news anchor Rukushana Namuyimba who manages communications for Vodafone telecom based in Kamwokya. She started out as a news anchor at Capital fm and later KFM. She also previously read news on NTV before being lured by NBS’ big pay cheque.
PBU’s Jackie Tahakanizibwa: She is the lady behind PostBank’s increased positive visibility. She previously worked with Monitor Publications as CSR manager. PBU MD Steven Mukweli is one of many clients she was working with on behalf of MPL. The babe from Toro is good at media management. She has identified a team of senior journalists who can never let her down because they understand the brand she works for. Because of her experience and results-oriented approach, the PBU BOD always endorses her proposals without hesitation.
EU’s Emma Gyezaho: He is one of the young Ugandans to have held the post of head communications European Union. A Makerere Masscom graduate of the early 2000s, Gyezaho started out as a reporter for Crown House-based Monitor FM which was managed by Mwenda. It’s in this news department that Kasyate, Mwanguhya Mpagi, Patrick Kamara and others used to work. Gyezaho was assigned the Parliamentary bit and was elevated to reporting for the Monitor newspaper following a vacuum the departure of the Observer team created. Despite having close connections to the 1st Family, Gyezaho used to write very critical articles in his weekly column called the press gallery. He used to sting many shady government officials and Amama Mbabazi suffered most. The way he wrote about JPAM revealed Gyezaho didn’t fear the mighty. His news reporting took no prisoners and many used to complain to his superiors in vain. He was briefly lured to join a new paper called Razor which folded and he returned to Monitor to write his critical pieces. After a brief stint, an opportunity came knocking to join the EU replacing Kasyate. Gyezaho applied and beat several others and took the job.
UPF’s Felix Kaweesi: He speaks for Uganda Police Force and Gen Kayihura brought him in after things had escalated for the UPF’s image following the brutal beating of Besigye supporters in Kalerwe and Entebbe road. The supporters were clobbered like snakes, attracting global outrage for the government. Fred Enanga who had spoken through the difficult campaign period was sidelined to give way for Kaweesi who has since tried to stabilize the image of the Force. Kaweesi is flamboyant and can authoritatively speak on almost everything given his closeness to IGP Kale Kayihura. He also understands the Force’s strategic positioning having serving held very senior positions. He also knows how to humble himself personally reaching out to key media personalities. Kaweesi is also very respectful and humbly told reporters when he came to office: “I’m not an authority on these [media] things. You are all colleagues and I’m here to learn from you.” He works very well with colleagues like Emilian Kayima in KMP which is unprecedented. Since the days of Nabakooba vs. Simeo Nsubuga, the national publicist and KMP publicist have always been at loggerheads.
UMC’s Shaban Bantariza: He speaks for the Uganda government and deputizes Ofwono Opondo as head media center. Bantariza is liked by the media center staff for reasons we don’t know. This sometimes makes his boss OO uneasy but life goes on. Shaban speaks very forcefully and takes no prisoners in his “tell it as it is” approach. He is also eloquent easily subduing adversaries during TV or radio debates. He previously spoke for the army, the UPDF.
Parliament’s Chris Obore: The tough man from Bukedea currently is the Director communications at Parliament and faces the dilemma of being boss to Hellen Kaweesi who considers herself more senior, more experienced and more qualified. Obore’s belligerent approach has enabled him to create breathing space for August House which is always prone to bad publicity. He has succeeded partly because he found his own reasons to justify the locking out of some of the scribes who considered themselves senior and critical enough to report the 10th Parliament. He ensured the place was full of less troublesome young journalists whose reporting can easily be controlled and kept under check. He has also strategically partnered with newspapers to publicize basic information about Parliament. He is also trusted by both the legislature leaders and executive. He also personally knows many of the people who supervise him having been a senior journalist before. He has refused to be blackmailed by critics who keep saying he is today less popular with the public than he was 5 years ago. To him the end must justify the means.
Judiciary’s Solomon Muyita: He previously worked as a court reporter for both Vision and Monitor. He was a few years ago head hunted by Secretary to Judiciary Dorcus Okalany who made him Judiciary spokesman, a role previously held by Erias Kisawuzi who has since become a disgruntled man. The truth is whereas he was good also: Kisawuzi was busy because he has other judicial roles as a judicial officer. Muyita has done so well that other MDAs have been considering persuading him with higher pay so that he quits to go and work for them but the man from Busoga seems to feel at home in the Judiciary where he was recently given additional role to speak for the newly created commission of inquiry into land matters. Muyita has done well because he personally knows the judges (had been court reporter) and the newsroom dynamics.
Dennis Obbo: He is the veteran publicist for the lands ministry and has lately been having good rapport with his new PS Dorcus Okalany. Obbo has outlived many Ministers and PSs in this sector and he therefore has good institutional memory of things.
EC’s Jotham Taremwa: Before joining EC, he worked as a communications manager at Parliament under both Kadaga and Sekandi. He was among those who worked under Kagole Kivumbi many years ago. Taremwa is media friendly and supervises a team of others including Paul Bukenya, his deputy. In the February 2016 elections, he exuded power and social media critics claimed he was more powerful than EC Chairman Badru Kiggundu because of the way powerful man Sam Rwakoojo trusted him.
UPDF’s Paddy Ankunda: He speaks for the Defense Ministry and UPDF. Despite being a Mukiga, Ankunda who strikingly resembles Robert Kabushenga, speaks fluent Luganda and this makes his work easier because many of the radios in Kampala run Luganda news besides the English bulletin. He is also a soldier at the rank of Colonel. He manages doing his job by ensuring he remains neutral even when there are things his superiors (the Generals) may not be unanimous about. He is very obedient to authority and ensures is on good terms with all his military and civilian bosses at Mbuya. Ankunda is eloquent though sometimes it isn’t easy speaking for such an intrigue riddled institution. He has regional deputies based in army Divisions but none nationally at Mbuya which makes his job quite hectic.
FDC’s Semujju Nganda: The Kiira Municipality MP Speaks for the FDC party, a job for which he was elected by party members. Though he is a Besigyeist, Semujju quickly adjusts to new situations and that is how he has managed to very easily work with Party President Gen Muntu whose candidature he didn’t support. Semujju speaks honestly and isn’t known to seek bribes. This has enabled him to consistently maintain his position on things. He loves his party and deeply understands the politics of Uganda having reported and edited politics at Monitor and Observer respectively. He is also very confrontational and won’t hesitate going physical if the situation demands so. His work is easied by the fact that listeners like his wit and has weekly programs on leading political talk shows on Radio Simba and Capital Gang where he reaches millions of people. He also has a weekly newspaper column. All these explain why he had no problem quitting CBS fm when Mayiga became Katikkiro and set hard political conditions for him. He left after telling moderator Med Nsereko: “I will return when there is a new Katikkiro.” Semujju also delegates colleagues like Harod Kaija and youth leader Mulindwa Walid whenever he is unable to show up.
CAA’s Igundura: He speaks for CAA and this is what we have known him for since when we were small boys. This explains the institutional memory he carries with him about CAA. Other key PR practitioners include NRM party’s Rogers Mulindwa, Sheila Kangwagye, BoU’s Xtine Alupo and LDC’s Hamis Lukyamuzi who was an administrator at the same institution but became PR practitioner out of necessity. This was after Justice Percy Tuhaise who used to speak for LDC left to become a Judge a few years ago. Lukyamuzi manages by being one who keeps his word whenever he promises journalists information. He operates without serious funding but keeps reporters happy because he treats them with courteousy which they reciprocate by supporting his work. In his world, there is nothing like closed secrets. He freely gives journalists all the information they need about LDC and his motto is “the people have a right to know.” There is also NMS’ Dan Kimosho who previously worked with Mulago hospital. Kimosho has always encouraged his boss Moses Kamabare to spare time to interact with key media personalities to deepen public’ understanding of the NMS mandate and the results have been spectacular.