In May 2020, NBS TV reporter Canary Mugume joined a select club: Ugandan journalists who have interviewed President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.
Before the interview, Canary confesses, “I felt as if I had a fever. I felt like I was not myself. I was thirsty and felt like I needed a glass of water. I had butterflies in my stomach.”
When President Museveni strode into the interview room with his face mask on, the situation got worse for Canary. “I had prepared for the interview for more than three days. I had written down what I wished to ask him. Seeing him, all the questions in my head seemed to vanish.”
Then Canary remembered who he was, how he had reached this point in his life and how many journalists work their entire careers and never get this chance and resolved, “I must make the most of this for those who cannot be here.”
This is what NBS TV’s baby-faced news sensation has been doing since he was born twenty-five years ago in Mbarara, Uganda. At barely two months, Mugume lost his father. Many have been in this position and despaired. Not Canary.
While many have sneered at the government Universal Primary Education (UPE) programme to ensure all Ugandan children get an education, Mugume is a proud product of this initiative.
Without UPE, Mugume would not have managed to begin his primary education at Mbarara Primary School. Fully appreciative of his precarious state of life, Mugume snatched at any opportunity that came his way.
One of these opportunities was reading children’s news at Radio West. A school friend’s parents were connected to the radio and there was a search for an articulate child who could read news tailored for the interests of children six years old to thirteen years old.
This news would be read every Sunday. Without hesitating, as he has done all his life, Mugume offered his services. To his surprise and delight, this child of a widow learned that he would be earning 2000 shillings per broadcast.
To Mugume who sometimes went without breakfast or lunch at school, this seemed a fabulous amount. He would hold onto this gig from his primary five to senior one, accidentally imbibing a love of journalism that has since dictated his every career decision since.
The public generally recognizes his fast paced TV delivery on Coronavirus updates and from breaking news scenes of tragedy and interest. But Mugume is not just a TV journalist, he is an all rounder who has never cut ties with his childhood radio roots.
Mugume presents a Saturday interview programme on NXT radio called The Big Talk. But on top of that, in a newsroom full of many talented colleagues, he remains one of the most sought after voices to record radio news and scripts. All that started at Radio West in his childhood in Mbarara and it has never stopped.
Forced to relinquish that Radio West gig as he began at Mbarara Secondary School for his Ordinary Level education, Mugume became one of the founders of a newspaper in that school. Newspaper in this case meaning hand written notes that would be pasted on the school notice board.
Quite soon, his “newspaper” caught the attention of Mbarara Secondary School English and literature teachers who legitimized his efforts. They invited him to read his “news” every morning at school parades. This was the beginning of stepping out of what can be the anonymity of radio to become locally well known. The rush of being recognized for his work had begun and Mugume still relishes it.
A fan of legendary newsman Bbaale Francis who anchored news on Uganda Television (UTV) and later Uganda Broadcasting Services (UBC), Mugume started to dream of a career on TV for himself too.
He gets emotional when he recalls his childhood and teenage struggles, “I sometimes think I would not have suffered as much as I did if my father had been alive. I only got to hear of him from his siblings and my mother but he does not seem like the sort of man who would have allowed his children to suffer if he was there.”
He does not dwell on that loss too much though. He credits that early tragedy for spurring him to never give up even when the odds seem stacked high against his dreams and ambitions. Like when he had to sit out three years after completing his Advanced Level studies at Lutembe International School in Entebbe because his mother could not raise his tuition for university.
This hiccup in his academic journey did not slow down Mugume’s determination to get onto television.
Little remembered is that Mugume started out at Pastor Kayanja’s Channel 44 in 2014. The tour of trying to find a TV home had started somewhat unsuccessfully at the New Vision’s Urban TV. Despite Angelo Izama’s mentorship, he could not break through to get a chance to show his talent before the camera.
He was surprised when he got the call from Next Media Service’s proprietor Kin Kariisa tapping him to join NBS TV in December 16, 2016. Having been a trainee at Urban TV, Mugume was determined this time to prove himself more than capable. He blew through the six months probation with the energy and restlessness that characterizes his work to this day.
In this in depth interview that ran on Sanyuka TV, you can learn about the investigative piece that got him trailed by former boda boda rider chairman Abdul Kitata’s henchmen. He reveals how he met the love of his life Sasha and how unique their courtship was and their relationship continues to be. The interview was conducted by Hatmah Nalugwa Ssekaya.