BY ALEX TAREMWA
Johnson Mayamba graduated in 2012 with a Bachelors Degree in Mass Communication at Uganda Christian University (UCU).
The light skinned and vivacious fellow has since his nursery school days at Queens Nursery and Primary, Entebbe, risen through the ranks and is currently vice president of the Human Rights Network for Journalists of Uganda (HRNJ), an NGO devoted to protection and respect of human rights through defending and building the capacities of journalists to effectively exercise their constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms.
Who is he?
Mayamba was born on March 8, 1988, to Stephen Watata and Agatha Nabulo, both teachers, in Mbale District. He is the firstborn of eight children: five boys and three girls.
He attended Busumbu Primary School and Conbert Modern Primary Schools before joining Muljibhai Madhvani College, Wairaka College, and later UCU in 2009 to pursue Bachelor’s Degree in Mass Communication.
His choice of course, he says, was informed by an overwhelming desire to speak for the voiceless, the aggrieved whose voices hardly reach the public domain.
“I felt like there are many people who are unheard. These suffering people have no channel of communication. So I believe that being in this field will enable me to speak so that such people get justice,” he said.
“However, I also contemplated being a teacher and lawyer. In fact, while filling the public university admission forms, I applied for Education and Law at Kyambogo and Makerere University respectively but my fate turned out different.”
“I learnt the importance of leadership from my mother. Whenever she purposed to do something, she gave it her best.”
Mayamba says that wherever he has been, even when he does not seek a position of leadership, people always see a leader in him.
At UCU he was nominated to the Media Link board as the publicity secretary while in his first year, and he would later be voted Mass Communication representative to the Guild, among other positions.
Jack of all trades
Despite majoring in print journalism, Mayamba launched his career in 2010 at Dunamis FM, a Mukono based radio station where he co-hosted a programme Agafudde mu Wiiki, a current affairs programme that analysed weekly events.
He worked as an intern at the Daily Monitor and while there he made such a good impression that the editors recommended that he remains as a freelance contributor, before he joined The Standard , as a news editor.
“The Standard was a great opportunity for me. After having a feel of radio, I felt that I needed designing skills but I got a whole lot more. I leant management, decision making, all the practical bits of a journalist and it has helped me a lot in my career,” he says.
In 2011, Mayamba joined the Human Rights Network for Journalists, Uganda and has since been involved in numerous activities.
The most notable was a journalists’ demonstration he led to the Uganda Police Force headquarters in Naguru in a bid to petition the Inspector General of Police, Gen. Kale Kayihura, over the police brutality against journalists.
This demonstration followed an incident involving a WBS Television cameraman Andrew Lwanga, who was severely beaten up by then Old Kampala DPC, Joram Mwesigye while filming a youth riot.
“We walked from Hotel Triangle, were stopped over six times, tear-gassed, dispersed, pepper-sprayed, but we matched on to the police headquarters.
“Unfortunately, we were told that the IGP was not in office but were referred to his deputy then, Haruna Isabirye, and subsequently the then Minister of Internal Affairs, the late Gen. Aronda Nyakairima,” Mayamba remembers.
He was recognised by the African Centre of Media Excellence (ACME), a Kampala-based independent, organisation commited to making the media a more effective platform for the provision of information on public affairs, a tool for monitoring official power, and a forum for vibrant public debate, during the 2016 World Press Freedom Day as the best male journalist, 2016, while HRNJ received the prestigious Commonwealth Press Union Astor Award for its outstanding work.
Dealing with loss
On September 24, 2014, Mayamba’s mother, who was then a teacher at Seeta Primary School, succumbed for cervical cancer, a battle she had fought for almost a year.
Mayamba who was working at The Standard then, remembers tearfully how he was summoned by his mother one evening as he retired from office.
“Where are you?” His mum asked on phone. “Come home now. I want to see you,” she murmured. When he arrived at her place in Seeta, he found her lying in a pool of blood, helpless.
He took her to Mukono Health Centre IV at 1.00 am, but there was no doctor at the time so they proceeded to Nsambya Hospital where she was admitted for three weeks.
“She was very strong. She showed me that even in the worst situation, I needed to keep strong and I did. Even on the day she passed on, I worked and my colleagues could not believe it when I broke the bad news to them,” he recalls.
Almost two years later, Mayamba still feels the vacuum left by his mother’s absence. His little brother now stays with their aunt because his parents had separated.
Mayamba says he is considering standing for Member of Parliament.
He advises his peers to work towards changing the world for the better, as that is the only true measure of success.