About

Mr Kalundi Serumaga is a Journalist, filmmaker and cultural activist based in Kampala.

He probably has no equal in interviewing skills – at least in Uganda’s electronic media. He has no confessed idol, but one would be tempted to think that he admires or gleans some tricks from former Hard Talk abrasive interviewer, Tim Sebastian.
Kalundi Serumaga sets traps for his interviewees and those who can’t stand his mauling style have stormed out of the studio. His style of conducting an interview is controversial and incisive; often insisting on simple answers to winding questions. He has interviewed a whole range of people for Radio One’s Spectrum talk show, from women activists pushing to stage the Vagina Monologues to spy chiefs, rebels, politicians, artists, army generals, ministers, and President Museveni, who it is rumoured, described him as a ‘hostile host.’
Because of his abrasive style, some of his interviewees have vowed never to return to his studio. “I’m matching out in protest and never call me back to your studios,” Gen. Elly Tumwine shouted as he marched out in a huff from the Radio One studio a few months ago.
Serumaga had insisted that Gen. Tumwine who was Army Commander of the guerrilla National Resistance Army in Luwero Triangle, explains to the public under what circumstances one of their officers, Hannington Mugabi, was killed by a colleague in 1983. Tumwine ducked the question.
It was Serumaga’s dogged and repeated demand for an answer that Tumwine found unpalatable.
“I have never had anything against him; I think he knows better than me why the death of Hannington Mugabi should upset him that much. It is a genuine question, he was in a position of authority at the time and he should explain,” Serumaga later explained.
Ironically, the two men are well-known to each other. In the mid-1990s Serumaga was the Director of the National Cultural Centre, which runs the National Theatre and Nommo Gallery, where Gen. Tumwine was a member of board of trustees.
But Tumwine is not an isolated case. Prof. Semakula Kiwanuka, the Minister of State for Investments, also once threatened to jump out of the studio if the host did not allow him to answer questions the way he wanted.
Former intelligence chief, David Pulkol, had to plead for Serumaga’s clemency when the host took him through a litany of his past utterances and actions that Pulkol would have preferred to be buried.
“This man tried to deny things he had actually said less than five years ago. It left me thoroughly amazed,” he said of Pulkol.
Serumaga has hosted Spectrum for six years, having started in 1998, before taking a break in 2002 to do some environmental activism with the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA). He reverted to the show in 2006.
But his job has won him foes and admirers alike. One of the regular callers on his show, Church Ambrose Bukenya of Nateete, says Serumaga ably delivers people’s grievances.
But another listener, Apollo Musiime, thinks Serumaga has a rare knack to dress seriousness in humour.
“I pity the people who get into the studio with him. It feels like a real grilling,” he says.
And former Spectrum host, David Mushabe, believes Serumaga is not lenient on pro-government people.
“I always knew him as a critic. He doesn’t give his interviewees space, especially if he thinks that they are always pro-government,” he says.
But Nuwa Wamala Nyanzi, a popular painter, says Serumaga is gifted with fishing out muck from those hiding it.
He says Serumaga dresses his sense of humour in sarcasm and many of his guests on the show find this combination biting.
The producer of Spectrum, Lynn Najjemba, says when Serumaga is behind the microphone, the listeners are, “always assured of a good debate, and this with due respect to his co-presenter’s skills.”

Drama love
Serumaga says he learnt his analytical skills from his association with the now deceased former Minister of State for Planning, Ojwok Omwony, while the two lived in exile in the United Kingdom.
He started his education in Kenya in the 1970s and returned to Uganda after the fall of President Idi Amin. He joined Namasagali College, where his skills in acting were honed under the tutelage of Fr. Damien Grimes.
At the time, the school had leverage over other schools in churning out the best drama actors.
Incidentally, many of them had a stint in radio or television. They include Timothy Kalyegira (Sanyu FM, K-FM among others), Alex Ndaula (Capital FM), Ronald Sempangi (Capital FM), the late Wilfred Bangi (Radio One, Capital and Sanyu FM), Irene Ochwo (Radio One), Gloria Kamba (Radio Sanyu), John Miles (Radio Sanyu), Robert Kabushenga (formerly Capital Gang), Samson Bill (formerly of Radio Sanyu, now of CBS), Ben Wandera (formerly at Capital FM), Rita Nassuna (Radio Sanyu/Capital FM) and Alex Mukulu (Radio Simba).
So it seemed like a natural progression for Serumaga that radio and drama would actually go together. “I think everybody should study drama, it teaches you how to deal with human behaviour. I find the skills helpful in Radio,” he says.
Serumaga admits that when he is in the radio studio, it’s a bit like being on stage, one has to prepare beforehand to make a brilliant performance.
“It really depends on the topic. I always prepare before hand by reading a lot and make sure that when I go to the studio, I’m ready. Also, it requires a lot of concentration,” he says.

Does he pre-judge his guests?

“I know most people don’t believe this but I regard every show as a conversation, and I am only looking to get information on behalf of the listeners,” he says.

A Muganda
Serumaga has several documentaries to his name and has produced and directed several television programmes.
He is bothered that although many Ugandans have acted in films about Africa, he is yet to see a home grown East African movie on the international market.
“White people come from abroad and hire Africans to participate in making the white person’s story. And sometimes they call them films made in Uganda but they are not. They are an extension of the film practice or industry from wherever those people came. I can’t think really of one single feature length dramatic production on film that has been produced by Ugandans for Ugandans in the last 20 years.”
For all his nationalism, Serumaga prefers to describe himself as a Muganda, as opposed to Ugandan.
He says the notion of Uganda is simply a colonial invention.
“I actually passionately support the redemption of all the different countries that the British imprisoned inside “Uganda” when they created it around 1900. Had I been born a Karimojong, I would be campaigning for the emancipation of Karamoja in the same way.”

Family man
The 43-year-old father of three is married with three children, and is the son of famous Ugandan playwright, Robert Serumaga.
He was born in Uganda but spent the early part of his youth in Kenya, where he went to several primary schools. The young Serumaga later joined Namasagali College for his Secondary Education in the 1980s following the death of his father in 1981. He later moved with his family to the UK, before returning to Uganda in 1994.
His father, Robert, Serumaga who was lucky to escape the wrath of the Idi Amin government over his satirical plays like Renga Moi, died in 1981, under unclear circumstances.
Serumaga is still uncomfortable talking about the circumstances surrounding his father’s death. The only thing he is sure of is that his father’s body was found in a Busia lodge, early one morning in 1981. He had taken a bus ride from Nairobi to Busia, en route back home to meet someone. It was an often risky trip at the time, and he had taken it several times, but this time he never made it back.
During the 1970s, Robert Serumaga sought to excel in theatre like many of his two main contemporaries; Byron Kawadwa and John Ruganda who were credited with the development of Ugandan theatre in the difficult 1970s and 1980s.
The trio was critical of the government of the time, but Idi Amin was not welcoming of critics. Kawadwa was inevitably killed, while Serumaga and Ruganda escaped to Kenya

Articles on this site are cross posted from http://www.ashrineformyfather.com/

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