MIKE SSEGAWA, 42, is the newly appointed deputy RCC for Jinja City South Division. He is also a journalist and the founder of Watchdog Uganda, an online news website. He recently talked to Quick Talk.
Congratulations on your appointment as RCC!
Thank you! It is a pleasure to have this opportunity to serve my country. I am the deputy Resident City Commissioner (RCC) Jinja City in charge of the South Division.
I have been in journalism for more than 15 years now. I am a farmer, husband and father of four; two beautiful girls and two sons. I am also a community organiser; I wouldn’t like to describe myself as a politician, much as I have done some politics as councillor at Mukono municipal council.
Why wouldn’t you describe yourself as a politician?
Because of the connotation the word politics has come to mean and as a communicator, I want to be very clear on who I am. I take my role as a community organizer, because I want to see better services in the community where I live.
Quick Talk has always wondered, how does one become a deputy RCC?
I also just woke up and read myself in the papers that I had been appointed. There is nowhere you apply to become RCC; you are just appointed by the appointing authority. So, it was also a surprise to me.
We heard claims of bribery in these recent appointments...
I also heard them, but can you bribe the president? If there is proof that there was no bribery in this whole process, I think I am that proof, because I don’t have that money for bribery [it was alleged by NRM MP David Kabanda that people paid Shs 20m to the office of the presidency to get posted]. If I had it, I would buy a nice plot of land in Mukono instead, for my children.
Does being the RCC mean you are no longer a municipal councillor in Mukono?
Unfortunately, yes. I actually resigned from the councillorship, because the law is very clear that you cannot be working in the central government and at the same time in the local government.
What should the people of Jinja city expect from you?
I don’t want them to expect anything from me, because I am just one person. On the contrary, there are things I expect from them: they should take ownership of the Jinja they want to see, live in and work in.
We need to create a city which everyone admires to live in. Anytime I can be transferred elsewhere and if they think about me; whatever, we share will go away with me therefore they must take ownership of their city and participate in building it.
How are you finding the job so far?
Beautiful; I am living my dream. [Laughs] I am loving my job because I love people by nature, especially working with young people. I have spent the first one month in meetings with the political and technical people of Jinja.
Living your dream? Don’t you aspire to a higher leadership position than this?
I always live one day at a time. I don’t want to bother myself thinking many years ahead. However, if the people I live with say I can lead in another position for better transformation of my community, so be it. But I wouldn’t want to bother thinking about what I will be in 2026 or 2031.
Quick Talk heard that you an ex-seminarian...
[Promptly] Yes. And the only reason I wanted to become a priest was because while growing up, the people who were closest to me, who were pro-community, were missionary priests and I wanted to be like them. But while at the seminary, I realised I could do what I wanted in my community, not necessarily as a priest.
What is your philosophy in life?
Love life [Laughs out loud]. I love my life and also want other people to live life to the fullest.
What would you do if you were made president for even just 30 days?
To be honest, many people in Uganda love to have big offices but many of them forget the fact that the first country one leads is the household.
Everyone has a chance to be president in life the day they marry and have children. The things people want to do as presidents if only they did them in their households, this country would be far. As of now, I am comfortable with myself leading my household and the people of Jinja.
Which politician do you look up to?
[One of them] is President Museveni. I know many people ridicule him, but among the presidents we have had, nobody has succeeded in pacifying, uniting and stabilizing this country more than him.
What prompted you to start an online news platform?
I always knew that this is going to be the age for digital media; so, everyone who is into media and doesn’t have a digital footprint is dancing offbeat. I started it in 2015 but the idea came to me in 2011 while I was in the USA for a fellowship.
During the internship, I was told about the need to start prioritising digital media and when I came back, I started working upon venturing into digital media and it is one of the most rewarding things I have done in my life.
What is the best part?
The best part is that you can work from anywhere. I actually don’t remember the last time I went to my office. All you need is internet, a phone or laptop, and you are good to go.
As the owner of the business, you must make sure that your workers are paid because they are your responsibility. The principle at Watchdog is that I pay my workers first before myself.
How are you balancing being RCC and running Watchdog?
My new role has actually taken away most of my time. Sometimes I look at the Watchdog work late in the night. But I thank God I have trained my workers to do exactly what I want even in my absence.
How did you meet your wife?
I don’t know when I met my wife. [Laughs] I actually grew up seeing her. Tuvudde wala [it has been quite a journey]. We have come from a one-room house to a nice home now.
What do you do in your free time?
Do I still have free time? But I like having some quality time with my friends and family. I also enjoy listening to music by Judith Babirye, Afrigo band and among the new generation artistes I like listening to Fresh Kid a lot. I think he is a very intelligent and inspirational young man.
What is your favourite book?
I have read a lot, because while at the university, I was a librarian. That year I must have read about 100 books. My favourites are the Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
Mike Ssegawa was born on January 18, 1980 to Rebecca Nakagabane and the late John Chrysostom Ssentongo.
He attended St Paul primary school, Banda for primary education, St Joseph’s Seminary Nyenga for both O and A- levels and graduated from the Catholic University of Eastern Africa in Nairobi, Kenya.
Ssegawa began his journalism career at The Sunrise newspaper in 2006 before moving to Daily Monitor in 2008 as a sub- editor.
In 2010, he was sent to Jinja as Daily Monitor’s bureau chief for the eastern region. While in Jinja, he got the opportunity to go to Oklahoma State University to study Agricultural Communications.
In 2015, he started Watchdog Communications, a media strategy consultancy firm as well as running a news website. In last year’s general elections, Ssegawa contested for the position of Mukono municipal councillor for Ngandu village which he won on an independent ticket.