• Mbabazi campaign forces president to replace old press unit with an all-new tech-savvy media team
Under pressure from a social media-savvy Amama Mbabazi, President Museveni is determined to win not just the votes counted, but also the public relations war, The Observer has learnt.
Reliable sources said that with the 2016 election campaign fast approaching, and the presidential press unit mostly using what some see as old technology, Museveni recently ordered an overhaul.
The overhaul, our sources say, has been brought on, largely by presidential aspirant Amama Mbabazi’s use of modern technology and social media to good effect.
Mbabazi’s announcement of his presidential bid via a video on YouTube didn’t go unnoticed by the highest office in the land. Museveni, according to sources, will soon have new faces on his press unit.
The Observer understands that at the beginning of July, the president directed State House Comptroller Lucy Nakyobe to work on the modalities of retiring the press unit personnel and recruit a fresh team.
According to sources close to State House, the president has often complained about the work ethic of his press team. He is reportedly frustrated that his journalists have not been able to dominate such platforms as Twitter and Facebook, where Amama Mbabazi’s people are very active.
Interviewed on Friday, the executive director of the Uganda Media Centre, Ofwono Opondo, confirmed that the old brooms were going to be swept away.
“The majority of the people in PPU are old people who should have been retired some time back,” Opondo said.
Their age aside, Opondo said, some of the old brooms joined PPU through informal channels without any qualifications.
“Many of them have failed to adjust to the new technology; this is the age of the internet, social media and email, but many of the people in PPU can’t use [some of] them,” Opondo said.
To improve his press team, Museveni wants a new team of young journalists, able to change with the fast-changing media industry. Recruitment for the new team is ongoing and targets mainly journalists working with private media houses.
This may explain why Museveni recently swooped for former Daily Monitor managing editor Don Wanyama, one of the most social-media-savvy journalists in the business. Days after his appointment was announced, Wanyama hit the ground running with a powerful commentary against Mbabazi.
“I can confirm to you that I have been involved in spotting talent from the private media because they have a unique way of looking at news unlike these people who still look at news based on the old style,” Opondo said.
“You people in the private media have a better eye and nose for news. There are things that journalists in the private media can pick to make the story more interesting unlike [these] who focus on the official things that the president does.”
Contacted on Saturday, State House Comptroller Nakyobe feigned ignorance about the recruitment. But presidential press secretary Tamale Mirundi said the process was ongoing.
“It was a negotiated deal and those that want to leave will go, and others will be redeployed elsewhere… we were not manufactured to die in State House,” Mirundi said, adding that he expected the jobs to be advertised soon.
Asked about a government team, which is already spotting journalists to take up the jobs, he said: “It could be true; what you need to know is that I am not a desk person, I am a field person; so I wouldn’t know if that is already happening.”
“You know working in State House is ideological; you cannot expect an FDC [supporter] to get a job there, you must be sure of who you are bringing in,” Mirundi added.
Unlike the current staff at PPU, the new recruits will get better pay well above the public service pay grade.
“Things have changed, originally PPU used to recruit from UBC and they were getting civil service salaries but the new people are going to get fat and better salaries,” Mirundi said.
Asked about his fate, Mirundi said he is not willing to sit for interviews because that would tie him to State House yet he sees no future there without President Museveni.
“I have no future in NRM without Museveni,” Mirundi said. “Do you expect another president to come in and retain me in this position?”