By Joseph Kizza
KAMPALA - Bukedde, Uganda's leading vernacular newspaper under Vision Group, has celebrated two decades since its maiden publication on August 29, 1994.
Over this period, the daily has gone on to prove skeptics wrong – cynics who had, at the idea of its formation, predicted it would not thrive, especially with the existence then of Ngabo and Munno, both vernacular papers.
Today, the newspaper has gone on to bask in its well-earned popularity, alongside its sister broadcast platforms Bukedde TV and Bukedde Radio which were started along the way. Bukedde TV went on the airwaves for the first time on October 28, 2009.
A Holy Mass was held at the Vision Group head offices on Friday, and was led by the Archbishop of Kampala, Dr. Cyprian Lwanga.
In his message, the Catholic leader, donning red and white priestly robes, underlined Bukedde's "important work to society" through its compelling stories, and went on to advise the media establishment to be more keen on stories that build the nation.
He spoke of the need for objective reporting of issues in society and tasked Bukedde to continue building on its reputation that is the work of years of innovation and creativity.
Lwanga was taken on a tour of the Vision Group offices by the multimedia company's CEO Robert Kabushenga moments before the holy service.
Archbishop Lwanga blesses a child as Kabushenga, pleased, looks on. PHOTO/Juliet Kasirye
BACK THEN: David Sseppuuya (L), William Pike and Maurice Sekawungu of Bukedde say farewell to George Kawule, a Bukedde editor, upon his retirement
Maurice Sekawungu, who led the first team of Bukedde
A record 100,000 copies of the 56-page Friday edition were printed and readers had started clearing the paper off the newspaper stands by Thursday evening.
Local celebrities joined in on the euphoria, turning into vendors and strolling along the streets of Kampala clasping heaps of the newspaper and selling to excited readers.
Bukedde, which started off as a weekly paper back then, is today a daily product widely read by a vast local audience.
The Luganda (local dialect) publication's genesis was the work of a small team led by Maurice Sekawungu who put up a show of commitment and hardwork to see the budding newspaper to greater heights. And indeed, it has been no turning back for Bukedde which continues to relish its success in the local media industry.
Sekawungu handed over responsibility to current managing editor of vernacular newspapers Geoffrey Kulubya in 2004.
But, speaking in an interview with Bukedde, he has made it clear that what made him to drive Bukedde in the direction it is in today was his gift of figuring out who to work with and also knowing the abilities of the people he worked with. That, he says, helped him build the newspaper to the kind of product it has eventually turned into today.
Bukedde's Geoffrey Kulubya, CEO Kabushenga, a nun, Archbishop Lwanga, Minister Rose Namayanja and UMSC spokesperson Hajji Nsereko Mutumba cutting the cake. PHOTO/Juliet Kasirye
Meanwhile, a cocktail of musical entertainment by the likes of Irene Ntale (of the Gyobera fame) took to the stage and got the crowd on theri feet. That though was before a cake was cut, drinks served and Archishop Lwanga gone!
The Bukedde family is part a much bigger family under Vision Group, a multi-media company with products and services ranging from newspapers, magazines, TV, radio, digital, advertising and commercial printing.