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EXCLUSIVE: “I was refused to work!” Swengere opens up on his fallout with BABA FM

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Hussein Muyonjo a.k.a. Swengere has made news lately owing to his alleged attack on his former bosses at 87.7 BABA FM. Swengere, until September this year, worked at BABA FM but was later fired. His sacking left many dumbfounded as no satisfying explanation was ever given. We caught up with him to clear the air.

There is a lot of talk about tension between you and some people at BABA FM. What is the problem? Is it personal, is it work related?
Looking at Balyeku beyond the structure of the radio, the way radio is supposed to be, he is the Director and after him, there is a Station Manager. The position of Executive Director (ED) that Longido is holding doesn’t exist. These are positions created when someone doesn’t know what they are doing or maybe to intimidate people. But after the Director, there’s a Station Manager then the Administrator and other department heads like News Editor, production etc.

I do not deny the crime he accuses me of that I refused to meet with Balyeku though I think he had his own intentions but wanted to hide behind this. When he called me to his office the first time, he said they had gathered enough evidence, I asked to see or hear it and it wasn’t there. It was a fabricated case.

This whole thing started when we were launching the Busoga Masaza Cup Tournament in Iganga. We, in a meeting, disagreed on who should do the commentary. They suggested Kulumba. Me, Kasolo and some other staff members who are objective had our own reservations. In our minds, Kasolo speaks Lusoga fluently and I could help him, given that we move with His Royal Highness, the Kyabazinga, we felt we could a good job. We suggested that if they couldn’t use us, then at least employ the services of Kalanzi or Joseph Mutaka. Our issue wasn’t about the person; it was about language. Kulumba doesn’t speak Lusoga, it was the first event, Kyabazinga was going to be present and it was going to be broadcast live on 87.7 Basoga Bainho (BABA) FM.

They stuck to their guns and actually that match wasn’t broadcast. His intention was to block kingdom programmes from going on air with a mind that BABA FM was a business and not a community radio so to broadcast kingdom stuff would be blocking other normal businesses operations.

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When that radio was set up, it was supposed to be both community and commercial. Since it was a one-day event, we didn’t think it bad to do this; timely updates would do. We left it at that and the kingdom thought it was being broadcast but we drove up to Musita and there was nothing on air.

The 2nd Deputy Katuukiro, Dr. Lubega stopped the convoy and questioned us about having no broadcast on BABA FM. We told him of the situation at the radio and he asked for Longido’s number. I don’t really know how their phone chat went like but I think Dr. Lubega grilled Longido.

At that instant, the station field car was fueled. They had even refused to travel. They then set off for Iganga with Innocent Anyole, Kulumba, and some other people. So Longido started off thinking we were fighting him. From before then, he didn’t want want us talking anything Busoga on air, when we brought in things of clan totems, he would stop us, when you spoke about the Kyabazinga twice, he’d tell you to go slow. He brought in the excuse that so many people listened to the radio including the Columbus sympathizers. We told him there was only one Kyabazinga.

At the match, they reached when the game was already underway. They connected their equipment and Kulumba started his commentary, in Luganda. The outburst started in the audience. People questioned how a Masaza cup game in Busoga could have a Luganda commentary moreover in the presence of Kyabazinga. I don’t want to mention this but even Kyabazinga called Esther Mirembe of NBS and KPU and told her that if the commentary couldn’t be in Lusoga, then they were better off disconnecting their equipment.

To save face, me and Kasolo took over the commentary. Immediately, word went to Longido that Baganda had been sent away from the match, that Swengere and Kasolo had started tribalism. In no time, we were told by those tuned in that we had been switched off air and it was music playing on 87.7 BABA FM. We just went ahead but we weren’t on air.

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HRH didn’t stay through the whole match because there was another function somewhere else, so we left after the first half. When we left, Kulumba took over and continued with his Luganda commentary and immediately the broadcast was resumed. We were traveling and we heard the broadcast on radio. In this, Longido had gotten an excuse. I think he had waited for an opportune time to effect his agenda.

When we returned to work the following week after the game, he had communicated to different people. You know, Longido hasn’t been through school enough, he lacks administrative skills. I found word in the lowest staff that they had seen a letter that I was going to be fired for bringing a girl in studio and having sex with her. In my mind, I asked myself, did I bring in Zakia or Harriet because those are the people I worked with on air. It was like a joke but after 3 days, I was called and told that there was cleaning house and I had to be laid off for illicit behavior.

I had not received any warning for anything whatsoever. You know in any community, if someone does something wrong, there’s always a warning. I had received none. I told them the allegations were news to me. There had to be a management meeting to decide my fate but there was already disagreement on the decision. Longido has a way of cornering off management members to advance whatever he wants. If a team has 7 people, he gets four to his side to have a majority vote. But some refused, they wanted a fair hearing which Longido and his team refused.

I was on air and he came in and told me that he wanted to see me. I found him in his office and there was a letter that I had been suspended for one month. He cited the issues of having sex in the studio, something we had never spoken about or expounded. There was a bitter exchange at the time. I refused to sign for the letter and openly told him he was using me to advance his agenda. I told him this wasn’t his place to stay and he would one day leave. He played nice but I knew what was going through his head because one day in a meeting, he said and I will quote him verbatim “Abamu mwepanka nti Kyabazinga ye nanyini radio eno, tusobola  okugoba Kyabazinga nategerako butegezi naye nga ogenze ” Translated, he meant that some of us think it’s the Kyabazinga who owns BABA FM. That we could easily be fired and the Kyabazinga would only hear of it after we’re long gone. So many people can bear witness to that. Kasolo in fact was very bitter about it and wanted to get physical in that meeting.

Longido’s problem was kingdom programmes running on BABA FM. There was an arrangement between BABA FM and the kingdom but the biggest issue was the 10% issue and privilege to air. I picked my letter without signing for it, and left for town. I called the Dr. Muvawala, the Katuukiro and told him about it. Of course the kingdom tried to intervene and I was told to go and meet Balyeku. I had no business meeting Balyeku if my immediate bosses had not given me time to hear me out. I refused and what he said is true, I refused to meet Balyeku. What was I going to tell him? I’ve met Balyeku several times, even in his club but I have told him time and again that I had no business talking to him. I told him his position was way beyond what happened. He is an MP and above all the owner of BABA FM, these were really petty issues. He has called me names saying I’m big headed and so on. Of course when you achieve a certain level in life, some things change and most people tend to call it arrogance.

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So Longido continued advancing his agenda. Actually, HRH and the PM had a chat with Balyeku and these things were concluded in just a week. Longido stood his ground that unless it wasn’t him, I wasn’t going back on air. The Katuukiro asked me to remain calm and wait for my suspension to end.

“…He said all the contracts signed under Steve’s regime were null and void. No one has a copy of that contract. I basically don’t have a contract with BABA FM…”

When my suspension ended, I went back on air. I had spoken for a few minutes. In all his stupidity, Longido failed to use his position to summon me to his office. He walked into studio with a phone and told me someone wanted to talk to me. It was Balyeku. Balyeku told me verbatim “I don’t want to ever hear you on my radio. You’re not allowed to be near our premises until we rethink the position.” I left the radio and went to town.

Balyeku insisted on meeting but I refused citing my earlier concerns that the issues were very petty to drag him into this. To make it worse, he wanted the meeting in Kampala.  I refused. I knew I there’s no crime I had committed. In case there was one, I would have quickly apologized. I once told Longido I couldn’t work in an environment that pushes me to the wall. Anything to do with the Kyabazinga, I would rather leave than stand to listen to someone insulting his position. I think it hurt Longido since his so full of airs with his position.

So one day, me and the Katuukiro went out to Club Velvet. I went around greeting different people then found that the Katuukiro had met with Balyeku. I found them talking about my issues. Balyeku told the him that I was big headed. Katuukiro told me they were having a chat and Balyeku wanted me to go back and work but I had my own shortcomings. You know Balyeku likes to show importance in all places he will insult if he has to. I asked him, if he had listened to my issues and what wrong he found in me. I wanted to find out from him what I had done wrong. He said we were undermining Longido that he wasn’t fit to be Executive Director, he asked if he should appoint me one. I told him I didn’t want his position and even if I wanted, I knew him, I knew he couldn’t give it to me. We had a face off and it is the Katuukiro who saved the situation. At that point, I decided I no longer wanted the BABA FM job. I left them there.

Actually, from the time Longido sent me away, I had never met Balyeku. It was the first time I was seeing him and talking to him. I would go to his club but we had never met.

That’s what happened. I know you will one day find out the whole truth. When someone is talking to you, they have to defend their position. But there is always a common statement from so many people involved. I have never changed my words and position. You could actually find put from other people I used to work with. You can ask Anyole because he was on the management team. He is one of those who refused to be party to my suspension without a fair hearing back at BABA FM. You can ask my fellow KPU guys like Donald Kiirya.

On Eid day, HRH hosted Muslims who were breaking fast. Longido refused to have the function aired. He told us to record wit our phones and have it played the next day. You can imagine having a recorded Kyabazinga function on a radio they claim is for Obwakyabazinga Bwa Busoga! That was said to Owek. Isabirye David Aga, Minister of Information in Busoga Kingdom. Some people are reserved but you can ask him. Either way, if you’re all still alive, you will one day find out the truth.

The say you have a contract with BABA FM and that you were never fired. They are simply waiting for you to meet with Balyeku.
Its true maybe I wasn’t officially fired but the conditions they put forced me out. Like meeting Balyeku in Kampala, yet my immediate bosses refused t o give me a hearing. That is what I told Longido and his emissaries. I have said to Longido time and again that if he couldn’t sit me down, why did he want me to meet Balyeku?

About the contract, when I left BABA FM in Kampala after it was sold, I came to BABA FM in Jinja. I was new and there was an arrangement to to sign contracts. Then, the Executive Director was Steve Balyeku before Balyeku fired him. They asked us to consult extensively before signing. To be honest, I don’t remember whether I signed or not because things went hay way soon after that, Longido left, then came back, then Balyeku fires his brother, Steve… actually, Balyeku cancelled all contracts when he fired Steve. He said all the contracts signed under Steve’s regime were null and void. No one has a copy of that contract. I basically don’t have a contract with BABA FM.

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At this point, Rio Alton Kasolo, Swengere’s close friend and one of the staffers who left BABA FM chirps in
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You know Balyeku has that problem about him, he is bossy, he has that arrogance, he wants to insult everyone, he thinks he inherited the whole world. I want to meet him one of these days and tell him these things. He came, scrapped all those contracts and dismissed his brother with disgrace. He fired him in a meeting of 46 staff members. It’s a shame that he prides in that a lot that if he can fire his brother, what of us.

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Back to Swengere
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Longido also prides in Balyeku’s action, that if he can fire his brother, how about the rest. I do not have a contract with BABA FM. I left because they refused me to work. We wanted to involve the law but left it at that. So I left and good enough, there was a project we knew was coming up. That project is this (Busoga One FM), it is elections that messed up this man (Paul Mwiru), most of his projects stalled but we knew about it. I left Balyeku.

About the allegations that Longido insulted all who left BABA FM for Busoga One FM, did you listen to that show or you’ve heard it in rumors?
I have heard it from  more than 4 people and read it on Facebook. I had gone to have a haircut in Bugembe and heard it from some people there. Hon. Mwiru also called and told us about it. So I believe he said it.

Longido is very right when he told you that he has never insulted anyone. That gentleman ha never insulted anyone. Actually, in those situations where Balyeku asked us to insult different politicians, it was Longido who would cautions us. Actually Longido refused to be a party to that. If you remember the war between NBS and BABA FM, it was Balyeku who instructed us but Longido refused. We were taken back when he had a change of mind and insulted us.

He attacked us for over a week though we had never seen him do it. He would always caution us. He shouldn’t deny that he insulted us. Maybe the people who wrote on Facebook exaggerated but he did insult us.

What is the future of the Swengere family now that you’re split?
We shall always remain together. We might have issues with timing but in mind and soul, were together. Swengere family is totally out of this. We met and decide to work together back then because we were in the same place. We are now split with me and Kasolo here at Busoga One FM while Zakia and Kalibbala are at BABA FM but it won’t affect us at all.

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