By Davidson Ndyabahika
Veteran journalist David Rupiny has announced his retirement as a reporter from Uganda Radio Network ending near 20 years in influential journalism.
At 45, a senior Business reporter said “I think I have done my part” while bidding farewell to workmates at Uganda Radio Network –URN offices in Kampala this week.
Who is David Rupiny?
Rupiny hails from a non-descript village, Pei-Zziwa in Nyapea sub-county in Zombo District, West Nile.
Records show he was born in June 1974 from Nebbi Hospital to Roseline Ocanda, now, a retired midwife, based in Panyimur, Pakwach District and his deceased dad Thomas Omika Ocanda.
His father, Ocanda was an agriculturalist famously remembered for challenging third and former President Idi Amin Dada against turning the whole of West Nile into a cotton-producing region.
“In a regional meeting in Arua, my dad (rest in peace), gave a technical advice against the idea, arguing that in the higher and colder areas the cotton crops would grow into trees instead. He paid a heavy price for it, including imprisonment,” Rupiny recollects.
The project went on and indeed in the highlands, the cotton crops grew into huge trees. He has he has fond memories of admiration and inspiration partly from his father.
Rupiny Born a Journalist
His passion for journalism he says, started, while in primary school in Nebbi. On joining St Aloysius College Nyapea in 1988, the budding journalist joined the school newsletter –The Giraffe.
In A-level at Mvara Secondary School in Arua, Rupiny became the editor of the school newsletter, The Excavator.
He would later join Makerere University in 1995, 7 years after his dream course, Bachelor’s degree programme in Mass Communication had been introduced in 1988.
He became the assistant editor of The Northcoter newsletter. This was one of the most vibrant students’ magazine, as started by award-winning, world-renown Kenyan writer Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o in earlier years.
Having missed Mass Communications course by 0.2 points, Rupiny ended up in a Social Sciences class. Unsettled there, he approached the then head of Literature and Mass Communications department, Dr. Abbas Kiyimba, who advised him to do Political Science and Literature, reasoning that the combination would give him a good grounding in the media.
Heeding to the new advice, Rupiny, chose Art of Communication and Critical Literary Criticism among his course units to boost his communications knowledge.
“I would also attend Mass Communications classes, as well as borrow journalism textbooks to deepen my knowledge and skills,” he sighs.
Soon, Rupiny became the Makerere University stringer for The Crusader newspaper, breaking stories like the army recruitment of fresh graduates and a move by the university to significantly increase private students’ enrollment from the experimental few in the mid-1990s. The Crusader newspaper would later close in April 1999 after its finances were frozen in sudden closure of Greenland Bank.
His life at Makerere University
He says he was rather focused on books, although a member of the notorious Northcote Hall. Rupiny was in the Introspection Group, led by Frank Rusa Nyakaana (now, Uganda’s Country Representative at the Netherlands Institute for Multiparty Democracy (NIMD)) who wanted a progressive Northcote culture.
“Had the radicals not overrun the Introspection Group, Northcote and its unique culture would still be around,” he says.
After sitting his last paper at University in June 1998, Rupiny joined Radio Paidha, the first commercial radio station in northern Uganda as the news editor, rising to head it as a station manager and programme manager. It is at Paidha that Rupiny’s media abilities came alive.
In addition to spearheading the attraction of young people to join the media in the remote region of West Nile, Rupiny’s traces are still present in Paidha FM’s programming and sound.
While at Paidha, the former head of Lwo (see Luo) language department at the then Institute of Languages head-hunted him, on recommendations from Makerere’s Literature department, and he joined as a teaching assistant.
Although he performed well, evidenced by approval of his supervisors, his nose for news stories haunted him and he would soon opt for the media, returning to his station manager job in Paidha.
In 2002, Rupiny got a scholarship and went for a broadcast journalism course at Radio Netherlands Training Centre in Hilversum, The Netherlands.
A year later, in 2003, he went to London where he did a course in media management at the British Broadcasting Corporation –BBC World Service, Bush House.
Upon his return to Uganda, Rupiny started The WestNiler newspaper, focusing on northwestern Uganda. Due to the tough economic terrain for newspapers, Rupiny’s newspaper folded after about three years, no mean achievement in the local media scope.
After a brief stint at Radio Pacis in Arua, Rupiny joined Uganda Radio Network in October 2005, and has since been in and out of the organization, performing roles of reporter, trainer, mentor, producer, among others.
In 2008, after a course in training of (media) trainers at Radio Netherlands Training Centre -RNTC in The Netherlands, and another in public service broadcasting at Swedish Radio in Sweden, Rupiny joined 9.33 KFM as the news manager. He also briefly worked as Total E&P Uganda’s public relations officer in the Lake Albert Basin.
In 2011, Rupiny founded Nebbi-based Rainbow Radio as a citizen radio, running it for four years before selling it to Joshua Anywarach, the Padyere County legislator.
Largely, until now, Rupiny has worked with Uganda Radio Network, an opportunity he is appreciative and proud of, as he tearfully told URN staff during his parting words.
“Much of my journalism has been with URN and for that matter I hold URN so dear because if it was not for URN, I don’t think I would have achieved much in my career,” Rupiny told URN staff this week.
According to Rupiny, after 20 years in the newsroom it is time he moved on to other challenges. Although he is leaving the newsroom, he says he will be working with the media.
He attributes his longevity in the media to passion, selflessness and a desire to do good. “Look at journalism as a service to humanity,” his message to young journalists.
Rupiny also expresses concerns about the failure of crucial aspects of journalism like peace journalism in taking root in Uganda.
A trained policy analyst from Uganda Management Institute –UMI, currently pursuing MA in Journalism and Media Studies at Uganda Christian University –UCU, Rupiny wants to dedicate the future to media research, policy and publishing.
His interests are in media, peace building, culture, development management, among others.
Ultimately, Rupiny says; “I would also like to grow my Rainbow Community Knowledge Centre for the benefit of those at the base-of-the-pyramid.”
On national unity, Rupiny says it was while on campus that he started to realize that Ugandans were not as united as they appeared in his early days, making him disappointed. He had lived in Benn Hospital quarters where many nationalities lived, and the schools he went to like St Aloysius College Nyapea and Mvara then also had students from many ethnic groups.
By Davidson Ndyabahika