By John Muto-Ono p’Lajur
When I was recently challenged by Moses Odokonyero to write something for the Northern Uganda Media Club (NUMEC) website, I thought I should pen a piece on the history of the organization since I was involved in its conception in 1993.
When I returned from detention at Luzira Maximum Security Prison in 1988, I was an ardent reader of newspapers from Ome Stores (a newspaper distributor at the time) located along Jomo Kenyatta Road, opposite the Gulu Main Market, on Atanga Family building. I was already interested in journalism, having twice unsuccessfully tried to join the profession.
There were three major newspapers by then: The New Vision, the Shari‘at and the Weekly Topic. I would always come to Ome Stores to compare how the three newspapers were covering the events unfolding in northern Uganda; the conflict between the Uganda government and the rebels of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).
Somehow I didn’t like how New Vision was covering the war as some facts were always missing from their narratives like casualties on government side while they tended to rejoice over the deaths of the rebels, who sometimes were civilians caught in crossfire. I loved the way the Weekly Topic and Shari ‘at were covering the war.
When The Monitor was founded around September 1992, I fell in love with their reporting style instantly. I did not hesitate to apply for the position of a full time correspondent with the newspaper when opportunity knocked and on February 8, 1993, I got my appointment letter.
At that time Rupiny, the Lwo language sister paper of the New Vision, opened its offices on plot 1/3 Queens Avenue in Gulu town, just behind former Homeland booking office. I remember Pelegrine Otonga was in charge of the Office while Miss Gloria Laker Obwoyo was the office assistant (Miss Laker was to later also become a journalist). This was where “Gulu Press Club,” the precursor to NUMEC, was born one morning. We had only a table, a chair and a type writer belonging to journalist Pelegrine Otonga(Otonga was later to serve as Editor of Rupiny, the Lwo weekly)
We had to change the name to NUMEC after a need arose to register it as a Non- Governmental Organization (NGO) to carter for the entire greater northern Uganda affected by the insurgency and cattle rustling.
Our primary interest, then, was how to disseminate the true picture of what was happening in northern Uganda and see how the international community would intervene and bring the war to an end. Scoop was not part of our language but we would share tips among ourselves. I am glad that the armed conflict has ended and that there has been relative peace in the last ten years. I say Bravo to NUMEC and other partners.
Editor’s NOTE: NUMEC was formally registered as a company limited by guarantee in June 2009. The organization is involved in capacity building for journalists so they are able to professionally report about northern Uganda. Furthermore, NUMEC runs a well-equipped media resource centre within its premises where journalists work on a daily basis. Additionally, the NUMEC resource centre is also regularly used for press conferences. Currently, NUMEC produces a fortnightly feature format radio programme called the Voices for Peace which focuses on peace building and reconciliation in northern Uganda. The radio programme broadcasts on several radio stations in Gulu but reaching audiences in northern Uganda.
Mr. John Muto-Ono p’Lajur is the former Gulu bureau chief for The Monitor(now Daily Monitor) and former Chair of NUMEC . He now contributes for the New York based Black Star News. He also blogs here: mutonoblog.wordpress.com.