We shall miss you, Bbaale

Veteran newscaster and journalism tutor, Bbaale Francis. FILE PHOTO

What you need to know:

Bbaale’s body will lie in State at the UBC premises on Nile Avenue from 2pm to 5pm tomorrow for public viewing.
There will be a funeral service at his home in Kawuku-Wamala on Entebbe road on Monday at 12pm before the burial at 2pm

Kampala. Renowned Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) newscaster Jem Bbaale Francis passed away on Thursday morning at Mulago Cancer Institute after battling with cancer of the bladder.
Bbaale was rushed to Mulago after he relapsed the previous night at his home in Kabowa, a Kampala suburb. At around 10.24am yesterday, a call came through from the institute with the daughter confirming his death.

The head of sports and current affairs at UBC, Mr Andrew Patrick Luwandagga, and a longtime friend of Bbaale said the deceased has been unwell since 2008 but was diagnosed with the cancer in August 2014.
“He was diagnosed with cancer of the bladder and was receiving chemotherapy from the belly downwards therefore his upper part of the body was not affected in any way,” Mr Luwandagga said.
The sudden death of the veteran journalist comes shortly after UBC had launched the Bbaale Francis Cancer Fund that was meant to foot his medical bills to India after being advised by doctors to have him transferred for further management.
UBC spokesperson Jane Kasumba said the fund was started after they received advice from the doctors at the Cancer Institute to take him for a final phase of the treatment so that his cancer could be cleared.

The launch was meant to raise US$ 43,000 (about Shs129 million) for the treatment in India.
An account was opened at Centenary Bank Mapera branch in Kampala under the name the Bbaale Francis Cancer Fund.
UBC managing director Angello Nkeza said the purpose of the fund was solely to have well-wishers contribute towards the treatment in India.
“UBC will continue his legacy with a tribute and work closely with members of the family on burial arrangements. We shall also make sure that the fund goes on to help others suffering from the same disease,” Ms Kasumba said.
According to Mr Luwandagga, Bbale had asked UBC to convey his Easter greetings to the public and thank them for the support they rendered him and his family.
Bbale Francis passed away at 61.

• Bbale was born on September 25, 1954. He was married and had three children. His wife lives in the United States with two of their children.
• He attended Kisubi Seminary School for O-Level from 1967 to 1970 and later joined St Mary’s College Kisubi for A-Level between 1971 and 1972.
• He then joined the Association of Certified and Corporate Accountants at ACCAII in 1973 and completed in 1976.
• He attained a diploma in journalism 1982 at the East African School of Journalism at Nairobi University, Kenya.
• He worked at Foods and Beverages Ltd from 1977 and joined East African Distillers Ltd in 1983 where he worked until 1989.
• Meanwhile, he was also working at Radio Uganda and UTV , where he started work in 1983 and served till 2005.
• In 1989, he worked as the communications manager of Afro promotions Bureau Ltd.
• In 1993 he got a certificate in Oral Communication for the media from Makerere University.
• He then did a Masters in Long Distance Learning and Research degree from Cardiff University of Wales between 1994 and 1995.
• Between 1996 and 2005, he became a lecturer at UMCAT School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
• In 2006 after the merger between UTV and radio Uganda, he was appointed training editor, a position he held till he passed on.

Good evening, my name is Bbale Francis….”In a heady and soothing voice, he would introduce the news bulletin. The way he prolonged the word news was incredible.
You didn’t have to see his face to know that it was Jem Bbaale Francis, a veteran newscaster of Uganda Broadcasting Corporation.
His unique sweet, suave, flawless voice and the way he articulated his words was a signature tune enough for anybody who had heard him, to identify him.
Too bad, we won’t ever listen to that voice again. He passed on Thursday morning at the Uganda Cancer Institute- Mulago where he had been battling cancer.

Andrew Patrick Luwandagga, a close friend to the deceased and the UBC head of sports affairs, said Bbaale called him on Wednesday and informed him that he had been admitted to the cancer institute. It was around 8.30pm but since he was from a chemotherapy session, they both assumed it was just the outcome of the invasive session.
“We talked for some minutes and he even narrated to me about how he joined Uganda Television (UTV) in 1983,” Luwandaga said.
He said Bbaale, who was an accountant by profession, narrated while laughing how he managed to beat 300 people who were vying for the same job.
They exchanged goodbyes with Luwandagga none the wiser that it would be the last time he would talk to Bbaale.
At 10.24am, Bbaale’s daughter, who we could only identify as Claire, called Luwandagga crying and told him that her father had passed on.

Mood at UBC
When we visited UBC offices, the mood was sombre. Some people locked themselves in their offices mourning, others cried openly while majority hardly said a thing. A few that managed to talk to us said he was a mentor to many of them and the UBC fraternity would miss him.
By the time he passed on, he was the training editor for TV and radio anchors.

Last visit to work
Most of his workmates said they last saw him on Monday when he went to the station to record his message for the Bbaale Francis cancer fund. He looked frail but they had hope that he would be fine.
Sophie Matovu, a colleague, said he went around hugging everyone and some people even took selfies with him.
Sobbing, she recalls trying to stop people from keeping him around for long because he looked exhausted but because they hadn’t seen him in a long time, they were all over him. Looking back, she says he was bidding his colleagues farewell.

Other professions
Away from the face of news Ugandans had grown to love, Bbaale was an accountant by profession, and a lecturer at UMCAT School of Journalism and Mass Communication.
As a lecturer, he was dedicated to his work and disliked grammatical errors. Michael Mubangizi, the Exceed Communication Chief Executive Officer and his former student at UMCAT, said mistakes such as “my names are” and “news instead of the news” irritated him. He would say, “You are murdering the audience and disrespecting the people who know English.”

Mubangizi said Bbaale emphasised value for the audience and lived by example. “He always told us that journalism may not pay you much if you focus on the audience but that there are other rewards. Indeed, we saw him receive numerous awards due to his hard work.”
Other people that he mentored include KFM producer Denis Mbbide, UBC’s Jackie Lumbasi and NBS’ Shawn Kimuli and Doreen Komuhangi.
Besides his professional life, Luwandagga said Bbaale was also a talented footballer and prolific striker who played number nine in Lint and Express FC in the mid-1970s.

How he will be remembered
His workmates described him as a jolly, hardworking, understanding and humorous person.
James Magambo, a UBC senior programme producer said he and Bbaale joined the station at about the same time but that he always admired Bbaale’s style of anchoring. “His tone would resonate with the news item. If he was reading a sad story, his tone would be sad and if it was a joyous then his tone immediately become cheerful,” he recalls.
For most people in their mid to late 20s, Bbaale was the only television news anchor they knew for the better part of their life. Sometimes people joked about the fact that they grew up seeing him in black and white and he advanced to coloured ones.

Rehemah Namukose, 25, described him as the epitome of excellence and perfectionism in news anchoring in Uganda. “We grew to love journalism and wanted to be like him. Many have even imitated his accent, but he was in his own class. He inspired and mentored many and yet, he remained down-to-earth. The media fraternity will surely miss him,” she said.

Burial arrangements
Bbaale’s body will lie in State at the UBC premises on Nile Avenue from 2pm to 5pm tomorrow for public viewing.
There will be a funeral service at his home in Kawuku-Wamala on Entebbe road on Monday at 12pm before the burial at 2pm.


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