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In the late 1980s and early 1990s, we had only one TV station – Uganda Television. We used to watch repeats of the same programmes everyday.
We always looked forward to watching TV in the evenings. 30 minutes to 6pm when UTV started broadcasting, we were already seated, watching the blank screen and we would get excited 15 minutes to the broadcast, when the colourful curtains would appear, indicating that we were a few minutes away from the day’s six hour broadcast.
At exactly 6pm, broadcast would begin with the National Anthem before children’s programming like Pingu, Clown Ferdinand, Didi’s Comedy Show and Pappenheimer.
We used to watch TV and wouldn’t go to bed till the last programmes like Music Africa. We would even watch shows like This Farming World because TV was fascinating.
But apart from TV being fascinating for little ones like us back then, there used to be two men that made us watch news even when it was mostly about what President Museveni and his cabinet ministers in order of hierarchy had been up to. Those two men were Bbale Francis (RIP) and Toya Kilama (RIP).
Bbale went on to anchor news for more than two decades, even after UTV had rebranded to UBC.
Last week, Bbale breathed his last, succumbing to a battle with cancer. Before he breathed his last, Bbale had been pronounced dead on social media, on several occasions, the first time being in 2008. That can only mean he has been battling cancer for a while. In fact, a week before his passing, word went round that he had passed on, but UBC refuted the story and they were actually planning to announce a fundraising drive for the media veteran to seek treatment in India.
Bbale himself recorded the SOS appeal but he passed on just as the campaign was going to be started. This man has been in and out of hospital since 2008, which means his life would have maybe been saved if the call for fundraising for his treatment had come earlier.
Last Friday, as I was driving on Kampala Road, I suddenly heard a siren of a police vehicle, clearing the road and I thought it was one of those government officials who are in a rush to go to some meeting and sleep (we have all seen those images). It turned out the police car was the lead vehicle in a convoy with a hearse carrying Bbale’s remains. I recalled that despite his diligent service to the nation, Bbale was on the occasions I saw him, a pedestrian, strolling to UBC to read the news.  Jose Chameleone’s Basiima Ogenze came to mind.
Unfortunately, another anchor, former NTV employee Rosemary Nankabirwa is battling cancer in Mulago and according to NTV MD Aggie Asiimwe Konde, Rosemary needs Shs100m to seek better treatment in Nairobi. Fundraising drives have been put on, including a car wash by NTV employees at the Kampala Serena Hotel tomorrow. Let’s heed to the call with the little that we have. We can save a life. Send mobile money to Josephine Karungi on 0776747524 or Faridah Nakazibwe on 0782649931. You can also deposit money on DTB account number 37329942994. Like the slogan of the drive goes, don’t let cancer rob us again.

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