David Okwemba, the investigations editor at the Star, has quit after falling out with newspaper’s managing director, William Pike.
Mr Okwemba, one of the best investigative journalists and editors in the industry, resigned in a huff last evening after a dressing down by Mr Pike in the newsroom for failing to cover the Tatu City annual general meeting held in Ruiru yesterday.
“I would say it was pent-up frustration finally exploding,” said Okwemba’s who witnessed the altercation in the newsroom. “Pike came to Okwemba’s desk and asked him why he didn’t cover the function yet he had been assigned.”
Mr Okwemba (pictured, right), it turns out, did not take the criticism lightly after his defence that he was not aware of the event fell on death ears. He immediately packed his files and notebooks and walked out of Lion Place. Colleagues who talked to BusinessToday say he felt demeaned by being grilled in before his colleagues and juniors.
Mr Pike, a shareholder of Radio Africa Group that owns Star newspaper, Kiss TV, Kiss FM and Classic FM as well Capital FM of Kampala, has the final word even in the newsroom and whoever crosses his path has himself to blame.
It is understood that a group of white men with interest in the multimillion yet controversial Tatu City project have engaged a number of media, including the Star, for support in the battle against local shareholders – former CBK governor Nahashon Nyaga and Bidco CEO Vimal Shah – in return for advertising and other favours. If Mr Okwemba knew about this, it could be the reason he kept off the story to avoid coming out as the hatchet man for one divide of the shareholders.
Mr Okwemba joined the Star as investigations editor year ago from BBC, where he was managing editor. But his stint at the Star has been uneventful, left to his own devices without a budget or facilitation for investigations. That’s why todate, he has not been able to write any noticeable investigative story in the Star, which is published six days a week.
People familiar with the Star newsroom operations say Mr Okwemba – who worked at Nation as investigative reporter and earlier as news editor at The Standard – faced constant frustrations from fellow editors on the newsdesk who would kill his investigative pieces or contract them into normal news-size articles, reducing him to a beat reporter.
“It was a pity for sure,” said a senior journalist at the Star who reveals that the relationship between Mr Okwemba and top editors Joseph Olweny and Francis Mureithi was not so cordial. “Okwemba would write a long story of 1,500 words and only 300 words would make it to the pages. Clearly someone or people who felt threatened did not want him around. This Tatu City confusion looks like a deliberate fix for the guy.”