A Legend bows Out: Straight Talk Africa host, Shaka Ssali, to retire in May

After May next month, it is most likely the world will not be hearing his signature intro and outro again, at least from he himself.

Intro: “Hello, welcome Straight Talk Africa…”

Outro: “This is Straight Talk Africa…in the meantime, remember to keep better and not bitter, and to keep the African hopes alive”.

After two decades of an illustrious journalism career with the Voice Of America (VoA) in Washington D.C., renowned african international journalist and talk show host Shaka Ssali is due to retire at the end of next month.

The Ugandan-born American has been the face of VoA’s weekly talk show program Straight Talk Africa since 2000.

The show which focuses largely on the happenings in Africa is a simulcast program broadcast live every Wednesday from 1830-1930 UTC/GMT on radio, television and the Internet.

Through out his career, Shaka has strived to tell the African story and to bring the best news and information to Africans on the continent and beyond.

As the host and managing editor of the program, he has interacted with many African heads of state both past and present, religious leaders, political leaders, world leaders, as well as insurgents on pertinent issues.

Among them are/were
Kenneth Kaunda, first president of Zambia, General Olusegun Obasanjo, Former President, Nigeria; the late Levy Patrick Mwanawasa; Former President, Zambia; Tony Blair, Former Prime Minister, United Kingdom; Former Botswana President Seretse Khama Ian Khama; Former Ghana President, the late Prof. John Evans Atta Mills; Former Tanzania President Jakaya Kikwete; Former Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf; Hifikepunye Pohamba, Former President, Namibia; current Uganda President Yoweri Museveni; Lazarus Chakwera, current president of Malawi; Joseph Kabila, Former President, DRC; Rwanda President Paul Kagame; General Salva Kiir, First Vice President, among others.

Shaka has also hosted newsmakers and policy makers who interact with Africa, including: the late South African jazz legend Hugh Masekela; Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai; Mo Ibrahim, Chairman Mo Ibrahim Foundation; Nobel Literature laureate Wole Soyinka; Professor Muna Ndulo, Professor Ali Mazrui, Professor George Ayittey, American University; Professor Sulayman Nyang, Howard University; former Uganda Supreme Court Justice George Kanyeihamba; Dr. Rebecca Nyandeing de Mabior, Vice President of South Sudan and widow of former SPLA leader Dr. John Garang; Jeff Sharlet, author, The Family; Bob Hunter, Associate, Fellowship Foundation; Mbulelo Rakwena, former South African Ambassador to Brazil; Baffour Ankomah, Editor, New African magazine and Bobi Wine, Ugandan Opposition Leader.

Asked what he thought has been the significance of the Straight Talk Africa 20 years later, on the anniversary edition of the flagship show dedicated in his honour, Shaka who was seated in an unfamiliar position on the program as the guest, Shaka told guest host Peter Clottey, “I think that the significance of the Straight Talk Africa in my view is that, first and foremost, we have survived it.

“Mind you, we actually went on air for the first time on August the 2nd 2000. And beyond merely surviving, Peter, the program has in fact become a sort of show of record so far as the African continent and the diaspora are concerned, to such an extent, Peter, that it has inspired a lot of youth… a lot of people who can’t wait to be journalists… and in fact, become a sort of Shaka Ssali.”

Now popular amongst Africans especially around the world, Straight Talk Africa was first aired on Wednesday August 2, 2000.

ABOUT DR. SHAKA SSALI

Born in Kabale District, South western Uganda, Shaka, holds a doctorate in cross cultural communication and history from UCLA in California. He is a former Ford Foundation Fellow and has received numerous honors, including a United Nations Peacekeeping Special Achievement Award in International Journalism. Other awards include VOA’s Best Journalist Award and Kigezi College Butobere’s first ever Highest Achievement Award in International Human Communication. Butobere is located in Kabale, southwestern Uganda, and is Shaka’s alma mater.

ABOUT STRAIGHT TALK AFRICA:

The first show aired on Wednesday August 2, 2000. Since then, it has covered major events, developments and trends on the African continent; analysing socioeconomic realities and ramifications in a balanced and an objective way while providing a platform for the audience to interact with newsmakers.

At the time the program was created, many Africans depended on international broadcasters for objective news, but Straight Talk Africa skilfully filled that void.

Straight Talk Africa covers a wide range of news topics like politics, security, health, education, women’s right, environmental issues, civil society initiatives, corruption, elections and efforts to beat Ebola and COVID-19.

Shaka is known as an excellent analyst of African issues. Shaka insisted, when the show was birthed, that he would not only interview newsmakers but also give a voice to the voiceless.

In the 20 years Straight Talk Africa has been on air, it has produced over one thousand shows and hosted over hundred guests per year.

Shaka describes himself as a servant of the truth and issues.

“…I look at myself as a servant of nothing but the truth… a servant of issues and not a of personalities, not a servant of ideology, not a servant of politic.”

Many generations of Africans have grown up watching, listening and interacting with Shaka and his guests.

The Straight Talk Africa University is an initiative which gives lectures every week.

“My dad used to tell us to watch your shows because when he is back from work, he would ask us questions… that helps me to learn more stories of Africa and also to know other places as well.” An ardent follower of the program testified.

After two decades, the program continues to leave an indelible impression on Africa’s ever changing political and social landscape while providing a blueprint for younger generations of aspiring journalists.

Prior to starting and hosting the Straight Talk Africa, Shaka Ssali was a respected radio co-anchor of English-to-Africa’s flagship Show “Africa World Tonight” and an analyst on the the Worldnet TV Show “The Africa Journal.”

TRIBUTES:
Some social media users, especially Ugandans, shared fond memories and celebrated the iconic journalist online.

Tayebwa Andrew: ….remember to keep the African hope alive! Uganda’s biggest export.

Sheila Nduhukire: A pic from Feb 2016 when I first met the Legend. After a brief chat about his illustrious career,I asked to sign out like he often does:

“This is Straight Talk Africa…in the meantime, remember to keep better and not bitter, and to keep the African hopes alive”

Kwesiga Bamwanga Med: Great work Shaka! Eternal memories.

Kenneth Tumusiime: Great man.

Ntegeka Jovia: I grew up watching was always mesmerised by how a Ugandan can do big in America and most especially on a show called voice of Africa…long live and thanks for inspiring us the youth.

Alli Ukuni: Good job done by you for many to emulate.

Doc JB: Good work done ssali. U have proved to the world something that people Neva expected before. Long live our hero.

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