Today Ugandans marked 50 years since colonial rule ended. On October 9th 1962, Uganda joined a list of African countries that were set to govern their own affairs after decades, in some cases centuries, of colonization.
I left Kampala a few hours to the Independence Day but even if I were home, I wouldn’t have joined the national event at Kololo to celebrate. I think we have a lot more to reflect on than an all out celebration.
It is important that every person should take part in deciding the affairs of their family, community and nation. So the end of colonialism didn’t mean the end of the quest for Ugandans to have a say on how they want to be governed.
Uganda like many African countries was a nation formed by colonialists through breaking nations (others call them kingdoms) and forcing them under one boundary as they saw fit- for their administrative and colonial interests. So to convince these nations to come to recognize and really be part of the new nation Uganda was a tall order!
It took years of civil unrest as the first leaders tried to work on the new states. This civil strife and wars were bound to affect how much Uganda, as nation, would grow in 50 years. As we celebrated 50 years, Ugandans were still looking beyond the staged celebration. The jubilee celebrations has cost us billions and going by the embezzlement rate we have got, we might never know the real cost.
Uganda at 50 is a nation still afraid of its past and not able to point to a clear route for its future. As the preparations went on, we hardly saw photos or billboards of former leaders of this country. I wonder if they still teach that history in our schools either or has it also been a victim of selective remembrance that the government of President Museveni is good at.
In one of the speeches Museveni delivered ahead of independence, he couldn’t even face the past and for even the nation’s sake mention the name of two-time leader of Uganda Apollo Milton Obote who was instrument at independence. Despite the ills and the flaws of his regime, just like Museveni’s, Obote and those who led our country have a place in our history.
With leaders who can’t face the past and accept the hard road we have been on, Uganda’s future remains tricky. When the first billboard we put up for independence is only of soldiers marching and photos of only one president, we are trying to distort Uganda’s history. The road to independence is a long journey and we are yet to reach there.
As the independence celebration went on, this government was trying to tell the world that we have one voice- through NRM. But what point can you score when you besiege a home of an opposition leader? What is the real worth of your regime when a whole police institution sends out a tweet denying the attack on the home of your opponent by saying he was scared of police of foot patrol?
How safe are ordinary Ugandans when the police on patrol can scare colonel? – assuming that tweet was not meant to insult the intelligence of Ugandans.
Uganda making 50 must be a moment to revisit our tainted history. We cannot hide from the curse of life presidency and lack of accountability to the citizens. We cannot continue to inflate a defense budget and ignore the sick health care system and the agriculture that has not been reformed. We cannot waste billions when millions can hardly get through the day with three meals.
After the jubilee, Ugandans must look beyond the culture of begging if they are to be capable of holding these leaders to account. Our lack of questioning and expecting to eat on someone else’s tab has retarded Uganda’s fast move to independence. So we beg leaders instead of demanding accountability. We laugh at their jokes as they abuse our own monies. I couldn’t agree more with Joachim Buwembo when he described Uganda as a country of an estimated 35 million beggars.
“The hypothetical figure of 35 million thus just represents 99 per cent of Ugandans whose minds are designed to believe that they cannot achieve much unless someone donates to them what is theirs. Lucky are you, if you are in the other one percent who are confident enough to take lawful steps to secure what is theirs, instead of begging. The rest of us are brought up conditioned to expect aid, aid and aid.”
Also Ugandans in the coming years must be able to challenge unfairness whether it is inflicted on them or not in order to have better and more accountable government than they have had in the last 50 years. . Like Nicholas Sengoba said Uganda is yet to unlearn the British colonial legacy of divide and rule.
“That is how we have succeeded in being led by bad leaders for most of the last 50 years. Leaders easily divide us and we go along while they perpetuate themselves in power. They camouflage their wrongs in party colours, religion, tribe, etc, and we support them as they abuse power and the rights of other people. The next time they come for us, other people stand with them and cheer them on.That loss of a sense of fairness is what has helped us in contributing to this game of divide-and-rule.”
Until then, many will still support the besieging of opposition members or be silent about it or cheer one president after another as they disregard the dignity of Ugandans. And yes many will save their support for this still wanting nation only when Uganda’s football team, Uganda Cranes, is playing. But may be we could learn a lesson from the Cranes journey since it is engrained in our history. That no matter the past we must keep showing up and pressing for reform, hard work and accountability whether it is in politics or football. Independence is not a destination, it’s a journey.