UGANDA @ 57 – ARE WE TRULY INDEPENDENT?
By Wandera Stephen
The essence of writing this article is to try and show where we came from and where we are as a nation. For long Uganda enjoyed independence until the coming of the first Arabs in about 1845 led by Ahmed Bin Ibrahim while in pursuit of trade items in exchange for their products like beads, bangles, silk, salt, gold, diamonds and others. This increased the volume of the slave trade, which was already existing in Africa before their coming. Later on in about 1862, Speke comes to Uganda with the aim of exploration but behind this adventure was the imperial motive under the guise of stopping the slave trade and civilising Africa.
In 1888, we see the formation of the Imperial British East Africa Company with the main aim of maintaining British Influence after feeling the threat of Germany and in 1890 Captain Frederick Lugard is sent to Uganda and signs the protection treaty with King Mwanga of Buganda. Eventually, in 1893, he remains behind to protect the missionaries during an upheaval which culminated into the religious wars of 1886.
In 1894 Uganda became officially a British protectorate after the signing of the protectorate treaty with Sir Gerald Portal and eventual declaration by Lord Roseberry the British Premier. Later on, we saw the signing of other treaties like the 1900 Buganda Agreement, 1901 Busoga treaty, 1900 Tooro Agreement, among others which confirmed the colonial establishment. The areas that were so much decentralised were taken up either by force or using the Baganda allies like Kakungulu in Eastern Uganda. This saw the birth of Uganda as a nation.
The colonialist then embarked on infrastructural development like construction of roads and railway networks, promotion of cash-crop growing, development of education alongside the missionary education, and the development of the judicial systems and introduction of various forms of taxes and establishment of the LEGCO to formulate laws. However, all these developments didn’t come in handy as many of the natives either felt sidelined or not considered at all in terms of land distribution, marketing of the produce and the unfair taxation as well as the oppressive colonial laws. This saw the natives begin to form associations that demanded redress to these evils like the Bataka party by IK Musaazi in 1949. This followed the nomination of the first Africans to the LEGCO in 1945.
The 1950s saw the formation of the nationalistic parties like Uganda National Congress by I.K.Musaazi in 1952, Democratic party in 1954 by Joseph Kasolo and consequently the KabakaYekka party by Augustine Kamya and the Uganda People’s Congress in 1960 to demand independence and fight for democracy. On the recommendation of the Wild Commission, the 1961 election was held of which the Democratic party under Benedicto Kiwanuka won the election hence Uganda was granted self-rule with Kiwanuka as the chief minister. Consequently, the 1962 “Independence Elections” was held and the Kabakayekka-Uganda People’s Congress Alliance won the elections hence Obote becoming the first Executive Prime Minister and King Muteesa II becoming the first president and Nadiope of Busoga becoming the first vice president. The Independence celebrations were then organized where General Akorimo hoisted the Uganda flag for the first time and the Union Jack was lowered as a symbol of independence. A sigh of joy filled the air; a lot of anticipation rose; however, this joy was short-lived.
In 1964 the marriage between the kingdom of Buganda and Obote began to develop cracks after Obote organised a referendum on the lost counties of Buyaga and Bugangaizi of which the people in this area voted to be part of Bunyoro kingdom to the annoyance of Buganda loyalists. The sour relationship culminated into the infamous Lubiri attacks under General Idd Amin Dada and the exile of Muteesa II to Britain where he died from in 1966. In 1967 there was the promulgation of the republican constitution thereby Uganda becoming a republic. This resulted into turmoil in the following years seeing Obote overthrown by General Amin in 1971, the expulsion of Asians in 1972, the rule of the “Sword” and the return of the exiles in 1979 hence the likes of Muwanga, Binaisa and Lule ascending to the helm of leadership in this country and return of Obote and organization of the 1980 elections which were believed to have been rigged in favour of Obote. On 6th/February/1981 we see the launch of the bush war in Luwero by the NRA under the command of president Museveni and eventual overthrow of Obote by General Tito Lutwa and consequently his overthrow by the NRA on 26th/January 1986. This has seen a remarkable improvement in many areas of our economy which is quite a progress in the right direction. A lot of programs have been put in place like operation Wealth Creation among others to try to place the economy in the hands of the natives.
This year’s independence celebration was held in Sironko district under the theme ‘CONSOLIDATION OF NATIONAL UNITY, SECURITY, FREEDOM AND PROSPERITY’ marking 57 years of independence which was graced by His Excellency; President Emmerson Mnangagwa of the Republic of Zimbabwe. When a question is posed to many youths today, Uganda’s sovereignty is seen as a sham and not worthy of a celebration. They see it as a change of guard and not a replacement of policies. So, they feel that the meaning of independence as said by our elite leaders is the exact opposite of what is evidenced today.
With the advent of the superpowers again competing for influence in Africa, it is more likely that our sovereignty as a country and Africa as a whole may be seeing a second wave of colonialism, which our leaders need to stand out and reclaim our freedom but to what extent? Yet, most want so much to cling to power (dictators are ironically supported by the West, at the expense of the natives as long as they serve their interests). With the growing Chinese influence in Africa in the form of interest-free loans, the activity of less powerful nations like Japan, India and Brazil leaves less to be desired.
There is growing foreign military presence in Africa under the guise of counter-terrorism. For example; America has a naval base in Djibouti; likewise, France, Germany, Spain, Italy and Japan all have bases in Djibouti, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia in Eritrea and still America in Somalia. There has been increased involvement of America in Africa following the ‘9/11’ terror attacks on the world trade centre, yet, there is no unified strategy by the African leaders to address this problem.
Should we say that Uganda is so safe from this following concessions and concessions of our natural resources being handed over in the form of privatisation and accepting loans in each of every undertaking? Russia has increased its activities here, likewise China and the US. Are we not otherwise indirectly handing over our country to foreigners (something that has been termed as neo-colonialism)? For example by 2018, China alone had invested over $148 billion through the China-Africa partnership to finance projects like Agriculture, Industrialization and infrastructural development. How possible are the African countries going to recover from such a debt? Are we not selling our independence out?
As we celebrate the 57th independence anniversary, it begs the question as to whether we still on the course of independence, or we wavered off to black colonialism or even a neo-colonialism by outside forces. All I wish is the best for Uganda; our dear country in her 57th year of independence.
FOR GOD AND MY COUNTRY!