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Deputy President of Kenya, William Ruto

Heads of State of the East African Community Regional block (EAC) on Friday, October 9th shunned Uganda at 53 Independence Anniversary celebrations held at Kaunda Ground in the Northern Uganda regional Headquarters in Gulu Municipality.

None of the Presidents -- Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan -- showed up except the Deputy President of Kenya, Mr. William Ruto who represented his country’s leader, Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta.

Only Mr. Ruto, the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps-the Ambassador of Trinidad and Tobago- and the ambassadors of Sweden, Norway, Rwanda, Ethiopia, South Sudan, South Korea, Turkey and Tanzania, were recognized as the only foreign dignitaries present at the function by the Master of Ceremony, Lt. Col. Paddy Ankunda of the Ugandan army.

Efforts to get comment from the President’s Press Secretary, Ms. Linda Nabusayi Wamboka, as to whether any of the Heads of State sent in an apology for not attending the function, as they normally do, were futile as she  did not respond to my text messages by press time.

Notably absent also, were Members of Parliament from the opposition political parties. Even those who were present like Ms. Cecilia Ogwal (Dokolo woman), Reagan Ronald Okumu (Aswa), Odonga-Otto (Pader) and Gilbert Olanya (Kilak), were not recognized.

Speaking on Mega FM, a local radio station in Gulu on Thursday, the Deputy Speaker of Uganda's Parliament, Mr. Jacob Oulanyah invited his listeners to turn up in big numbers to welcome the presidents of Tanzania, Kenya, Rwanda, Burundi, South Sudan and Ms. Catherine Samba-Panza, president of Central African Republic, who were all invited to attend this year’s celebration but were no shows.

 “I bring you greetings from my president Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta and all Kenyans. We want you to know that the people of Kenya are celebrating this day with Ugandans,” Mr. Ruto, said in his opening remarks after president Yoweri Museveni invited him to address the mammoth crowds.  He was the only one who addressed the celebration besides President Museveni.

He claimed Kenyans and the entire members of the East African Community clearly appreciate what President Museveni has done to unite and develop Uganda.

“Kenyans and the entire East African Community members have stake in stability, peace and progress. We commit that Kenya will work with Uganda on the oil pipeline, railway, electricity and other projects. The people of Kenya will work with you in the development of East Africa,” he said.

He said some of the programs which need the EAC members to work on jointly include bigger market size, agro-processing, value addition, industrialization and employment.

“Jubilee shares the politics of National Resistance Movement for the transformation of East Africa which is not based on ethnicity, religion or region,” Ruto said, referring to the two countries ruling parties.

In his briefest speech ever during such an occasion, President Yoweri Museveni said his priority over the past nine years of transforming Uganda from a "Third World" to a middle class country had been on infrastructure developments and health, roads, electricity, railways, schools, peace and immunization.

“We have put in more money in those areas than in other areas. If you don’t prioritize, you don’t make an impact. You are beginning to see the impact on roads. Some areas may not be fully addressed as you rightly want. We shall also deal with those especially value addition on our produce,” the president said.

He said Uganda is losing a lot of money because it exports un-processed produce such as corn to South Sudan and Kenya and also simsim, as sesame is referred to here.

“Every sub-county which grows simsim, should have simsim processing facility to process simsim. We are losing money on animal feeds and jobs. We are going to increase funds to process maize, milk, simsim, cassava, rice and honey.”

President Museveni said government has done a lot of work with the project: “Operation Wealth Creation,” being implemented by soldiers, using just 200 billion shillings budgeted for National Agricultural and Advisory Services (NAADS) activities. He said government will increase funding to OWC in next year’s budget.

“We want to make sure that all families are involved in wealth creation. It will bring a lot of transformation and wealth to our people.”

He said in 1987, there were only 300,000 Ugandans employed in the service industry but this jumped to 1.7 million people by 2015.

President Museveni revealed that Northern Uganda will be the center of industries in Uganda when electricity dams are constructed and completed at Karuma with 650 megawatts, Ayago with 850 megawatts and Murchison Falls.

“All these developments are taking place without including expected revenue from oil and gas. Now that we have got peace here, the sky is the limit. The peace here will stay. Nobody will cause violence during election next year,” he said.
At the same time the price of oil has plunged to barely $40 a barrel in recent years from over $100. Angola which depends on oil income for over 70% of the government revenue recently announced plans of up to 50% in spending cuts. Uganda's oil bonanza may be delayed given glut in the world market and OPEC's inability to limit supply.  

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