Why Uganda at 59 is Not Yet Uhuru

Mutesa and Obote
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Sir. Edward Mutesa, Kabaka of Buganda and President of Uganda at independence with executive Prime Minister Apolo Milton Obote at the time of independence. Archival photo.

[Aluta Continua!]

Harold Acemah

Uganda will this week mark the 59th anniversary of independence, a.k.a. “uhuru” in Kiswahili, or “driwala” in my mother tongue Lugbara, “amefuga” in Luganda and “loc ken” in Lwo. For the vast majority of Ugandans, especially our fellow citizens from Masaka, Karamoja and Kasese—currently the epicenters of violence—there is absolutely nothing to celebrate. In those three regions of Uganda October 9 will, for obvious and tragic reasons, be a day of lamentations, mourning and sorrow. Cry the beloved country!

The theme selected by the governing National Resistance Movement (NRM) regime for the 59th anniversary of Uganda’s independence is: “Celebrating our 59th Independence Day as we secure our future through national mindset change.”

I am advised by reliable sources that the national event of this year’s uhuru day will be held at Kololo Independence Grounds in Kampala and due to the Covid-19 pandemic only 600 guests have been invited to attend.

When Uganda achieved independence on October 9, 1962, I was 15 years old and a promising High School student at Sir. Samuel Baker School, Gulu. It is one of the events which has remained alive in my memory ever since. Fifty-nine years down the road, I recall with sadness and disappointment the fact that the dreams, hopes and great expectations my generation had in the future of Uganda, the pearl of Africa, have to a large extent been dashed and remain unfulfilled. As of now, the future of Uganda is frankly bleak, insecure and uncertain.

Gen. Museveni has ruled the country since 1986. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

If the NRM regime is serious and committed to “secure our future through national mindset change,” it must begin by changing the regime’s backward, primitive and ethnic-chauvinist mindset and the national priorities of Uganda. Instead of squandering trillions of shillings of Uganda’s financial resources on the military and police, the government must invest significant amounts of resources in three key sectors which touch the lives of all Ugandans. This move will transform Uganda from a basket case to the much-coveted middle-income status, like Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania.

The three key sectors are Education, Health and Agriculture. Budgetary allocation to these three sectors must be tripled annually for the next 10 years. This will enable Uganda to fight ignorance, poverty and disease. In line with relevant African Union Summit decisions and resolutions which Uganda supported and is a party to, the government must allocate a minimum of 15% of the national budget to the Education sector, 15% to the Health sector and 10% to Agriculture in order to revamp the rapidly declining economy.

The wrong priorities of the NRM regime was exposed, once again, by a front page story published in Uganda's Daily Monitor newspaper of September 20 titled, “Army to recruit 2,000 graduates” which is unbelievable, indefensible and unacceptable. I wish the NRM regime could instead recruit 2,000 medical doctors, engineers, agricultural officers, teachers, nurses and midwives who are definitely much more useful to Uganda.

According to the story, Lt. Gen. Muhoozi Kainerugaba, Commander of Land Forces of Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF)—and son of Gen. Yoweri Museveni—announced via twitter on September 18 that the Uganda army will soon recruit 2,000 University graduates which will be the largest number of graduates UPDF has been recruiting since 2001. One wonders why at this material time; and secondly, is there any imminent threat to the security and territorial integrity of Uganda to justify this course of action? I believe Ugandans deserve honest answers to the above questions.

Uganda does not need a huge, aggressive and expensive army whose primary objective and purpose is not to defend wananchi—the citizenry—and the territorial integrity of Uganda, but to protect and shield a corrupt, decadent, incompetent, mediocre and unpopular ruling clique which has done enormous damage to the moral fiber, traditional values and unity of the people of Uganda.

May the Lord bless, guide and save the people of Uganda. For God and my country!

Arua, Uganda

September 27, 2021.

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