How the Museveni Regime destroyed the Uganda Development Corporation, A colonial legacy

Gen. Museveni
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Uganda's Gen. Yoweri Museveni. Even a colonial legacy institution like the Uganda Development Corporation has been destroyed. Photo: Facebook.

[Aluta Continua!]

Harold Acemah

There are events in life which remain alive forever in one’s memory. For me, such events include the first time I traveled outside West Nile region in February 1961, my first day at Makerere University in June 1967, the first time I arrived in London and New York in September 1973 and the day Sir. Andrew Cohen, British Governor of Uganda, visited Wolo Primary School in 1956 where I was a student in Primary 4. 

The school is located in today’s Yumbe District which was at the time called Aringa County. My father was headmaster of the school. Sir. Andrew Cohen was the only British governor to visit West Nile during the colonial regime of 1894-1962. West Nile became part of Uganda Protectorate in 1915. Unlike dishonest, self-centered and mediocre Ugandan political leaders who are all over the country making lots of empty noise while doing nothing useful for wananchi, colonial governors rarely left Entebbe which was Uganda’s capital until 1962. No wonder a visit to West Nile in 1956 happened once in a blue moon.

Wolo Primary School was one of the few institutions of learning the governor visited during his tour of West Nile which was a big honor for my father who together with his fellow teachers and about 400 students made every effort to prepare adequately for the historic visit. Apart from cleaning the school compound for weeks prior to the visit, students and teachers were provided with new uniforms for the special occasion.

The governor came with a huge entourage consisting, inter alia, of the Provincial Commissioner of Northern Province, Provincial Education Officer, District Commissioner of West Nile, District Education Officer, County Chief of Aringa and many senior colonial government officials. Sir. Andrew Cohen was a tall, elegant and impressive man who carried himself with confidence and dignity. As a 10-year old boy, I was fascinated by what I witnessed on that day. Every student was given a miniature Union Jack, the British flag, to wave and welcome the governor on arrival.  The visit lasted barely one hour and off he went to Yumbe town and back to Arua which was headquarters of West Nile District.

Sir. Andrew Cohen, a liberal and progressive colonial administrator, was Governor of Uganda Protectorate from 1952-1957. One of his main assignments was to prepare Uganda for self-government and independence. He was well suited and I think deliberately chosen by the British government to play this role. Before coming to Uganda, Cohen served at the Colonial Office in London and played a key role in events leading to Ghana achieving self-government in 1952 with Kwame Nkrumah as Prime Minister. Ghana attained independence on March 6, 1957. It was a test case which was replicated in other British colonies in Africa.

Cohen re-organized the Legislative Council (Legco) to include African members who were elected from districts throughout Uganda, thus creating a basis for representative government. He introduced several positive economic initiatives, among them, establishment of the Uganda Development Corporation (UDC) which was disbanded by the corrupt and decadent National Resistance Movement (NRM) regime in 1998 against wise counsel from patriotic Ugandans.

In 1953 the Lukiiko—Parliament—of Buganda demanded independence separately for the kingdom which put Cohen at loggerheads with Kabaka (King) Edward Mutesa II of Buganda who was interestingly a colonel in the British army. On November 30, 1953, Cohen called the Kabaka’s bluff, deposed him and exiled the king to London where he languished for almost two years. The Kabaka was allowed to return to Uganda on October 17, 1955 on the condition that he would not oppose independence within a larger Uganda community. The rest is history.

Queen Elizabeth II visited Uganda in 1954 when Cohen was governor and commissioned the Owen Falls hydroelectric dam at Jinja during that visit. When Cohen died on June 17, 1968, President Obote paid him a well-deserved tribute. May their souls rest in eternal peace!

Arua, Uganda.

August 24, 2021.

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