KAMPALA – Congratulations to my fellow Ugandans for making five decades of self rule.
It sound good in our ears and may be a reason to celebrate but what deference have we made just one year before making 6 decades since the British lowered their flag at Kololo and it its place the Uganda flag was raised.
Just a few days ago, it was 9th October, a day set aside to celebrate Uganda’s self rule, a day that our fore fathers preferred to call independence and we followed suit.
The outgoing celebrations went unnoticed by many, I personally had no idea it was Independence Day until I accidentally saw clips of the celebrations on one of the local televisions.
Year in year out, I have noticed since 2014 that Ugandans are no longer eager save for civil servants to look forward to independence day especially if it falls during a working day.
Without going into excuses of the covid pandemic affecting public gatherings, all I could notice were parades mounted by the Uganda People’s Defence Forces, NRM cadres and patriotic clubs, the Prisons Service and the Uganda Police and of course a few Government dignitaries who had no choice but to be present for the sake of their jobs.
I am one of those who think independence has lost its meaning, it is just a ceremonial ceremony, things have really fallen apart.
Looking at the Uganda flag struggling to fly on its own, one would wish the Union Jack had stayed long and looking at the flag deeply, there are more questions than answers. We have been told all colours on the flag have distinct meanings.
From the top, a total of six repeated horizontal stripes of black, yellow and red engulf the flag. Black symbolizes our skin colour and the African heritage. Yellow is for the glorious sunshine that we experience throughout the year. Red symbolizes brotherhood forming a common bond to all humankind. The majestic crested crane is the National Bird of Uganda.
The crested crane adorns the center of the flag and stands on one leg facing the flag pole, probably showing that the other leg is injured. The raised leg was previously meant to symbolize that Uganda is not stationary but moving forward.
On the contrary, the raised leg could mean ever ready to run as Ugandans are ready to take off to work more or less as slaves in the Arab world for peanuts due to endless social, economic and political threats that have characterized this country before and after independence.
With their cunningness, the British had selected a crested crane as the badge for use on the British Blue Ensign and in other official banners for Uganda. That bird became recognized as the chief national symbol in May 1962, in anticipation of independence on October 9 of that year. The originally proposed flag design had vertical stripes of green-blue-green, separated by narrower yellow stripes, with the silhouette of a yellow crane in the centre.
The colours were those of the ruling Democratic Party, and when it lost national elections on April 25, 1962, the newly dominant Uganda People’s Congress rejected the flag proposal opting for their horizontal tricolour of black-yellow-red, and the crested crane was placed on a white disk in the centre. This design was recommended by the then Minister of Justice Grace Ibingira while the British authorities gave final approval to the flag prior to independence.
The Coat of Arms of Uganda is centered on a shield and spears. The shield and spears represent the willingness of the Ugandan people but without the means and ability to defend their country.
As already pointed out, the shield is flanked on the right by a Crested Crane, a subspecies of the Grey-crowned Crane and the national bird of Uganda.
The bird itself as well as the Kob are endangered species yet it was supposed to represent abundant wild life whose safe haven the forests are no more, they have either been cut down for timber or the land given away to the so called investors for farming and housing.
The animals and the birds that are supposed to attract tourists have since relocated to a friendlier environment in the neighbouring countries.
The shield stands on a green mound, representing fertile land, and directly above a representation of the River Nile. Two former and once glorious main cash crops, coffee and cotton, flank the river as if they were intended to remain our main cash crops for posterity.
Both coffee and cotton are no more. In some areas like Busoga, cotton growing has been replaced by sugarcanes. Bugisu and Masaka that were prominent for coffee growing have since resorted to food crops
The coffee and lint marketing board together with their respective cooperative societies have been abandoned and turned into shops selling Chinese made Merchandise.
Of late, the train and trucks carrying imported products from Mombasa drive back empty, for there is nothing to carry to other countries from Uganda. We have been turned into consumers of foreign goods which we sadly buy expensively.
Even the slogans of buy Uganda build Uganda are intended to serve a different purpose. Most of the goods allegedly made in Uganda are made elsewhere and only assembled in Uganda while the raw materials for making other products are imported from other countries. It is a game of cat and mouse while the profits made by these so-called investors are repatriated to other countries leaving us with no option but to borrow year in and year out to fund our budget.
Before the British left, we had working systems, we had co-operative unions, we had a local telecom company and we had indigenous banks like the Uganda commercial bank and the cooperative bank. On the other hand we had the Uganda Posts and telecommunication which later changed part of its activities to Uganda telecom. It had mobile phone facilities but we promoted the others that are foreign and left Uganda telecom in intensive care unit.
They now get a lot of money from voice calls, internet, mobile money transactions and other payments like Umeme. Many of these were not so effective but at least we had something to call our own. Our Uganda Electricity Board was divided into so many entities and handed over to foreigners to manage and all the collections repatriated to their respective countries. We have mortgaged the country; soon we may be subjected to foreclosure.
At the bottom is the national motto of our coat of arms: “For God and My Country”. Looking at the beautiful coat of arms, an outsider would mistake the people to be religious. The motto of Uganda ceased serving any meaningful purpose long time ago, Uganda has been turned into the devil’s workshop with many practicing witch craft, rampant murders of the innocent, malicious prosecutions, corruption, high rates of greed, defilement, rape, ritual sacrifices, prostitution among others evils that go un-noticed and colonized again.
There are three images on the coat of arms or the shield: those on top represented the waves of Lakes and rivers yet on my own accord, I think that wave now means social, economic and political turbulence that would characterize this nation after independence; the sun and its rays in the centre represented the sunshine Uganda enjoyed but has since turned out to be a symbol of draught partly due to harsh climatic changes; and the traditional drum at the bottom is symbolic of heritage, culture, entertainment and for inviting people for meetings and ceremonies. The drum now serves the purpose of a decoration.
The official insignia (coat of arms) of Uganda once reflected the identity, aspirations and economic activity of Uganda. The Crested Crane includes all the national colors (black, yellow, and red) plus its friendly, gentle, and peace loving, characteristics true of the Ugandan people. This too was a former trait, Ugandans are no longer friendly, they are not peace loving and gentleness is a thing of the past. What we see whereas well intentioned is a thing of the past.
Then comes the Uganda National Anthem, a well intentioned song written by a right thinking member of our own community is just a hymn without any meaning. More than three quarters of the population don’t know how to sing the anthem, others know how to sing but don’t know the meaning of the words while others cannot sing more than one stanza. I hear Oh Uganda the land of freedom; I wonder which freedom they were referring to, it does not exist. The few critical freedoms such as bail are on the verge of being erased.
One of the reasons why the white man decided to hand over Uganda to Ugandans was due to high administrative costs of colonies. After all they had depleted most of its resources and laid a very bad foundation that would haunt us for life. A greedy lot of human hyenas were on guard. Clearly, the white man knew that the entire economy was in the hands of the Indian community and even knew that for Uganda to stand on its own, it needed economic independent. This meant that the so called independent Uganda would remain largely dependent on the Indians. It was a timing bomb awaiting explosion. We all know the decision a former President took against Indians and all I can say is bravo Iddi Amin, May your soul rest in Peace.
Whatever influenced the British to hand over the management of Uganda to Ugandans was the biggest mistake they made, independence was not the most urgent need for a country that was already divided mainly on tribal, social, political and economic lines. Looking the Army, Police, Prisons, NRM cadres and the scouts marching at Kololo leaves one question, why are the rest of Ugandans not interested in Independence Day? Is it still necessary to spend billions of shillings celebrating independence? Former President Magufuli before his death ignored Independence Day celebrations in Tanzania and all the money that was intended for that day diverted into constructing one of the major roads in the country. The roads still exists in a fine state.
For years, Easter and Christmas were the most important seasons on Uganda’s calendar but special attention was also given to 9th October. It was all okay until many Ugandans matured and started questioning whether or not the departure of the Queen’s agents from Uganda left at the time when they ought to have left. Should they have stayed longer to prepare Ugandans for self rule or they should have left much earlier. The behavior of our leaders who took up positions upon the departure of the white man spoke a different language, the British should have stayed around much longer to over-see the transition, and the process should have been gradual like it was in South Africa. Instead, the white man’s departure brought with it a stench of self colonization, greedy leaders behaving akin vultures waiting to eat the carcass left behind by the big cats- the colonial masters.
A reader may be wondering why any right thinking Uganda would make such a wish, I still believe Uganda’s independence came a little too early. It is a well known fact that colonial powers came to Africa with one thing at the back of their mind, to exploit resources, to acquire markets and a surplus population to use the way they pleased..
With this invasion, many European countries had seen Africa as being available to their disposal in what was later to be known as the scramble and partition of Africa. The country we call Uganda today is a creature of the British and their influence is still visible to date which pauses the question, did Uganda ever get its much desired Independence, my answer is no atleast going by the definition of Independence.
Independence is a condition of a person, nation, country, or state in which the population, or some portion thereof, exercise self-government, and usually sovereignty, over its territory. The opposite of independence is the status of a dependence which by all standards Uganda is, period. What we celebrate on 9th October is also defined as the ability to live your life without being helped by other people.
It also connotes the freedom to make laws or decisions without being governed or controlled by another country.
Others have defined it as the state of wanting or being able to do things for yourself and make your own decisions, without help of influence from other people. Does Uganda situation fit the foregoing descriptions, the question may appear redundant but my answer is No.
Mr. Roger Wadada Musaalo is a Lawyer, human rights activist, researcher, and politician