Uganda marks 57 years of independence Wednesday, but some citizens say they find little to celebrate in a country with high unemployment, poverty, corruption and political repression, while others believe self-autonomy is worth celebrating regardless.
Uganda, known as the ‘Pearl of Africa’, sits astride the equator in Eastern Africa. It attained its independence from Britain on Oct. 9, 1962 after many years of British colonial rule.
“Uganda is not economically independent. There is high unemployment, poverty, too much corruption. Why celebrate anyway,” local television journalist Clement Wangira told Anadolu Agency.
Political activist Nsereko Ibra believes Uganda is not yet independent because it has had one president — Yoweri Museveni — ruling the country since 1986.
“Being in power for more than 30 years and you say we are politically independent? No we are not,” he said.
NGO worker and public intellectual Saraha Akello believes Uganda has been mismanaged by its leaders, making it look like it was a mere changing of the guard from a colonial administration to another group of colonial agents.
She said it is not possible to be independent amid poverty, disease, unemployment and wars which the country experienced for decades.
“What then are we celebrating? That the white man left (Uganda) but we are misgoverned by another bunch of people that have sold our country to foreign interests,” she said.
“How much stake does China have in our country? How can you be independent when you use foreign interventions for problems in our home? I see absolutely no worth to celebrate a new form of colonialism,” she said.
Importance of celebration
Other Ugandans, however, believe it is worth celebrating independence regardless of the social-political and economic challenges facing the country.
“The colonial venture is the ugliest, most humiliating and exploitative episode in the lives of the African people. Its end must be celebrated, regardless,” said politician and public intellectual Omar Kalinge-Nnyango.
He said misgoverning of some African countries by their leaders after attaining independence is unfortunate but does not compare to the evil of colonialism.
“We should nevertheless confront the post-independence challenges separately. Indeed, some of them are a direct result of the dehumanizing effects of colonialism,” he said.
Uganda People’s Defense Force Political Commissar Colonel Ba-hoku Barigye said Uganda and Africa in general deserve to celebrate their independence irrespective of what some detractors say.
“Following 500 years of foreign domination including slavery, genocide, exploitation, colonialism and now neo-colonialism, we should celebrate our African ability and resistance to survive,” he said.
“Those who think we shouldn’t celebrate independence have their reasons and are entitled to their opinion, however weird, because 500 years of domination cannot be erased with 60 years of self-rule.”
Another Ugandan intellectual based in the U.K., William Omwony, wrote that Independence Day is a time for rethinking where the nation is coming from and where it is heading to.
He said it is important for Ugandans to understand what independence should really mean, not just for their country but the continent at large.
Omwony said that during colonialism, Africans were not even second-class citizens in their own homes – they could be killed and it could not matter.
He urged Africa’s next generation to emulate African liberation leaders who fought for the independence of their respective countries through sacrifice and selflessness for the greater good of their people.
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