Uganda at 52 years: are we really independent?
WRITTEN BY OSKAR SEMWEYA-MUSOKE
Last week, Uganda hit 52 years, and the official function at Kololo was attended by thousands!
Coincidentally, in the same Independence week, thousands attended the Kampala City festival, organised by KCCA, and even thousands more went to Mandela National stadium to cheer on our Uganda Cranes against Togo in an Africa Cup qualifier.
There has been much to cheer about in the morning of our 52nd year. Indeed, New Vision columnist Opio Oloya, like the school principal he is, urges us in his letter from Toronto to celebrate gains since Independence day way back in 1962.
He asserts that it is pleasing we no longer have to report to the colonial masters, there are more women in power, Ugandans have food, and that we are secure since defeating the ADF and LRA rebels. Even though we cannot match standards of countries in the first world, Oloya argues that there is free movement and a ‘healthy media.’
Of course there are many that would dispute or challenge all of Oloya’s assertions, and with good reasons, plus evidence. Take President Museveni, who has now mightily fallen out with the International Criminal Court (ICC), yet he was historically the first leader to refer a case yonder for prosecution. The president is against the trials of his counterpart, Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta, and his deputy’s at the ICC. He accuses the court of propagating a post-colonial ideology, especially against Africans.
Without a doubt, President Kenyatta’s appearance at the Hague-based ICC has taken many by surprise. There is an African Union (AU) resolution challenging this particular trial and recommending that no sitting president should be compelled to attend that court. President Museveni has said a lot more, and spiced with great anger, especially since Kenyatta took office.
For sure, the colonial masters’ invisible, but mighty, power is at the centre of most African governments’ actions. Had Kenyatta thrown out the court’s summons, he would have risked becoming a fugitive– like Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir, who can now only visit a few African countries where he is sure there is no chance of arresting him and being taken to the awaiting ICC.
Like our own president, Kenyatta likes to travel to the West, and enjoys the influence gained by rubbing shoulders with leaders of the first world. Both published their photo opportunity with US President Barack Obama and his wife. Our Museveni even addressed a UN convention on behalf of all the other presidents.
Perhaps, this was enabled by the scrapping of the Anti-Homosexuality Act by the Constitutional court just days before he was due to fly out to New York!
And we have had a taste of the quiet sanctions here in Uganda, following the cases of rampant corruption in the Office of the Prime Minister, when donors withheld aid money. However much we may posture, it is common talk that we have been broke. What will happen when the AHA bill is re-tabled in our 52nd year of independence? All ‘Eyes on the Curtain’, as a Luganda proverb acclaims!
There was an unapologetic good news story too! Pope Francis, shining star of the Catholic world, called an Extraordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops on the theme of the family and evangelisation.
The pope, who urged candor and encouraged clerics to speak openly and not to worry about offending him, believes that everyone deserves mercy. That is why this synod will consider the plight of divorcees and remarriage, amongst other family issues.
It is not a new position. Whilst not advocating a change in Catholic doctrine regarding abortion and other controversial taboos like homosexuality, the pope has simply asked that: who is he to judge?
About a year ago, the pope made a surprise phone call to Eugenio Scalfari, founder of an Italian newspaper, La Republicca. Scalfari is an intellectual, but also a renowned atheist. In a BBC radio interview, Scalfari claims that the pope comes across as a super intellectual with great compassion and that he agreed to bless his family even though he is an atheist!
Pope Francis has amazed many by his humility and love of poor people. He advises priests to live frugally and terminated the services of a lavish German bishop who was residing in a €31m mansion! He once travelled in a borrowed 20-year-old Fiat and lives in a small guesthouse, rather than in the lavish papal apartments.
This very lovable pope would have frowned upon the Shs1bn Kampala City festival, as well as the friends and politicians who chose to accompany Uhuru Kenyatta to The Hague at a cost of KShs 18m!
The author is one of the founding Kigo thinkers.