9th October of every year since 1962 – the day and year when the British colonialists decided to grant the country they first named Uganda Protectorate, then Commonwealth Realm of Uganda and then Uganda, political independence, is ritually celebrated as “Independence Day” since then.
However, whenever we celebrate it, we never ask whether the British really meant to give the country independence , or simply to have a black man in power, but in reality ensure that power remained with them well in the future, and that whichever black man in power, served their post-colonial interests.
The British colonialists left behind a Constitution of Uganda 1962 that allowed 15 traditional nation states to manifest together as a cluster in their (British) new mega nation, which has since been called Uganda. The nation states were: Acholi, Ankole, Buganda, Bugisu, Bukedi, Bunyoro, Busoga, Karamoja, Kigezi, Lango, Moyo, Sebei, Teso, Toro, West Nile.
They were somewhat linked economically and administratively through the centre. The Centre continued to govern the way the colonialists governed through District Commissioners and Provincial Commissioners (that is, one for each of then existing provinces: Buganda, Eastern, Northern and Western).
The nation states enjoyed some degree of autonomy from the mega nation, but there were no adequate safeguards to protect them from a predatory mega- state with power-hungry and greedy agents of the State. They practiced identity politics. And for those, which were preserved in the Constitution as feudal entities or kingdoms ( Ankole, Buganda, Bunyoro and Toro) and the semi-feudal Territory of Busoga, their identity politics was quite advanced.
They were both culturally and politically strong, and could initiate their own development programmes and implement them without reference to the Centre. However, whatever was the case, the whole country was designed politically and economically to provide raw materials for the former colonial masters and as a labour reserve as well as a market for their manufactured goods. If that was independence, it was laughable independence.
The education system the colonialists left behind was neither emancipating no democratic. it was supposed to produce graduates that would only link into the global education and communications system dominated by the English language, with standards of excellence that are eurocentric. it is difficult to talk of independence if an education system is designed to serve interest politics of former colonial masters.
As we celebrate the 59th “Independence” of Uganda the process initiated by the NRM Government to destroy the identities of the 15 nation states that formed Uganda has almost reached a climax. They have been divided into numerous, unviable, almost noninteracting and potentially conflicting entities called Districts.
The 15 former nations have been left almost helpless in terms of culture, environment, nature and ecology, which are being abused with impunity by those in power or connected to power – both local and foreign. Many, which used to have their own sources of income no longer have them. Some of their natural resources are now owned and exploited by individuals with suspicious origins, having no cultural roots in any of the reduced nation states.
As if this is not enough to make the independence of Uganda meaningless, the MegaState, which the British left behind, has been captured by a few interest or family groups with enormous interests in power, business, education, health, agriculture, fishing, mining, you name it. They are entrenching exclusionary strategies in every sphere of life and human activity, to make sure that they have total exclusive access to and control of every available opportunity, thereby marginalizing the majority of Ugandans from the economy. They have ensured that the increasingly diminishing employment is to only certain ethnically related individuals and/or families. It is interest politics and governance in practice., both an antithesis of independence.
There is no doubt that Ugandans should be preparing for a new and meaningful independence beyond their 59 years of meaningless independence. It is necessary to reconsider Centrism and its tendency to favor “anti-independence” interests, forces and actors, and to give new thought to the idea of Federalism as a means left to Ugandans to recover lost independence. Later will be too late.
By Professor Oweyegha-Afunaduula. The Writer is a Scientist and An Environmentalist
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