Analysis: Uganda's 49-year-old Journey After Independence

    The challenges include lack of nationlaism and patriotism, more about lop-sidedeconomy, symptoms top-down development and youth uneployment.

    Celebrations are underway in Lira district.

    To-day, Uganda marks forty nine years as an Independent Country. At forty nine she is as old as about 70% of her population, Uganda’s life as an Independent Country is just slightly shorter than the entire period of her captivity under British rule which lasted for bout seventy years (1893-1962).

    During the seventy five years under British rule (British Protectorate), the “protectors” introduced their western doctrines which affected Uganda in many ways, some positively and others negatively. They introduced Christianity, formal Education, modern medicine, new methods of Agriculture comprising of, among other things, preservation of the soil and new seeds for both commercial and domestic use.

    They introduced the western legal system and in many ways modernized our local administration: and just before Independence in 1962, they helped Uganda to write the independence Constitution on which Ugandans would base their Country’s Independence.

    The attainment of Independence was the first major political success of Uganda as an Independent Country; and it was attained through struggle, toil, sweat and disagreements with the imperial protestors, often ending in imprisonment and deportation.

    A few years after attaining her Independence, Uganda basked in the glory of this achievement. A few Ugandan’s occupied the top Government positions which had originally been held by the former masters and made important decisions, accordingly. The leaders began taking centre stage in Regional and International Politics especially after the formation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the precursor of the now African Union (AU) in 1964.

    New schools and hospitals were built. For instance at Independence in (1962) Uganda had only twenty eight (28) secondary schools with a population of less than three thousand (3,000) students. A year after independence (1963), Uganda was boasting of 41 secondary schools. Uganda inherited a few big hospitals but after a few years of Independence many more big hospitals were built.

    By the time of Independence, Uganda had only (738) miles or (15,000kms) of tarmacked roads, after Independence many more miles of roads were tarmarked and the trend of development continued for some time. To a casual observer Uganda seemed to be taking a steady and correct course of development. Indeed, forecasts of political pundits like John Hatch seemed justified. John Hatch had written of Uganda two years before Independence that:“there can be little doubt that Uganda has a great future and a most significant part to play in the historic development of Africa”.

    But he had also warned in the same breath that:
    What we (read the colonialists) and leading Africans are having to learn is that the introduction of democracy as a new constitutional system and a way of life, necessitated progressing at a pace ONLY SLIGHTLY FASTER than that of African Public Opinion. Once the pace becomes too fast, public opinion not only stops advancing, but also turns upon itself creating tensions and conflicts which throw all progress out of line and bedevils every relationship”2.


    It is of worrying significance that in the first twenty four years of her Independence, Uganda changed Presidents nine times each time with the exception of one towards the end of 1980, by and through the barrel of the gun. All this caused great insecurity, turbulence, instability and destruction.

    The once bright and hopeful Uganda degenerated into an almost FAILED STATE: a State where venturing outside one’s house was as good as throwing oneself into a hungry lion’s den since the undisciplined army that roamed all over the Country had become an ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE, a State where the judiciary was simply powerless, a State where one could not even talk about corruption let alone condemning it, a State where the Economy had totally collapsed and where selling or buying commodities at “Magendo” price was the order of the day.

    Here are some of the challenges that plagued Independent Uganda, many of which were responsible for the instability and disturbances:


    Independent Uganda inherited a number of social economic and political ills grown and nursed by her former masters. To begin with, the tribes of what became Uganda were lumped together into one UNIT, UGANDA. This was done without any serious or wide consultations with the concerned people. Thus, by Independence time the NOTION of Uganda as a NATION did not appear to have been deeply planted into the minds of the majority of Ugandans, and even where it existed it was still in its embryonic stage. This resulted into sectarian tendencies which left Ugandans without the spirit of Patriotism and Nationalism.


    Secondly, Independent Uganda inherited a lop-sided economy with skewed development; some parts of the country were as poor as others were rich. Development took the same trends. This imbalance in development created the impression that poverty and/or under development was the preserve of particular parts of the country. This did not augur well for Independent Uganda. It created venomous hatred and malice, jealous and anger among the deprived and pride; and perhaps vanity, among those that were benefiting. And to make matters worse, even where the economy was well administered, it was first and foremost to the benefit of the colonial masters. The often quoted strategy of exploiting Uganda’s products which was done through exporting them without value-addition is a case in point. Sadly, even the first Governments that took over from the colonialists did not seem to have seen this advantage early enough.


    Thirdly, the Colonial and the early post Independence Governments did not make as a matter of policy the developments of Uganda people-centered. The making of the 1962 Constitution which was to be a vital knot between Ugandans and their leaders and between themselves is a glaring example of this omission. The constitution was made away in London by the top echelon of the Ugandan society but with minimal participation of the ordinary Ugandans. There is a very remarkable difference between the circumstances under which the 1962 and the 1995 Constitutions were made. For the 1962 Constitution, the greatest duty expected of the ordinary Ugandans was to nod approval! But as we know true and sustainable development as a process of growth should essentially spring from within the society.

    To make matters worse, the 1962 Constitution was arbitrary abrogated by some of its architects and replaced by what history has decided to call a “Pigeon Hole” Constitution as the Honorable Members supposed to pass it found their copied in their pigeon holes after they had passed the document in 1966.

    The abrogation of the 1962 Constitution in such a rude manner was a warning bell of the disregard that the Government of the day had for Constitutionalism, Democratic Governance and the Rule of Law.


    Of course, one other challenge that historians have chosen to close a blind eye to is the fact that the leaders of the day whom God had called upon to handle the delicate matters of this Republic, were trainees, apprentices operating without instructors! No wonder they caused self inflicted challenges to which they found no peaceful solutions.


    Disregard of constitutionalism, democratic governance and the rule of law during the first twenty years of Independence destroyed the strong bond between the Governments of yester years and the people of Uganda. This was evidenced by the absence of regular elections for eighteen years, and when elections were at last staged in 1980, they were more than disastrous.

    Even the courts of law that could have saved the situation by listening to electoral cases for redress were rendered inept. All these Political-social Economic challenges put Uganda in an almost irremediable situation. Many Ugandans lost the initial hope and joy of Independence.


    Youth unemployment has been and is still a gnawing challenge. Nobody is unaware of or underestimates the strong power of the over flowing energies of an ever growing sector of the youth. These youthful energies need to be channeled to purposeful and useful undertakings so that the youths can earn a decent and honest living.

    For their part, the youths are urged to look at opportunities offered, SEE them and Take them up. The Youths that are lucky enough to go to Institutions of Higher Learning should be guided to take practical courses that will lead to employment. Perhaps more than ever before, the idea of JOB CREATION rather than JOB SEEKING should be a household strategy; our school syllabi including our Examination System should make job creation a top priority.

    Coupled with our own individual efforts, Uganda must continue to attract investors both local and foreign for purposes of creating employment for the youths in addition to raising our revenue base.


    The Education Sector has already been singled out as having made astronomical achievements which is a great tribute to the NRM Government. But success should go beyond numerical measures. Success should be in terms of quality as well; that is to what extent is the individual able to support himself or herself after school and to what extent can she or he live as a good productive citizen, capable of contributing to the development of Uganda.


    Uganda has done quite well promoting the health of Ugandans: immunization rate has risen, HIV prevalence has been greatly reduced, access to safe drinking water both in urban and rural areas has significantly improved, the result of which, is a rise in life expectancy of Ugandans. In effect, this has resulted into a significant rise of the population. However, effects of population explosion are not unknown to Uganda.

    Uganda needs very careful planning for these developments both human and physical that seem to be coming at a break-neck speed as a result of the improved living conditions. There is need for the Country to plan to have enough food to feed the ever growing population. Recent and current events in Africa and elsewhere have demonstrated the folly and danger of not having enough food for a population.

    A country without adequate food for her people loses her worthiness and greatly compromises her independence. Uganda with her fertile soil and abundant water should be the last country to experience the effects of hunger.

    But if Uganda is to have adequate food, methods of production, preservation and storage must be improved. The hand and hoe method of tilling the solid and agriculture that depends on the mercy of Mother Nature for water for the crops is no longer tenable; mechanized farming with scientific irrigation should be our target.


    Corruption has continued to plague the Country. Although laws and institutions have been put in place to fight this cancer, there is need for a fundamental change of attitudes and moral values of Ugandans. Earning an honest living should be one of Uganda’s most respected values. Leaders can set the pace BUT all Ugandans starting from our families, churches, mosques and civil society should join the crusade against corruption and all the attendant ills.

    10. POLITICS

    Politics as a way of administering society is good but it can become a challenge if badly used. First of all, there are many brands of politics; there are politics of lies, deceit, intrigue and strikes etc. Politics can save or destroy an action. The politics of the early years of Independent Uganda were greatly responsible for the woes of Uganda. Of course, it would be shallow optimism to hope that Uganda is now declared free of all brands of bad politics. It is still a big challenge.


    The current us of the politics of people’s power is an excellent realization of Article one of our Constitution. ALL POWER BELONGS TO THE PEOPLE. People’s power can be abused unless used responsibly and according to the laws of the land.


    Despite these difficulties, Uganda has registered major successes in the socio-economic and political spheres, especially under the NRM Administration. These successes include the following:-


    For the greater part of the first twenty years of Independence, there was a lot of insecurity in most parts of Uganda. But through combat with the groups that were disturbing this peace and security and sometimes through negotiations by a magnanimous Government the whole Country is now enjoying unprecedented peace and security. The army, once an ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE has undergone a fundamental change into a pro-people and professional army justifiably called the UGANDA PEOPLE’S DEFENCE FORCE (UPDF) whose fame as a Defender and Protector of Peace has spread far and wide, well beyond the borders of Uganda.


    The colonial Power usurped people’s power and conveniently, did not show them the importance of using these powers to choose their leaders except at the end of their rule when they helped Ugandans to frame the 1962 Constitution

    The Principles of Good Governance based on constitutionalism and democratic governance have been instilled especially after the promulgation of the people-based constitution of 1995. The last sixteen four Presidential, Parliamentary, and Local Government Elections.


    For the last quarter of a century, Independent Uganda has fundamentally transformed her economy; thanks to the sound economic policies instituted by the NRM. The economy has recorded a steady annual growth of 6.5%. Uganda’s revenue collection has improved to the extent that the country can service up to 70% of her budget and poverty level has been drastically reduced to an average of 24.5% down from 56% in 1988.The quality of life continues to improve; more people are living in houses built of permanent materials.

    Yes, admittedly the global, economic disinclination is having some negative effects on Uganda’s economy e.g. the ever rising prices of commodities but it is to the credit and strength of our economy that it has withstood some of these global turbulences.


    Provision of social services and infrastructure is equally improving. Take the often quoted example of education; the achievements since independence have been astronomical especially with the introduction of UNIVERSAL PRIMARY EDUCATION IN 1997 AND UNIVERSAL SECONDARY EDUCATION in 2007. At primary level about 80% of all Uganda’s primary school going age children now attend school. Literacy rate has consequently risen to 79%. Similar achievements have been registered in the fields of Health, Communication, Construction Industry, Water Resources, Agriculture, Tourisms etc.


    This catalogue of successes and challenges is not exhaustive. Rather, it is aimed at simply tickling our minds into thought and appreciation of the journey that Uganda has made in her forty nine years of Independence.

    Fellow Ugandans, as we come to the end of the first fifty years of our Independence, we should be proud that during these years of Independence , Uganda has registered a number of fundamental successes, challenges notwithstanding, which give us HOPE, COURAGE and CAUSE to continue with this noble task of building our NATION for a better future.




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