Ugandans have expressed shock at remarks made by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson that colonialism in Africa should never have ended and downplayed Britain’s role in the slave trade.
“The continent may be a blot, but it is not a blot upon our conscience,” Johnson wrote in an article published in 2002.
“The problem is not that we were once in charge, but that we are not in charge anymore.”
According to UK’s Independent Newspaper, the article, written while Mr Johnson was editor of The Spectator magazine, reveals that the prime minister in fact has held an active admiration for Britain’s colonial activities on the continent.
“Consider Uganda, pearl of Africa, as an example of the British record. Are we guilty of slavery? Pshaw. It was one of the first duties of Frederick Lugard, who colonised Buganda in the 1890s, to take on and defeat the Arab slavers,” Mr Johnson says in the piece.
The British colonised Uganda from 1894 to 1962.
“And don’t swallow any of that nonsense about how we planted the ‘wrong crops’. Uganda teems, sprouts, bursts with vegetation. You will find fruits rare and strange, like the jackfruit, hanging bigger than your head and covered with green tetrahedral nodules. Though delicately perfumed, it is, alas, more or less disgusting, and not even Waitrose is pretentious enough to stock it,” said Johnson.
In UK, Johnson was asked by lawmakers to explain whether he still held the views expounded in the 2002 piece, where he argued that Africans would not have grown the right crops for export without British direction.
Former intelligence coordinator, Gen David Sejusa took to Twitter to condemn Johnson’s remarks.
“And Opposition MPs, merely asks him to explain if he still holds such views. Should be, he held them at all! Imagine Boris saying, Jewish holocaust was justified, would he still be in office? This was African holocaust, 20 million enslaved, 5 million dead! And HE GLOATS?” charged Sejusa.
Boris said “left to their devices, the natives would rely on nothing but instant carbohydrate gratification of the plantain.”
Sejusa responded: “Such DISDAIN for African! So they brought proteins to Africa, they brought Ankole cattle, goats, rabbits, grasshoppers, edible rats…”
On recolonizing Africa, Sejusa, who fought in the NRA war that brought the current ruling NRM party to power in 1986, fired back: “Those unable to read the TIMES can’t build empires, they lose them! Reason mighty British Empire is back to ‘LITTLE ENGLAND’!”
However, a one Aguma Abwooli applauded Johnson’s straightforwardness
“I like this man, he is being honest. In nature the weak become prey and are dominated by the strong,” said Abwooli, adding, “If Africa has refused to shape up and build its capacity, why should we hide behind human rights to condone weakness and laziness?”
Ivan Mwima said “our current mess is evoking such thoughts in those chaps. We need to organise well so as they resist even the temptation of such thoughts.”
While Britain is condemned for economic exploitation, the Protectorate government built the Uganda Railway, Owen Falls Dam, Kilembe Mines, Tororo Cement Factory and set up the Uganda Development Corporation.
Britain also built, staffed and equipped a network of primary and secondary schools as well as Makerere College.
By 1934, Uganda had hospitals in all major centres and 88 dispensaries in rural areas to deal with illnesses that were claiming thousands of lives including sleeping sickness
While former President Milton Obote was credited for setting up the Cooperative Union, it was the British Protectorate government, which launched the “Buganda Growers’ Society in 1922”, followed the Bugisu Coffee Cooperative Union in 1930.
President Museveni recently expressed fears that Africa’s fragmented markets and weak militaries compared to advanced countries could facilitate a new era of colonialism on the continent.
He said building an African force, integration, total liberation and realization of economic prosperity was the only way Africa could guarantee the region’s strategic security and independence.