Ugandan Diaspora News | Letter from the Editor | October 2012 | Uganda@50

Posted September 30, 2012 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Editorial ~ 6,550 views


Greetings From Kampala,

On October 9th, 2012 Uganda will celebrate its Golden Jubilee. Festivities are currently under way to mark this fiftieth anniversary, putting our nation in the spotlight for the whole month of October. The occasion calls for worldwide celebrations. Gven our troubled past, some might argue that it is “not yet uhuru” (a Swahili word for independence), to cite the title of the autobiography of Kenyan politician/statesman Oginga Odinga–father of Raila Odinga and a graduate of Makerere University. Whatever your view, there is a lot to be thankful for as Ugandans, not the least of which is the vast natural beauty of our country. The British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, when first serving as British Colonial Secretary, summarised that beauty in his book My African Journey, published in 1908, describing Uganda as, “…from end to end a beautiful garden….. the exuberance of vegetation…scarcely describable”. The phrase, ‘the Pearl of Africa’, though widely attributed to him, was taken up from previous descriptions of Uganda as a pearl by Speke and Stanley.

In spite of our troubled past, we have made some great strides. But corruption seems to have institutionalised itself, as the recent pension scandal revealed, with civil servants making off with pensions/benefits belonging to the former employees of the East African Community amounting to 63 billion shillings. Particularly sad for me was that my late father’s hard-earned savings were part of the money paid out to ghost workers. Our attempts to get this money were always met with excuses of no money or dodgy public service employees interested in kickbacks to move files. Leaving accounting officers in public offices for so long will always result in manipulation of the system for self gain and this culture of people staying beyond their “sell by” date is largely responsible for the institutionalised corruption we are experiencing today. Compare this to public administration in the U.S., not without its flaws, but one which has “whistle blowing” procedures in place to fight corruption.

The other interesting story has been the attempts by the newly established Kampala Capital City Authority[KCCA] to bring some sanity back into the city. As much as I applaud their attempts to demolish unplanned structures in the city I am appalled by the man-holes on side walks along many of Kampala’s roads. Forget the potholes [that long overdue for repairs] but I have walked along some side walks around Kimathi avenue, Rwenzori Towers and near CPS that if you fell in you would end up with broken limbs and perhaps face to face with your creator. Therefore my plea to the KCCA authority is how about starting on the repairs of our infrastructure before we embark on demolitions. Because as tax payers and citizens of Ugandan people living and working in Kampala’s metropolitan areas should feel secure on our roads and side walks before they suffer permanent disabilities. I am aware that  KCCA inherited a mess but lets address issues systematically on where and how to resettle those affected and cover the man-holes that are time bombs waiting to happen for those walking and talking on their cell phones and unfamiliar with open sewers in and around Kampala.

As a Ugandan who has now lived in the US for the past 12 years, I dream of a nation which we can build, treasure and protect the way the Americans do theirs. Whatever happened to that sense of pride of country, or should I call it “country first”? We have allowed foreigners, some without proper documentation, to beat the system in Uganda, while others do not even care about this country that has made some billionaires who will continue to repatriate their profits to their native countries.

I am a strong believer that charity begins at home. I know that we have more national parks than Kenya and Tanzania combined but why should Kenya and Tanzania have all the tourists? How have we marketed Uganda? During the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) Uganda paid $1M dollars to market Uganda on CNN. In my view, more money should have been paid out this year in marketing Uganda as a major tourism and investment destination in the region. Last year Kenya spent $57M and Tanzania $8M to market tourism whereas Uganda spent a mere $250,000.

One area where you get a sense of national pride is sport and the Africa Cup of Nations illustrates that rather well. A friend once asked me why we are so keen to support European leagues but not our own. I recall growing up at a time of super leagues– KCC, Villa SC and Express, Coffee, Nile and Maroons, Bunamwaya, Nsambya– all the talk of the town then. Today that league is a shadow of its former self with factional infighting tearing the sport. Uganda has also not fared well in international competitions since our last appearance at the Africa Cup of Nations where we lost to Ghana in the final. What ever happened?

Lately Ethiopian and Kenya Airlines have also enjoyed great tourist numbers because these flag carriers market their country’s tourism potential and also contribute to a sense of national pride. Uganda is a sad story in this regard, with Uganda Airlines being forced to liquidate in 2001 because of mismanagement. But could the revival of our national carrier help jump start this sense of national pride and patriotism? How many times outside of Independence Day and government holidays have you seen Ugandan colors displayed? I have travelled to countries where I lost count of the amount of national memorabilia and number of flags in public places that are constantly there to remind you that you are actually in a certain country. The US and Canada do a great job of displaying their national flags, especially in their capitals.

But for us as Ugandans it is never too late to start this campaign to instill patriotism and national pride. I believe a campaign where every school child carries a Ugandan flag, however small, as part of a national campaign, be it a paper or cloth flag, ought to be adopted and allegiance to the flag encouraged on a daily basis. It is my personal conviction that if we encourage our children today to love their country and be proudly Ugandan then the next generation of leaders will place country above self and bring to an end the culture of selfish politics and corruption that has led many to give up on Uganda.

As we commemorate this year’s Golden Jubilee, let us all remember to say a prayer that indeed…’Oh Uganda May God uphold thee’, as we restore the years the locusts have eaten and bring forth a nation that will be the envy and pride of Africa–from academics, innovation, tourism and investment, to the food basket in the region. Borrowing a phrase from President Obama, I am a strong believer that YES WE CAN transform this nation from a third world to a middle income nation, now that the black gold is finally here! Don’t forget to join us at Kampala Serena Hotel on Friday October 12th from 5:30 pm for the grand finale celebration of Uganda at 50 using Art, Music, Dance and Drama!

Happy Independence Day and Golden Jubilee Uganda!

Ronnie Mayanja

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About the Author

Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.



    We do hope for the best in future, Happy Independence to all Ugandans..


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