UGANDA CELEBRATES 50 years of independence today with renewed vigour and a reflection on five decades of a mixture of progress, chaos, waste and a determined struggle for progress.
According to the CIA fact file, Uganda has the youngest population in the world, with a GDP per capita at around USD500. Reports from both the World Bank and African Development Bank show that Uganda is celebrating her golden jubilee at a time when unemployment stands at 80%.
This is largely attributed to the checkered journey that Uganda has navigated since 1962; a journey through decades of chaos, Mala-administration and near total collapse.
These simple facts above show that Uganda has been largely a banana republic for most of its 50 years of independence. A banana republic is defined as a politically unstable country that economically depends upon the exports of a limited resource (fruits, minerals), and usually features a society composed of stratified social classes, such as a great, impoverished working class and a ruling plutocracy, composed of the élites of business, politics, and the military.
In Political Science, the term banana republic denotes a country dependent upon limited primarysector productions, which is ruled by a plutocracy who exploit the national economy by means of a politicoeconomic oligarchy.
In practice, a banana republic is a country operated as a commercial enterprise for private profit, effected by the collusion between the State and favoured monopolies, whereby the profits derived from private exploitation of public lands is private property, and the debts incurred are public responsibility.
Such an imbalanced economy reduces the national currency to devalued paper-money, hence the country is ineligible for international development-credit, and remains limited by the uneven economic development of town and country. Because of foreign (corporate) manipulation, the Banana government is unaccountable to its nation, the country’s private sector–public sector corruption operates the banana republic, thus, the national legislature usually are for sale, and function mostly as ceremonial government.
This, clearly, is what has obtained in Uganda since Independence. According to official figures by the Uganda Debt Network, Uganda’s foreign debt has almost doubled from USD2.9billion 10 years ago to the current USD4.5billion and Youth unemployment is at a record 80%. Government extravagance is also alarming and for the month of August 2012 alone, the country recorded a deficit (including grants) of Shs211.2 billion, which was Shs123.6 billion or 141% above the programmed level, figures from the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development show.
Inspite of high GDP growth rates recorded in recent years, most of the population lives in poverty. Agriculture is the most important sector of the economy, employing over 80% of the workforce, with coffee being the main source of foreign trade but remains undeveloped.
Over the years, the country has failed to make the best out of agriculture and is continuously exporting unfinished products, thus fetching less foreign exchange.
However, at 50 years, Uganda celebrates with an opportunity under its armpits. The country boasts of substantial natural resources like fertile soils, regular rainfalls, mineral deposits, and oil.
President Museveni has been saying, development of these will fundamentally change this country and during today’s celebrations, he will likely emphasize placing value to our unfinished products in order to transform Uganda from a ‘Banana Republic’ to a ‘Gold Republic.’
RAY OF HOPE
Since the National Resistance Movement (NRM) came to power in 1986, Uganda has undertaken an ambitious set of economic and political reforms.
These reforms have led to the establishment of a solid legal, administrative and institutional framework to achieve progress. President Yoweri Museveni has aptly contextualised this situation and promised a great future.
When his government came into force in 1986, a ray of home descended on the country and Uganda has been trying its best to recover from a Banana Republic.
Museveni, insists that with the discovery of oil, the country has now set a strong foundation to match forward towards a first world nation in 2062. In 2010, Uganda discovered commercially viable deposits of 2.5 billion barrels but more discoveries have since been announced putting the value at least 3.5 billion barrels. But the viability of Uganda’s oil will depend on the political situation in the country that has since turned volatile.
For example as we celebrate 50 years of Independence, the Opposition leader, Kizza Besigye has been confined to his home after being arrested several times. “Such developments cast a grim picture on Uganda’s political future.
There is a need to rethink our political future if we are to reap from oil because without political stability, oil is nothing,” a political pundit said. Please read our special commemorative supplement for more on this story and others