By Milly B. Babalanda
It’s the first time that Uganda gets to mark Independence Day without Queen Elizabeth II. We got our independence 10 years after her coronation. While the wave of Independence was already underway by the time she ascended to the throne, Queen Elizabeth’s stance was most supportive of the new era of post-colonialism. Eulogising her, H.E President Yoweri Museveni stated that she oversaw the metamorphosis of the British Empire into the Commonwealth of equal states. For that, we ought to celebrate her life and pray that her soul rests in eternal peace!
Nevertheless, by 1962 when we got our Independence, our economic potential had already suffered great damage due to exploitation of our natural resources, and our human resources. The colonialists were never interested in the economic prosperity of the indigenous people (naturally). They only wanted them to provide cheap, free or forced labour, including slavery by which thousands were shipped away to work in industries in Europe and the Americas. Locally, those who remained behind were herded into shambas and mines to grow crops and mine minerals for industries overseas.
That is why the railways and few roads built during the colonial era led only to mineral rich regions like the Rwenzoris (for copper, and cotton). This was the pattern in all colonies. Only productive areas were linked with transport routes. I was surprised to learn recently that there was a very advanced ship on Lake Albert but which was destroyed around the time of Independence. That ship was reportedly for transporting oil from the Albertine region in Uganda to the Congo side for onward conveyance to wherever the colonialists wanted the oil.
By ferrying away our natural resources, they denied us colossal value in the individual wealth of our people and national development. Exporting raw materials is to export jobs and a lot of money that would be earned along the value chain. Read more on #Musevenomics if you haven’t grasped this concept. That way, the colonialists stripped our young economies bare and had it not been for gaining Independence, Ugandans would have no economy to talk of. It would be a feudal economy for Ugandans while the British swam in opulence at our expense. They had effectively locked us into the subsistence economy.
Even the few Africans they educated were tutored as job-seekers or those to work in the colonial administration but never entrepreneurs, innovators or job creators. Generally, the colonialists exploited our raw nature but by God’s providence, their time came and they departed.
From when we gained self-determination, the task has been on to undo the grave social and economic injustices of the imperialists, yet still they retained a level of interference in our spheres so much as to hamper our progress. They also left behind a generation of brain drain whereby our best brains kept on flocking the West because of the effect of our esteem having suffered greatly under subjugation. Our well educated people continued heading West for work and many of them have not minded to set up investments back home that can drive the economies and lift their people into the money economy.
Uganda was under colonisation for over 70 years. It will take us an equal or greater number of years to undo the damage occasioned on our land. It all depends on how organised we are and each one understands and accepts that they must make a contribution. People should stop fighting over non-issues and concentrate on what is most important, and, to me, there is nothing more important than financially empowering citizens. We should erase the tears of our people by restoring hope in them and practically equipment them to live a life of dignity.
Citizens of former colonies live soft lives because of the sweat of our forefathers, although our forefathers made mistakes by cooperating with the colonisers and facilitating the plundering of our resources, and slave trade. It is the challenge of our generation to undo all those mistakes and ensure that future generations don’t regret that we were their fore-parents. With good and stable leadership, that is possible!
I am happy that on the mark of the 60 years of Independence, we are talking of Parish Development Model (PDM) as a vehicle to transfer rights over the economy into the hands of Ugandans. It is the first time in the history of Uganda that money is coming directly from Government to the administrative level of Omuluka (parish) for Ugandans to take a leap into the money economy. The PDM concept reconnects the link that colonialists broke between indigenous people and the money economy. Had we not been destabilized by colonialism, PDM would have come much earlier but it’s never too late to aim for greatness.
I, therefore, urge all to look at Independent Uganda as yours to build. Let us be aware that we need to reverse the effects of 70 years of subjugation and segregation of the global money economy. I also urge other former colonies (under Commonwealth and other such umbrellas) to benchmark on PDM in Uganda since they have common backgrounds and visions for our people.
Former colonial masters should also directly partner in programmes that directly aim to uplift the lives of independent countries the same way they have standardised the lives of their own people. We are now equals! Even the way they relate with us at the state level must be on equal terms but not issuing orders as they did in the old days. Such resolutions as that of the European Union (EU) Parliament on the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) should be unheard of.
Happy Independence season to all Ugandans!
The author is the Minister for the Presidency.
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