Nationalism is about being proud of your country. Indeed people should be proud of their countries, their tribes, their religions, their sexes and this is because in most of these aspects you do not choose, you find yourself there and they say God doesn’t make junk. There are a few things where you can choose even if you were born with it. Religion is one. There are others where you can choose, for example marriage, the spouse is one such. So I am a Ugandan and I am proud to be a Ugandan. I will not trade my citizenship for any other. Today we mark 50 years of independence. That is a fact. There were reasons why we struggled for independence, that is a fact. Have we achieved independence? Yes we govern ourselves, that is a fact. Are we really independent? No, that is a fact. The historians recall well what transpired in the struggle for independence. They will tell you the story of Musaazi, Obote, Muteesa, Kiwanuka and many others. The political scientists will give you a different story. They will tell you they struggled to get independence, we should not have allowed other people to govern us but the fact is the British were ruling us. Why did we have to get independence? We got independence because we were colonized, we were colonized because we were weak. Weakness of a country comes from the fact that the country lacks the technology and the ability to transform that knowledge and technology into money through business. So the British came to Africa, found countries that had resources but lacked knowledge to exploit them and used the Africans to exploit the resources for their benefit. To be able to do so, they had to establish political and administrative structures, these structures served the British interest and those who wanted independence wanted the change in these interests to turn from being British to Ugandan. In a sense therefore, we became independent because we were not governed by the British anymore or any other power. It is Ugandans either through elections or otherwise that have been governing Uganda since 1962. It is said that at the time of independence in 1962, there were 500 Ugandans who had completed o-level! The graduates who held degrees from universities are reportedly to be said to be less than 100! The education system favored a few people and the system was made to ensure that it served those whose political interest was being pursued. Today the country graduates almost 10,000 people from its various universities (if I am not mistaken Turkey graduates about 400,000 people every year, Turkey’s population about 70million people. Turkey is a highly developed country. Uganda is about 34 million) Unfortunately we are not independent for the following reasons; a) we are unable to do lots of things, we can’t fund our budget, we can’t feed ourselves well, we can’t fund our research, we can’t construct a good piece of road on our own, this takes us back to the issue of knowledge and technology. b) coming from “a” above, we have failed to develop technologies to support our economic pursuit I keep on wondering why for more than the 50 years now, the hoe is the basic agricultural equipment. c) We have to seek donations to do various things including donations of old clothes (mivumba) to dress ourselves. This is a shame. It is said that the Uganda railway was built on the basis of cotton proceeds if this was possible then, what wouldn’t be possible today? But of course the cotton industry today is in Shambles. d) Our policies primarily economic are shaped from the United Nations institutions. This includes economic policy we therefore still do not have our interests. E) we have not attained the ability to process the numerous resources that we have to benefit us. If you look at the key industries, Uganda doesn’t have that ability to do business on its own for its own benefit. For this reason, must invite investors to do so. We can only blame ourselves for this. f) there are lots of things where do not have knowledge skills, technology and capacity not only to establish but also to manage. Look at our hospitals, our universities, banking systems, factories, hotels, road construction, petroleum industry, the list is endless. Without the capability we are stuck with dependence on outsiders. You therefore cannot say you are independent. It is true, no country is completely independent. Even powerful countries like the US depend on China to produce the goods they consume but the cause of that is not the inability of the US, it is simply changing economic patterns
Where do we go from here? The writing is on the wall. Independence is not absolute, we need interdependence because we can’t do everything. As a third world country, we can’t afford to rub the west the wrong way since they have the political and economic might to do what they want to do. You have seen this in Libya, it happened in Congo with the popular Patrice Lumumba, it happened in Panama, in Afghanistan, Iraq even in the mighty Soviet Union. So talk about independence with your face down because if you look up as a third world political leader, you may not live for very long. The only countries you cannot intimidate are China and India. The smaller ones like Iran who attempt to be independent can be suffocated economically. We therefore need to define the independence we are looking for. Definitely it has something to do with our resources to improve the standards of living of our people. How we shall do it, its no main task. This will be for another day.
Writer : Prof. Waswa Balunywa