By Rev Samson Maliisa
On October 9, 2016, as a nation we shall celebrate our 54th year of independence. In his speech on Independence Day in 1962, the then first Prime Minister of Uganda, Dr Milton Obote, echoed the hopes and aspirations of Ugandans, proclaiming an era of peace, prosperity and ever-growing national strength.
The events that unfolded soon after and years later, however, make one wonder whether the Prime Minister’s speech was not simply an empty great speech by a great orator. Soon the new nation spiralled into chaos, crises and a horrific reign of terror under Idi Amin. These problems, in my opinion, were rooted in the absence of the spirit of patriotism in post-independent Uganda.
Perhaps the first indicator of the absence of patriotism was the formation of the Kabaka Yekka party. This political outfit was formed with the sole purpose of fronting the interests of Buganda Kingdom, the most powerful part of Uganda then.
They formed an alliance with Milton Obote’s UPC on the condition that the interests of Buganda would be preserved.
However, this was at the expense of the new Uganda. For this unholy, unpatriotic alliance eventually gave Obote a comfortable lead against the Democratic Party, which had enjoyed majority representation in the pre-independence parliament, making Obote the
first Prime Minister of Uganda.
While Buganda Kingdom would do anything to protect its interests against the rest of the country, later events proved that the Obote administration would soon grow wary of Buganda’s demands. It was the failure to heed Buganda’s demands that orchestrated events which led to the Mengo Crisis in 1966.
What followed was the Pigeon Hole Constitution, outlawing the special status of Buganda and abolishing kingdoms. This made Obote President with full executive powers, and led to Kabaka Muteesa II fleeing to exile on 24 May 1966.
The flip side of the Mengo Crisis is that it was a result of Obote’s resolve to stay in power. This was after a vote of no confidence in him while he was in northern Uganda because of his involvement in a gold corruption scandal in the Congo together with his army protégé Idi Amin Dada.
By this time, Obote had become the darling of Uganda’s military forces. After an attempted coup in 1965, when the military demanded swifter promotions and higher pay, Obote elected to shift his commitment from Buganda Kingdom to the self-centred army.
This self-preservation, with little regard for the citizenry as expressed in the 1962 Constitution, caused the ease with which Obote overthrew the 1962 Constitution, proclaiming himself President.
Suffice to say that with the support of the army, Obote’s confidence was strengthened, unveiling a new kind of leader, characterised by tribalism, an unforgiving spirit, corruption, and insensitivity. This ushered in a dictatorial regime, characterised by repression. All other political parties were banned, leaving only UPC.
On January 25, 1971, while Obote was out of the country in a Commonwealth Summit in Singapore, Uganda’s army under Amin ousted him from the presidency.
Obote fled to Tanzania, and Amin, for eight years, instituted a bloody regime of terror and repression which resounded throughout the world, leaving immense negative consequences with which Uganda is still grappling to undo to this day, 37 years later.
Although it is not possible to assess each and every event that unfolded after Uganda became independent, we can conclude that the newly born Uganda was handed over to men without patriotic dedication.
Therefore, recalling our history which has been characterised by political and constitutional instability, I appeal to fellow Ugandans and friends of Uganda, to re-ignite the long-suppressed patriotic spirit and love for our nation. Let us all do the best in our power to build a great future for this nation, the Pearl of Africa, as we celebrate our 54th independence anniversary.
The writer is an Assistant Chaplain UgandaChristianUniversity, Mukono.