By Andrew Besi
9th October 1962! This day marked our country’s transition from a Protectorate of the British to an Independent Republic governed by Ugandans for Ugandans.
The invasion of what is now Uganda began in quick earnest in 1862, 364 years after Vasco Da Gama rounded Africa’s southernmost tip at the Cape of Good Hope, with the arrival of John Hanning Speke and James Grant at Kabaka’s court. They came, ostensibly, in search of the source of the legendary Nile river.
Twenty eight years later, following the Berlin conference of 1884-5, all of Africa except Ethiopia and Liberia, was divided amongst European powers of Great Britain, Portugal, France, Germany and King Leopold II of Belgium. The conquest of our Paradise of Africa was complete.
The African was never consulted or given an opportunity to comment on the annexation of our lands or even the resultant mistreatment through disrupting our culture – which was always in harmony with nature AS well as our agriculture and political set up.
The Europeans obviously believed that their occupation and forceful annexation of our lands helped bring us Africans into the age of enlightenment.
Dr. Walter Rodney rejected this absurdity of thought. In doing this, he joined the ranks of John Langalibalele Dube and Pixley ka Isaka Seme- both from Natal as well as Sol Plaatje who on 8 January 1912 had founded Africa’s first liberation movement – African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa.
The formation of the ANC helped propel the struggle for Independence and self determination across the entirety of Africa. The advent of the Great European War, known as World War I, of 1914 saw African peoples fighting back against overbearing colonial demands which included taking part in a war that the African had played no part in starting.
The colonizers’ wartime priorities and the large-scale abuses they unleashed exposed the colonial state’s exploitative capacities on a new scale.
The result of WWI in Africa was that, once again, our map was redrawn to what it roughly is today. The British, French Belgians and even Italians allied themselves against the Germans declaring war on German colonies in Africa.
By the time Kwame Nkrumah founded his Convention Peoples’ Party in 1949, resistance to colonialism in Africa was on the rise. In 1952, Kwame Nkrumah became Gold Coast’s first indigenous premier. And in the same year, inspired by these quests for self rule, Ignatius K Musaazi formed Uganda’s first political party – Uganda National Congress (UNC).
It was this UNC which in 1960 allied with Uganda People’s Union – UPU – to form Congress ya Watu wa Uganda – better known as Uganda Peoples’ Congress (UPC). Apollo Milton Obote was its leader.
Indeed at our first pre independence elections, three political parties contested. Apart from UPC, the others were Democratic Party – DP, and the Kabaka Yekka – KY allied to the King of Buganda.
Elsewhere in Africa, from the trenches of Kenya to the streets of Lubumbashi, and the Savannah plains of Southern Africa, liberation movements continued with their quest for independence.
And by the 1970s, men like Mozambique’s Eduardo Mondlane of FRELIMO, Amilcar Cabral in Cape Verde,Robert Mugabe of ZANU in Zimbabwe etc all relied on an impressive anti colonial network with sanctuary in countries such Tanzania, Zambia and for a while with backing from Gamal Abdel Nasser in Egypt. Tanzania’s Mwalimu Nyerere was especially the cynosure of these movements.
So intense was the struggle for liberation, that the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) had at its core the objective to rid Africa of the vestiges of colonialism. The 1990 release of Nelson Mandela from 27 years of imprisonment was a result of the OAUs isolation of South Africa’s apartheid regime.
Today, “in the land of our births, Africans are no longer treated as hewers of wood and drawers of water”. But unfair global practices, especially through subversive political interference (Congo in January 1961, Libya in 2011) or our electoral and trade processes, means that we are yet to realise our full potential. Why?
My view is that many young people refuse to appreciate the value of Nationalism built on correct ideology as a tool to transform our societies into modern prosperous ones. We should not look to Western and Eastern capitals as masters of our political economy. Never!
This is why Independence day matters.
This is why this year’s theme -Celebrating our Independence as we Secure our Future through National Mindset Change – is a most relevant one.
The writer works with MoICT&NG