By Andrew Besi
One of Lucky Dube’s enduring songs is “Different Colors, One people.” Its opening lines go thus: “Breaking those barriers, All over the world Was not an easy thing. Yesterday your mouth was shut, Couldn’t make a sound. But it’s such a good feeling today.”
As we celebrate our 60th Independence anniversary, I can not help but marvel at the journey that led to 9th October 1962 or indeed even the final dismantling of colonialism in Africa in April 1994 when the African National Congress – only legalised 4 years earlier but formed 78 years before – defeated the now disbanded National Party of FW de Klerk. It was this National Party that under Daniel Malan instituted the policy of Apartheid (apartness) in 1948.
Like Uganda in 1962, the people of Africa joined in celebration with the people of South Africa and Africa for finally campaigning (through violence and negotiation) for the end of colonial occupation. Parties were thrown. Speeches were made and babies conceived on this day are probably named after Mandela as indeed we have a few, from 1962, named Apollo and Milton.
Today, Uganda is a country of nearly 40 million, 46% of whom are aged 0-14 years. Like much of Africa, Uganda is a country that is grappling with unemployment, unfair trade practices with Europe, Asia and the Americas.
Like most of Africa, we are having to deal with the fallout of geopolitical happenings over which we have no control. We are having to deal with those most interested in subduing our economic ambitions. The best of our diversity of culture is under threat from a liberal contorted “western view” and interpretation. The choice of weapon for these violators of our ambitions, norms and values are often clothed in the robes of “Civil Society.”
How do we counter these?
On 6th March 1997, the people of Accra received from Mwalimu what is perhaps one of the best speeches to ever be delivered on our continent. These are the words he spoke: “For centuries, we had been oppressed and humiliated as Africans. We were hunted and enslaved as Africans, and we were colonised as Africans…We knew that we were one people, and that we had one destiny regardless of the artificial boundaries which colonialists had invented.” He then went on to state: “Since we were humiliated as Africans, we had to be liberated as Africans.”
Nyerere and some of his generation of “Revolutionaries” were very aware that we were one people with one destiny. Indeed, even non Africans know us as Africans and not Ugandans, Rwandans or indeed Zambians. Which is why I am sometimes asked about the 1994 genocide in Rwanda or the 2007 electoral chaos in Kenya. Curiously, both these events did have a bearing on Uganda, Zaire (now the DRC) Burundi and Tanzania.
In fact, my Mpororo tribe has connections with Rwanda, Karagwe in Tanzania and with Eastern DRC itself. We are also linked to the Basongora. The Basamia are found in Uganda as they are in Kenya. Some Shona words sound like Kihororo words.
This uniqueness of Africa means that we, as H.E. president Museveni has pointed out, are a continent NOT of 54 “nation states” but 4 nations. The destiny of Zambia, Zimbabwe, Tanzania and Burundi is in nearly all ways linked to the destiny of Uganda. Ours is a shared destiny.
Before the Europeans arrived on our lands, Africans – including my Bahororo ancestors, depended on each other. It was not uncommon to cross “borders” in search of pastures, wives, husbands or indeed shelter. Maybe it is why Jesus and Joseph before him found shelter in black Egypt?!
Last month I was taken to a village in Kasese’s Bukhonzo West constituency called Mirami. Mirami borders the Congolese town of Kasindi. The people of Mirami and of Kasindi are all Bakhonzo.
On 29th March this year H.E. president Museveni met with their excellencies Kagame, Kenyatta, Ndayishimiye, Salva Kiir and Salma Suluhu met for the Extraordinary Heads of State Summit of the East African Community, the major duty for them to perform was to formally admit the Democratic Republic of the Congo into the EAC. President Tshisekedi was on hand to append his signature to this historic occasion.
In Mirami as in Kasindi, they jubilated because the tediousness of borders was at last relegated to history’s heap.
Therefore, “the current generation of leaders and peoples of Africa must pick up the flickering torch of African freedom, refuel it with their enthusiasm and determination, and carry it forward.”
This is the charge to us of the framers of the theme of our 60th Independence celebrations. It is the charge Mwalimu bestowed on us.
Embracing this charge will cause us to sing “Different colors, one people – such a good feeling.” It is how we counter negative geopolitical strategies. It is how we tackle our socio-economic challenges.
The Writer works with the Ministry of Information, Communications Technology and National Guidance.