9th October 1962:
I was greatly expectant of what was going to happen. Let me explain why:
Two years earlier I made a rare trip to Kampala. The city was abuzz with the call for freedom. We desired liberty from the colonialists and the public cry for nationhood was as strong as ever. During my trip to Kampala I was part of a rowdy group of youth who walked around the city shouting, “uhuru!” Freedom!
We expected great things to happen. We were going to kwefuga … whatever that meant. Meanings didn’t matter.
You see, every young person my age with some knowledge of politics was excited that at last Uganda was going to be an independent country. We were going to throw out the mzungu (the white man) and the nation would be truly ours.
In Kabale, at midnight on 9th October 1962, my mind went back to the excitement of Kampala. My friends and I huddled around the school’s short wave radio, thrilled to listen to the national celebrations in Kololo.
The Union Jack was lowered. The Ugandan flag, glorious in its black, yellow and red was raised. A shout broke out! We cheered and danced and chanted, Uhuru! Uhuru! Uhuru!
Then it was time for bed. The lights were turned out and I went to sleep.
48 years later, I wonder if I’ve been asleep all the while. Was it all a dream?
In the country’s infancy, I was a youth winger with the Uganda People’s Congress and actively campaigned for the new ideals of freedom and equality.
A year later, however, I was thrown out of Siniya for being part of a group demanding for science subject teachers to live at the school. We believed that teachers should have full contact with their students and moving them to the school would enhance our performance.
The government we had cheered into power would not listen to us; a riot broke out.
A cabinet minister was dispatched to the school and Siniya was closed. Many of my classmates were invited back to the school, but I was one of the unlucky few kicked out for good.
Soon I found myself back in Kampala on the streets. This time my visit to the big city wasn’t a joyful one.
Where was Independence? Where was my government?
It was soon that everything went into disarray. Uganda’s first president, Kabaka Edward Muteesa II, a smart articulate leader, was deposed from power by Milton Obote. Obote, was removed by Field Marshal Idi Amin Dada. Amin killed thousands, even the Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Janan Luwum. Ugandans were fed up. They wanted uhuru! Freedom!
The cry for change led to a Tanzanian-backed revolution that deposed Idi Amin. However instead of the end of chaos, it was just the beginning.
“Twagala Lule! Oba tufa, tufe!”
Chaos! A military commission, Yusuf Lule, Godfrey Lukongwa Binaisa, Milton Obote II, Tito Okello Lutwa, Yoweri Museveni …
Yoweri Museveni 1986- 1996. First term Museveni. Second term Museveni. Third Term Museveni. Life Time Term Museveni. Kisanja or dead leaf?
Am I sure this isn’t a dream?
Where is Independence? What is Independence for the excited teenager in Kabale, now a retired pensionless church minister?
Perhaps like some my friends, I should have gone into politics. They seem to have fared better there. They travel around in chauffer-driven four-wheel drive cars that are fueled by the State. They have large farms upcountry and mansions they visit once a year. They have big businesses. They have prospered. Were I in their place, maybe I wouldn’t be dreaming any more.
It appears that instead of uhuru, we obtained Independence just to replace the exploiting wazungu with a new Ugandan class of oppressors.
Our national emblem has been turned into a joke.
Nationality is trumped by tribe. Unity can’t stand against selfishness. God is of no use to us because we can help ourselves.
The vices of our Independence have become virtues. Euphemisms are employed to mask reality. Stealing is now the softer ‘embezzlement’ and robbery is ‘corruption’. If you’re found cheating, you are hailed as being clever. If you evade the tax collectors, you are wise.
This is our Independence. Or maybe not.
Perhaps it’s all a dream.