21 November 2012

Uganda: Freedom Is a Basic Human Right


In a newspaper article recently, someone implied that the attainment of Ugandan Independence 50 years ago was either premature or uncalled for. The commentator certainly was entitled to his opinion.

I do not, however, subscribe positively to that school of thought.

From the onset, that opinion reminds me of the writings of a great son of Africa, Kwame Nkurumah, who led Ghana as its Prime Minister and president from 1957 to 1966.

In his autobiography, Nkrumah wrote: "No people without a government of their own can expect to be treated at the same level as nationals of sovereign states. It is better to be free to govern or to misgovern yourselves than to be ruled by foreigners."

Unfortunately, I feel uncomfortable using the phrase, "British colonialism" in Uganda because I believe it is a non-issue. Nevertheless, I cannot defend our independence without any mention of this phrase.

Whatever the case may be, colonialism was a policy by which Britain bound territories to itself by political ties with the primary object of promoting its own economic advantage in this part of East Africa. Therefore, no one need be surprised when it led to disturbances and tensions.

Above all, prior to British interference, the kingdoms and the chiefdoms ruled themselves properly. In other words, they were states in the sense that they constituted governments, territories and people within themselves.

But in 1893, Buganda Kingdom and Britain signed an agreement on protection. Then, Britain started to extend the agreement to other kingdoms and territories.

Bunyoro Kingdom, under the leadership of Omukama Kabalega, resisted it. For 10 years, a war was waged, ending with the death of Kabalega.

In Acholi, paramount chief Awich declared a war against the colonialists. Eventually, they captured him and exiled him in Kololo which was a jungle.

The capture of paramount chief Awich did not end the war in Acholi, for chief Onung Tingra led a rebellion against the colonialists in Lamogi in 1911.

In Paimol, the eastern part of Acholi, there was also a war against colonialism.

West of River Nile was not peaceful for the colonialists as well.

Indeed, Madi, under the leadership of paramount Chief Aliku, who was exiled in Ssese Islands was never seen again.

Thus, Britain extended its colonialism from Buganda to other kingdoms and territories by force.

So, the present sociological and territorial form crystalised Uganda in 1924.

After the end of the second World War in 1945, Kenya attained independence in 1963, after the Mau Mau rebellion from 1951 to 1953.

Obviously, events in Africa inspired Uganda to achieve its independence on October 9, 1962 through a non-violent approach. It was not a favour that freedom had been granted in the country on that day. On the other hand, it was right that it had been done.

So, Uganda became a member of the world community. Expectedly, the phrase, "Uganda protectorate" ceased to exist.

In the circumstances, I do not see reason for regrets. But I see reason for joy because we became free citizens.

To me, independence struggle is one thing and the challenge of nationhood is another matter. In other words, I do not intend to mix up issues.

In any case, independence or freedom is a human right. Thus, it is not subject to bargain or negotiation. It is the most valuable thing in one's life. Without it, one is a slave. By large, all citizens should protect, defend, embrace and guard our independence at any cost.

Veteran journalist and former Editor-in-Chief of the Uganda Times

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