May 25 is celebrated annually in Uganda and elsewhere on the African continent as Africa Day to commemorate the day on which the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was founded in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in 1963 by 32 sovereign states. On this auspicious occasion we celebrate and rededicate ourselves to African unity which is the primary and ultimate goal of pan-Africanism.
The first OAU Summit, chaired by Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, was attended, inter alia, by president Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, president Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, president Sekou Toure of Guinea, president Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, president Leopold Senghor of Senegal and president Modibo Keita of Mali.
Uganda was ably represented by then prime minister Milton Obote. Kenya, Zambia and Zimbabwe did not attend because they had not yet achieved independence.
For the record, at the end of the deliberations of the 32 African Heads of State and Government who met in Addis Ababa in 1963, only two African leaders stood up courageously to support a proposal for the immediate establishment of a continental government for Africa, there and then. The two great pan-Africanists were Nkrumah of Ghana and Obote of Uganda. I believe history will accord them a distinguished status as heroes of pan-Africanism.
Today, it's fashionable for all manner of dishonest, mediocre and power-hungry politicians, who are hard-core tribalists and political opportunists, to invoke pan-Africanism as their ideology and masquerade as pan-Africanists when they have, in fact, done enormous damage to the cause of pan-Africanism, by their aggressive, reactionary and counter-revolutionary actions.
The roots of modern pan-Africanism can be traced to a meeting held in Manchester, England, in 1945. Decisions adopted at that 5th Pan-African Congress which was attended, inter alia, by Kwame Nkrumah, Jomo Kenyatta and renowned Black American scholar W.E.B Du Bois, played a significant role and accelerated the legitimate, protracted and heroic struggle of Africans for self-determination and independence.
Barely 12 years after the congress, the British colony of Gold Coast became the first sub-Saharan African country to achieve independence on March 6, 1957, and the country was renamed Ghana by its first prime minister, Nkrumah.
From OAU to African Union
The OAU was disbanded on July 9, 2002, and its last chairman was president Thabo Mbeki of South Africa. A lot of credit for the transformation of OAU into African Union (AU) must go to former Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi.
Like Nkrumah and Obote, history will pay glowing tribute to Gaddafi as another genuine hero of pan-Africanism, unlike pseudo pan-Africanists who shamelessly practise tribalism and politics of divide and rule at national level instead of uniting the people of Africa.
Like the OAU, the primary objective of the AU is to promote economic and political integration of Africa and ultimately establishment of a united states of Africa. Given good, effective, selfless and visionary leadership, I believe it can be done and for the sake of millions of Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora, it must be done.
This year's celebrations will, for obvious reasons, be low key because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Thank God, Africa has so far been spared the dire consequences of this deadly disease. The AU must urge all African countries to prepare for a worst case scenario.
I believe the pandemic is a wake-up call to all African countries, including Uganda, to invest a lot more resources in the health sector, at least 15 per cent of national budgets must be allocated to the health sector, in accordance with a unanimous AU Summit decision.
In this connection, it's regrettable, indefensible and unacceptable that the military continues to be the top priority of the NRM regime. Military expenditure for the 2020/2021FY is a whopping Shs4.5 trillion! It's mindboggling! Who, for goodness sake, is the enemy of Uganda which the regime is preparing to fight? In all fairness Uganda's taxpayers should know.
Ugandans must not accept this extravagant and outrageous waste of taxpayers' hard-earned money, especially when over Shs2.8 trillion of the Budget is so-called "classified expenditure" and hence unaccountable to the people. Uganda deserves a lot better.
I wish the people of Uganda a Happy Africa Day.
Mr Acemah is a political scientist and retired career diplomat.