Dymock Sozzi aka Dye, the former headmaster of Kitante Primary School, followed the events leading to independence closely. He witnessed the celebrations and the optimism that came with independence. He shared his story with Titus Kakembo
I was 20 years old in 1962. Independence day was a moment when every Ugandan, be it members of the Democratic Party, Uganda People’s Congress or Kabaka Yekka, were all in a celebratory mood.
You should have heard the ground shake as Dr. Milton Obote received the instruments of power under the KY and UPC alliance. That day, Sir. Edward Muteesa became the first president of independent Uganda.
People on the streets were given beef, soda and beer from trucks as they waited for the Union Jack to be lowered and replaced with our own flag at midnight. I impatiently waited and felt like forwarding the hands of the clock.
On that great day, all roads led to Kololo Airstrip. In the crowds were Indians, Europeans, Arabs and us the natives struggling for space. The joy was almost tangible.
At midnight, the country went ablaze with ululations, drums thundered and loud music blared. We had every reason to be proud of our nation because we boasted of the best road network, a high standard of living and reasonable medical facilities in East African.
In 1963, the information minister, Adoko Nekyon, announced the introduction of Uganda Television. In December that year, Sir Edward Muteesa became commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Prince Wilberforce Nadiope was made vice-president.
Then prime minister Milton Obote wedded Miria Kalule at a colourful wedding that cost more than £8,000. At that time, there was this spirit of one nation. Professors like Yusuf Lule frequented State House to discuss how to develop Uganda.
At independence, most of the consumed commodities came from abroad. This comprised clothes, shoes, ink, pens, cars, fuel — you name it. The main foreign exchange earners were cotton and coffee.
Some people owned brand new cars such as Peugeot, Renault, Volkswagen and Mercedes Benz. Each district had its own number plates and you could tell whether a car was from Ankole, Bugisu, Masaka or Gulu. The cars would be easily traceable in case of any traffic offence.
The dance styles included fox trot, rumba and twist. The popular hangout places were White Nile in Katwe and Suzana Night Club in Nakulabye. I remember one mayor banned ballroom dancing after some man did it so well with his wife. The culprit was shaved clean and taken to prison!
Men used to be smartly dressed and the popular hairstyles included either ekigoli (marine haircut) or combing the hair with a parting running from the forehead to the middle of the head.
Then women wore mini-skirts, afro hairdos and platforms, which are now back in fashion. They would also hot comb their hair.
Pupils and students used to speak and write better English compared to the ones of today.
Spelling, hand writing and pronunciation were emphasised in schools. Schools of repute were scattered across the country.
Our academic standards were internationally competitive. Pupils used to write compositions with emphasis on handwriting, grammar and the ‘Queen’s English’. Health was also a serious issue; dentists visited schools to check on the pupils’ dental hygiene.
A university graduate earned sh1,800, doctors took home sh2,000 and an S4 drop-out got sh388 per month, which was a lot of money compared to what professionals earn today.
However, somewhere Uganda went off track and life has never been the same again.
The country has since suffered a great deal. It was rough and tough during the Idi Amin regime and after his fall in 1979.
Unless you were around, like me, it is hard to realise the amount of destruction and looting that went on during those civil wars. We saw office blocks and government buildings shattered to pieces.
Back in the day, unlike the numerous multi-national supermarkets in place today, there was only one — Foods and Beverages shop where essentials like sugar, beer and soda could be bought.
Words like magendo (black market) were used to talk about essential commodities sold behind closed doors.
Talking about the next 50 years makes Sozzi crease his forehead in deep thought before he sums up his views: “The onus is upon the Government to plan for the swelling population. If we had a certain number of hospitals or schools at independence, the number of such services ought to have multiplied three times now to contain the upsurge in numbers.”