By Charles Oketcha
Many Ugandans have hitherto decried the abolition of traditional kingdoms by the UPC government in 1966.
Whereas it is true that the chaos that emanated thereof unsettled some ethnic communities, it was a blessing in disguise to the infant independent country.
Despite the mistakes made by UPC, there was a spirit of nationalism that strengthened the already established development agencies like the Uganda Development Corporation.
Proceeds earned in trading the country’s exports were used to construct infrastructure like roads, hospitals, airport as national entities, regardless of which part of the country contributed most to the national financial pool.
Tororo and Kasese for example provided lime for road works and cement used for the construction of the Owen Falls Dam, hospitals and many other national establishments.
The Government freely traded coffee through the Coffee Marketing Board, Cotton via Lint Marketing Board, Tea, Copper among other exports. Not withstanding, graduated tax was collected from all regions in the country by the central government.
Kampala being the capital city received a lion’s share of all the accruing benefits, and provided wide range of opportunities to communities within its vicinity. Parliament, State House, embassies, government ministries, the national referral hospital, communications hub were all concentrated there.
Entebbe International Ariport, the only airport in the country was constructed within its vicinity. Many civil servants enjoyed the hospitality of the Baganda community and in fact adopted their culture of mutual respect calling each other Ssebo and Nyabo.
A number of them married spouses from there and forget about the poverty in their remote homeland later to trek home in shame after dismissal or retirement.
To a certain extent, all governments, including the brutal regime of Amin, gave Ugandans equal opportunities to education and healthcare though some went overboard and grabbed lucrative jobs in the Government.
To date, it is the Government that carries out construction and maintenance of infrastructure, maintenance of law and order and coordinating all components that enable the country to function as a single unit.
It enacts laws, provides security, pays salaries to civil servants like police, teachers and health workers, pays pensions to retired workers and maintains the associated facilities.
The Ugandan Government has, therefore, overshadowed the relevance of traditional institutions to plan for communities, educate, treat, empower and unite them.
Cultural institutions are hereditary in nature and do not interfere with the running of national affairs, since their leaders are not democratically elected.
The technocrats in the present day kingdoms were all educated by the state. Some communities in fact have more professionals than others most of home even studied and worked abroad.
They only failed to utilise such opportunities to develop their country. Some die destitutes begging government for handouts, yet the very government nurtured and gave them opportunities many Ugandans head to the grave without even dreaming about.
I, therefore, find it ridiculous for communities that stand and sing the national anthem and claiming to be Ugandans to vendetta against the Ugandan government and its people over dilapidated structures their less educated, but hard working predecessors, built.
Yes the Government is right to return assets as symbols of pride for the people of Buganda and Toro to preserve their ancestry.
But coercing a Government that is serving them in all the above mentioned aspects to pay for such assets in monetary value is a bit too selfish.
The Government should consult the people regarding the manner in which such assets should be returned to avoid bickering and strife in future. Many Ugandans in the diaspora have acquired foreign citizenry and forgotten their homeland.
They want us to beg them to play a role in national development. Should we change the name of the country to another, let’s say Source of the Nile State so that Ugandans can love and cherish their country?
The writer works with St. Paul’s College, Mbale