By Innocent Anguyo
When I set out to ask Ugandans about their perception of Independence Day celebrations, I got mixed responses. Unlike the elderly who held the celebrations in high esteem, the initial responses I got from the young folks were mostly cold ogles.
Nearly two-thirds of the respondents interviewed (youth) said they did not consider the Independence Day anniversary as a special occasion that required celebrations.
Some said the annual merriment had become monotonous.
Views of the youth
“To me, Independence Day anniversaries are just like any other ordinary days; may be because I never experienced what it meant to live under a colonial regime.
More so, every year, the celebrations are just about processions and boring speeches by politicians,” said Jonah Kamukama.
“I am tired of listening to the ‘we are independent’ talk when at 35, I still live in my parents’ house because since I graduated 12 years ago, I have not got a job.
We do not need any more patriotism lectures from politicians. All we need is an economy that creates jobs,” said a man who preferred anonymity.
Scores of respondents below 28 years said despite having attained political independence from the British establishment in 1962, Uganda was still dependent on foreigners to provide basic services such as water, roads, health care and universal education for her citizens.
“To conduct investigations we run to Scotland Yard; to pave a village road we run to China; to manufacture malaria drugs we run to India; to construct a classroom block we dash to the Scandinavian countries.
When are we ever going to be known for doing things for and by ourselves?” asked Sunday Aliti.
The youth further noted that Uganda remained economically chained to foreign powers that influence the country’s policies through grants, loans and hand-outs.
“Imagine, the Government can evict her own people from prime land and give it for free to foreign investors. Is that independence?” wondered Crispus Mugabi.
“We accused the colonialists of stealing our resources, marginalising us, torturing us, dehumanising us and dividing us along religious and tribal lines, but aren’t we having a taste of our own medicine now?” Mugabi asked.
Nonetheless, a few of the respondents said they still held the Independence Day anniversaries in high esteem and that the occasions presented a platform for Ugandans to assess their performance as a country.
“We are now making a year into our renewed vision for Uganda; we need to use the Independence Day anniversary to establish how much we have achieved and where we have failed.
That way, we shall know how to proceed into the future on the right course,” said Winny Tumushabe.
The first ever Kampala City carnival coincided with the jubilee celebrations last year
The elderly’s take
Meanwhile, the elderly said Uganda had enough reason to cherish “self rule”. Most of them vowed to continue celebrating Independence Day anniversaries until their last gasp of air.
During the interviews, they passionately reminisced the good old days when they would at times start preparations for the Independence Day anniversary as early as June.
They said they would often buy the finest clothes, clear bushes and give their homes a facelift, all to accord the day the importance it deserved.
“I remember October 9, 1968. The streets of Kampala and other major towns across Uganda were bejewelled with the national flag, flowers and all sorts of art work as classic Congolese music playing from radio cassettes kissed the air,” narrated Miriam Ndaru, 68.
They said Independence Day anniversaries reminded them of the need to promote democratisation, reduce poverty, improve health care and eradicate marginalisation that prompted them to seek self-rule in the late 1950s.
According to George Okumu, a World War II veteran, in the rural areas, huts shone after being meticulously smeared with red earth and cow dung; girls scrubbed stained saucepans to novelty; women donned their best attire; men skinned their fattest calves and children sang and played all-day long.
“After nightfall, as city revellers took to disco halls and restaurants, the countrymen and countrywomen thronged fetes organised at village squares enclosed with dry papyrus, elephant grass and sorghum stalk.
We need to use this day to celebrate our culture and foster unity by enjoying it as a community,” he added.
“If the youth approached the celebrations from this perspective, we would not have dirty cities, bushy walk ways, malnutrition, immorality, crime and indecency because they are triggered by poor interpersonal relations,” reiterated Okumu.
Sam Okiror said despite our challenges, everyone was in a merrymaking mood all over Uganda.
“We need such kind of patriotism to move our country, no country on earth became developed over night, we need to unite and develop ours and Independence Celebrations reminds us of this obligation,” Okiror said.
The elderly also accused the media of downplaying the importance of the day, saying unlike Radio Uganda that highlighted the events in the run up to Uganda’s struggle for Independence, the liberal media largely disseminated foreign items.
They urge the Government to compel the media to start vigorously disseminating items on Uganda’s Independence three months (annually) to the anniversary date.