So I am asking the question: Why did we send the British away? You moved from justice to this sort of system, out of empire into servitude?
PIC: Nkangi watched the Union Jack go down back in 1962
Former minister the late Johoash Mayanja Nkangi, who was buried on Friday, was a young man whne Uganda got independence in 1962. Last year, he was asked about his reflections on the 54 years of Uganda's independence in one of his last interviews. Below is what he said.
I was about 28 years old on October 9, 1962; I am now 85.
I was a lawyer in Kampala, but I had a political party called United National Party.
On that day, I was at Kololo Airstrip with people like prime minister Dr. Milton Obote, Sir Edward Mutesa, the Duke of Kent and his wife who had come to represent the Queen of England, Elizabeth II, in setting us free symbolically.
Many people were jubilating. It was probably about 12:00 midnight when the British Union Jack came down and our flag went up to indicate that the British protectorate from April 1894 to October 1962 had ended; that the British sovereignty had ceased.
Don’t ask what they were protecting us against, they were calling it a Protectorate. As I stood there seeing this symbolic change of power, I asked myself a question, because I wasn’t very happy: What next? What is the future holding for us? I got the answer after about two years.
At Suzana Night Club in Nakulabye, one person was killed when a young man quarrelled with a young woman.
Government forces were sent there to maintain the peace, but one person was killed. I began to know the reign of force possibly was starting.
Now the issue is this: Uganda got independence in 1962, Tanzania in 1961 and Kenya in 1963. There has never been a coup d’état in Tanzania or Kenya. Here, there have been about five coups.
So I ask the question: Is it because we are cleverer than the people of Tanzania and Kenya? Why is it here in Uganda that we change governments by shedding blood?
Now you did not come here to ask me those questions; you came to ask me about that day October 9, 1962.
Before October 9, 1962, I had been part of the political system. Do you know what we were telling the British?
“Go, let’s do our things our own way, Mutuviire! Why should someone coming from about 6,000 miles away govern us here?” That was the question. So we, politicians, said collectively: “You go!”
But before the Europeans left, only two elections here were held justly, without rigging. When they left, things started to change. So I am asking the question: Why did we send the British away? You moved from justice to this sort of system, out of empire into servitude?
So you were asking me what the day was like; it was good, we danced, whatever, whatever. We knew the British had left, but if you ask me since then, it was a terrible day because what we thought would take place is not quite what is taking place.
What did we get? Obuddu (Servitude).
Why? Because the democracy we were talking about was never quite there. Why is that? Why have we had about five coup d’états?
It’s about time we change direction.
And the Baganda say ‘Eyeewa ez’omumba, gwe bazikuba’. What it means is that if you choose to lead, you must accept all responsibilities which go with that leadership. If we are leaders, we have to think again. Where are we going?
Where are we taking Uganda (because) tomorrow we will die, that is the law of nature.
If I were to die tomorrow, and I am going to die someday, be buried somewhere in Buddu where I come from, but I don’t want to be buried and then Uganda be buried as well.
When I am buried, Uganda should continue to rise like an eagle; that will depend on the sort of policies which the leadership in this country have.
About two weeks ago, I read in the papers that MPs were saying when one of them dies (God forbid), the Government will spend about sh68m putting them in the grave. I asked myself a question: what is the national income per head?
What is the average income for every Ugandan a year? I asked Keith Muhakanizi (the permanent secretary, ministry of finance) and he said it was about sh2.8m per head.
And you go and bury Mayanja- Nkangi because he is a VIP, you spend sh68m!
I have read in the papers that they budgeted sh800m for a carnival in Kampala. I think people who will hear what I am saying, especially those responsible will say Mayanja is going crazy (tategera), but I am asking myself the question: Did we send the British away to treat ourselves this way?
I recently saw a picture of a young man suffering from some disease; he wanted about sh10m for treatment, but nobody would give it to him. Not even city council, but they spend sh800m on a carnival.
I gather each MP gets more than sh20m a month plus other allowances, but for 12 months an average Ugandan gets about sh3m. I am not saying they shouldn’t get the money, I am simply saying what is happening to our sense of direction?
When we got independence, we were saying to the British, “Go, let’s do our things our own way.”
Sometimes we get disappointed that what we hoped to take place is not what took place.
You hear today sh800m is being stolen in some ministry, sh600m in some department in Uganda.
In 1961 when the British were still in control of the civil service in Uganda, it was dominated by Asians; I never heard money being stolen by civil servants.
What is happening now after we have sent them away? You can see what is going on. Until we change our hearts, we shall be killing, stealing and going on making wrong decisions about how the budget should be run. I recently heard that there were misunderstandings between the World Bank and the government of Uganda.
I heard that we would borrow money and fail to put it to use. But we know or should know because we have got some intelligence that we will pay interest on that money.
So we keep the money, interest accumulates and then we say to lenders, “Sorry we failed to use the money. We needed feasibility study.”
So some lender will say, “But you should have done this before you came to ask for money.” I am asking the question: Are we serious about what we are doing?
When I was still the chairman of Uganda Land Commission, one evening it was raining. So I left at 5:00pm to go to my home.
My driver drove me to Ntinda. Along Jinja Road, traffic jam was so thick that at some point we were just there and we couldn’t move. As I sat there in that car, I saw vehicles made in Japan, Germany, a bicycle from India, etc. So, the spirit said to me:
“Do you know Mayanja Nkangi, even safety pins for your jiggers come from China?” I said to myself: “What is Ugandan about me?” The only thing was what my mother gave me — the skin.
I said suppose there was another October 9. The President and his wife come and about 30,000 Ugandans go and celebrate at Kololo. But I have kept about 80 empty baskets somewhere out of view. Then I go to the President and say, “Mr President, Sir. Please ask everybody here who is wearing anything, whether shoes, underwear, a ring or earring, which is not made here to take it off and put it in those baskets. What would you see? Almost everybody, including the President and his wife would be naked.
But what is this? That would be after about 120 years after the
British had come here in April 1894.
What have they been doing here all that time? What have we been doing ourselves after about 50 years? We are still naked.
We are not getting our priorities right. I know some of you will say, “Mayanja-Nkangi was also a minister here for 16 years.” Yes, but
I am saying we are still naked. We have to think again.
I am not saying everything is bad; I am saying certain things are questionable. We need to stand up and think again. If this is a good way, alright let’s go ahead, but I don’t think so. I think time has come for the leadership all over the place (to ask), how do we intend to govern this country? How do we prepare for the children coming after us?
I used to have a teacher at King’s College Budo who would say, “When you are denied responsibility you act irresponsibly.” So I am one of those people now. I am not responsible…;
I have no authority, but those who are in authority, God bless them.
I am asking them humbly as a Ugandan to re-examine the course.
Recently somewhere a house caught fire and the owners said: “Go to the police. Let them bring the vehicles to put out the fire.” The Police was not far from there. But the police said the vehicle was in tatters, so the house which had caught fire completely got destroyed.
The same thing happened in Masaka and you spend the public funds the way we are doing? But then there is no medicine.
As told to Umar Kashaka