I wonder if many leaders acknowledge that a large number of Africans are worse off today than they were at Independence .
OPINION | INDEPENDENCE
By Andrew Barungi
A number of African Countries celebrate Independence Day ritualistically. Many witness lavish ceremonial extravaganzas, which of course are footed by taxpayers.
During these rituals, there are clichéd speeches about the fight against tyranny and colonialism, and the stability of the State. I wonder if many leaders acknowledge that a large number of Africans are worse off today than they were at Independence (Botswana and probably quite a few others may be the exceptions).
The definition of Independence Day is the day on which its people celebrate their independence from another country that ruled them in the past. In Uganda, as we all know, Independence Day is celebrated each year on 9th October. If we examine that definition, can we really claim that Uganda is Independent? Uganda may no longer be ruled by Britain, but a number of its economic policies were dictated by Donors and, to a small extent, Multinational Corporations who have imposed neo-liberal policies. Let us acknowledge some the policies that have been adopted have increased economic growth, but that economic growth has not trickled down to the common man.
If Uganda or any other African country is really independent, why do they continue begging Washington, D.C., London, Paris, and now, Beijing? Take a look at the voting power on the Board of African Development Bank, whose mission is to fight poverty and improve living conditions on the continent, which is split 60%-40% between African countries and Donors, who were allowed to become members in the early 80s. Uganda’s voting power is 0.45%, and compare that to the Netherlands, a non-regional member, whose voting power is 0.87%. This could mean Donors can easily determine, rather paternalistically, the investment policies they deem fit for poverty reduction.
One of the primary aims of the Organization of African Unity, the African Union’s Predecessor, was to eradicate all forms of colonialism and to coordinate and intensify the cooperation of African states in order to achieve a better life for the people of Africa. What does the African Union do? Its new headquarters was built and funded by the Chinese at a cost of almost $150 million. Does this mean that African Union members could not foot the cost? There is a potential for the objectives of the African Union to be dictated by China’s interests.
Some relics of colonialism have remained and so-called African elite has not bothered questioning them. I am talking about the horsehair wigs for judges and, to a small extent, speakers of Parliament, which are common in a number of English-Speaking countries in Africa. Did the judicial stakeholders bother questioning the use of some of these expensive colonial relics (it was reported that a Judge’s official clothing is UGX 18 million, paid for by taxpayers) which were tools of oppression and intimidation? Many have retained the colonial judicial terms, rather religiously, such as “your worship” and “my Lord.” I will not be surprised if many in the Judiciary, and also parliamentary hierarchy love those relics because it gives them some sense of superiority. A number of countries were colonized by Britain, but they did away with some of the relics, the exception seems to be in Africa.
What much of Africa obtained from former colonial masters was flag independence, it has not yet obtained economic and political independence. As a result of corruption, nepotism and poor governance in post-independence, a number of Africans yearn for the days of colonialism. Does it make sense to celebrate Independence Day, with extravagance, when the quality of health care and education, employment and administration of justice are at a premium? It is clearly not yet Uhuru.
The writer is a social scientist