In 1966, just a mere four years after Uganda attained self-rule, central government soldiers on orders of Prime Minister Milton Obote attacked the palace of the Baganda king, Kabaka Edward Mutesa 11, who also doubled as President of Uganda.
By Dr Martin M. Lwanga
Our independence from the short 68 year British Colonial rule ( 1894- 1962) would be better spent in quiet self-reflection than basking in the usual feel good self-congratulatory messages.
If Ugandans would just pause for once and ask ourselves searching questions like, what happened, and how can we all, especially those with the means of power to influences change, safeguard the future for the sake of this nation and her children.
This is the story. In 1966, just a mere four years after Uganda attained self-rule, central government soldiers on orders of Prime Minister Milton Obote attacked the palace of the Baganda king, Kabaka Edward Mutesa II, who also doubled as President of Uganda.
Hundreds of civilian lives, many who had gone to be with their king in an hour of need, were killed. In 1971, five years down the road, yet again more blood was shed as an uncouth military General of barbaric manners, who took over government on the pretext of restoring constitutional order. He was the same man who had led the brutal onslaught on the Kabaka’s palace, who in 1969 had died in exile, penniless and much distraught.
Gen Idi Amin then took to extreme savagery to exterminate members of the Lango and Acholi tribes, or anyone for that matter, he feared loyal to the fallen Obote government. A Chief Justice, Mr Ben Kiwanuka was kidnapped and murdered; the Vice Chancellor of Makerere University, Mr Frank Kalimuzo suffered the same fate; the former Minister of Commerce, Mr William Kalema disappeared as was the Governor of Bank of Uganda, Mr Joseph Mubiru. Many of the victim’s remains have never been recovered for a final closure.
One day after a dream Amin just decided to “throw out” Ugandans and foreigners of Asian extraction- grabbing their property with much fanfare. Later, still undeterred, he went after the head of the Anglican Church, Archbishop Janan Luwum, along with other ministers. On September 12th, a dozen Ugandans were killed by firing squad at clock tower after being rushed through a military trial and convicted of treason. Those who witnessed that sad spectacle, many walked away with their heads down with confusion, as were the fallen.
Finally in 1979 a war was waged from neighboring country, Tanzania, to remove the Amin dictatorship and its reign of terror. But peace was now elusive. As the rest of Uganda celebrated the fall of Amin revenge killings were exacted on the West Nile community, allegedly for their support of Amin. Many fled to Sudan and Congo. In 1980-6 there was yet a war that again left hundreds of thousands dead in the Luwero triangle, mostly poor rural Baganda folks, fought on the ground to remove a government that had rigged elections! Many Ugandans, also, of Rwandese extraction were thrown in refugee camps for alleged loyalty to the rebels.
After the NRM government won, in 1986, there has since followed more wars and bloodshed in Teso, Northern Uganda (where a million Ugandans ended up in relief war camps), killings in Kasese and alleged torture of prisoners.
Meanwhile the public is growing ever restless with economic distress on the rise in fear for the future.
Some may wonder if not all nations go through such! I can offer Tanzania. It’s a far larger nation and with even more ethnic communities than Uganda. She had her independence earlier than Uganda in 1961. Except for some occasional fracas nothing near to the wars we have known here in Uganda. Tanzania (just like Kenya who had her independence in 1963) has never had a government fall by military coup. Their economy long overtook Uganda and is now double the size of our GDP. Most importantly the level of inequality is much far less.
Tanzanians, although they mostly come from the Bantu, who dominate the plains of Uganda, are generally far more cohesive as a nation and speak more with one voice on the whole. In travels there I have found them to have a serene calming presence far from the hate and spite which is the story of Uganda. Their founding President, Julius Nyerere, who was educated at one of our universities, did not leave behind a cult of himself and his tribe mates in power; at least we all know for sure he did not amass property nor are known members of his family beneficiary of his long stay in power. There is no Nyerere dynasty.
Tanzania may not be a perfect test case, but a clear and contrasting difference of the fate of Uganda. Tanzania has now four living heads of state (Messers Hassan Mwinyi, Benjamin Mkapa, Jakaya Kikwete) who are freely walking about occasionally offering needed elderly counsel. This contrasts in Uganda where all ex- Presidents, must first flee to exile where three have died. Only Godfrey Binaisa and General Tito Okello after decades of wandering in exile luckily died in their country, after receiving some assurances.
So, all the innocent blood shed since this nation attained self-rule, and scattered I every part of this country, now cries, “What happened?!”
Well, on the recent Independence Day, October 9, 2018, may all Ugandans continue to pray that one day sanity will return and this withered nation which a legendary and optimistic Prime Minister once called “The Pearl of Africa” may rise above and know of peace and prosperity, for generations to come!
The writer is senior lecturer and Dean of School of Business of the Uganda Christian University, Mukono.