Thousands of Ugandans on Tuesday thronged Kololo Independence grounds and joined several heads-of-state and foreign dignitaries to celebrate Uganda's Golden Jubilee. Here's what happened.
KOLOLO, Kampala - Live coverage of the events at Kololo on Tuesday, October 9, 2012
East African Time (EAT) coverage
11:15 am: You are most warmly welcome to our live coverage of one of the most historic days in the journey of Uganda, the Pearl of Africa since its independence in 1962. It is a blazing hot day here at Kololo airstrip, the ceremonial grounds for today's landmark event.
11:16 am: Already, the house is full, with most of the expected heads-of-state and several other foreign dignitaries at the venue.
Thousands of Ugandans have thronged the airstrip and are now braving sweltering temperatures in what many see as history in the making.
11:17 am: The President of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni has made appearance with his wife, the First Lady, Janet Museveni amid drowning uproar from the crowd.
Presidents present are: Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe,President of Benin (who is the current African Union chairman), Mwai Kibaki of Kenya, Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania, Pierre Nkurunziza of Burundi, South Sudan's Salva Kiir, the Ethiopian Prime minister, Paul Kagame of Rwanda, DRC’s Joseph Kabila.
11: 20 am: All the three stanzas of the Uganda national anthem are sung.
By this time, the Kololo scene has been slowly unfolding with some entertainment from various groups. We saw Pablo, the popular comedian, doing what he does best - make people around him laugh.true
The Ndere Troupe talent also kept the guests and the massive crowd entertained with lively dances and songs. And it was during this time that we had seen the VIP guests coming in, one by one.
The stage is surely set.
11:40 am: President Museveni starts inspecting a guard of honour, call it a parade if you want, atop a military jeep.
Tunes from the military band can be heard in the background. It should take another 20 minutes I guess.
11:59 am: A few moments after the parade and the president is being driven to the presidential tent from where he will witness the raising of the national flag of Uganda.
12: 05 pm: There we go! The national flag is being hoisted as the band plays the national anthem in the background.
But wait, for some reason the flag fails to fly for a good two minutes, which immediately inspires a moment of anxiety.
Then a senior officer steps forward and successfully hoists it, sending the ground thundering with euphoric cheers of relief.
Need I say that exactly 50 years ago, on the strike of midnight of 1962, the Union Jack was lowered and the Ugandan flag was raised to officially declare Uganda an independent state.
Those who were there can remember that following that landmark event, there was an explosion of fireworks around Kampala to escort the significance of the day.
12:09pm: Important cheers from the crowd after the national flag is raised and the national anthem played.
12:10 pm: President Museveni takes his seat as do several other guests in the main pavilion. Well, for the crowd, I think there wont be any sitting for you today.
12:11 pm: Time for prayers now.
12:15 pm: The outgoing Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, Henry Luke Orombi takes the podium first. In his prayer, he says: "We pray for a future where our politics can give hope to the people of Uganda; where Uganda is the head, and not the tail"
12:20 pm: The Mufti of Uganda, Sheikh Shaban Mubajje follows suit. He prayers that " God blesses, guides and protects the leader of Uganda, Yoweri Kaguta Museveni."
12:22 pm: American gospel singer Judy Jacobs of the 'Days of Elijah' fame is invited t o sing exactly what she's popularly known for. This surely ignites the whole of Kololo into some unimaginable spiritual ecstasy.
She's really good!
12:28 pm: Following the brief live performance of Judy Jacobs, there is a march past in slow and quick pace next on 'menu'. For now we start with the slower march.true
Behold the synchronized way these guys are doing this .... Brilliant! It sure explains the discipline that the forces instills in these gallant young men and women.
12:50pm: About 30 minutes later and the slow march had gradually metamorphosed into a quicker one as the security forces, adorned in their respective uniforms continue to march past the guests.
There are also civilian groups, as usual, taking part in the march.
What a day!
1:00 pm: The police band behind the tunes is doing a great job so far. One of the Emcees of the ocassion has already made it clear that we should be prepared for an air display.
He has warned (in vernacular) that everyone be prepared, and not be surprised by the characteristic thunderous boom of the military aircrafts that fly past in various pompous manuevres.
"Ebyo byammwe!" he says, to mean " those are your possessions as a nation!"
1:17 pm: Just so you missed out on this little detail...today is Tuesday, the same day of the week that Uganda gained its independence 50 years ago!
Call it coincidence, or perhaps a little piece of good luck charm!
1:20 pm: As different companies, governments bodies and NGOs continue to march past the main pavilion, we should remind you that George Wilberforce Kakoma (RIP) composed the national anthem and Grace Ibingira (RIP) was the original designer of the national flag.
And how we cannot forget the importance of the late Milton Obote to this, our great nation, the Pearl of Africa....Uganda!
Obote was the first Prime Minister of Uganda and it is he who recieved the instruments of power from Her Majesty the Queen's representative - the Duke of Kent - on October 9, 1962.
Infact, the Duke of Kent is at Kololo. Two things you ought to remember about him: One, this is his first visit to Uganda since 1962, and Two, he was born on October 9, 1935, so today is his 77th birthday!
1:35 pm: Get ready for the air display.........the UPDF airforce is behind this....... the birds in the sky better watch out too!
1:37 pm: Here we GOOOOOOOOO! ......Two fighter jets burst into the open skies, all eyes fixed skywards, some mouths agape. It is the moment some have particularly been waiting for.
The two jets climb higher into the heavens, then, suddenly turn and plunge earthwards before levelling in acrobatic fashion. A few more spins and manuvres and the crowd is thrown into frenzy.true
1:40 pm: Then as everyone is still taking in all that, another lone jet breaks into the clouds, spins and spins. Whoever is behind the control lever is definitely taking all the props!
......and it's thundering, by the way! Ground shatterring roar from these metallic birds.
What a display!
1:45pm: A few more and it's all over....just like it had started! "Awesome!", is all we can say here.
1:47 pm: Then, there goes the BIG question: Who raised the flag in 1962? ....... do you know?
Well, the female Emcee introduces to everyone the then young man who raised the Uganda flag on the midnight of October 9, 1962. It is Major Kenneth Akirimo. He was 31 years old then.
1:48 pm: The now 81-year-old gentleman emerges out of the crowd, clad in a dark suit, majestically climbs onto the podium, steadily reaches out for the microphone, and his words are brief, but clear:
"Congratulations you excellency for all that you have done for this country," amid thunderous applause from the thousands people at the venue.
1:51 pm: Hon. Muruli Mukasa recognizes the various heads-of-state and foreign dignitaries present at the function, one by one.
His Highness the Aga Khan is also recognized.
Above, the clouds are starting to form, so much to the relief of the already tanned crowds. Though the last thing one should want is a downpour!
2:10 pm: The Golden Jubilee choir is invited to take on the stage. The choir is quite youthful.
Clad in all-black with sari-like sashes of a blend of the black, yellow and red national colour combination, they look peaceful. And more peaceful is the kind of music they are singing.
2:20 pm: President Museveni takes on the podium to address the nation in what has been dubbed the 'Jubilee Speech'.
The 67-year-old leader of the ruling party, NRM, steals a quick glance at the skies, sees the clouds start to form and promises that he will make his speech "brief".
It should not be surprising that he is wearing his trademark cream hat and a yellow tie.
2:22 pm: In a promised brief speech, of a little under 20 minutes, Museveni makes quick comparisons between the Uganda today and that of 1962.
He particularly points out that the number of primary school children has risen tremendously today from what is was like 50 years ago.
He spoke passionately about adding value to our raw materials, particularly bananas - the nation's staple food.
And not forgetting the beliefs that shape the country's path to propsperity, that is nationalism, anti-sectarianism. He touched briefly on other sectors of the economy like the oil sector, agriculture, industry, etc.true
2: 43 pm: We missed telling you this one earlier...the Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi, who is attending the celebrations at Kololo, came all the way from Egypt accompanied by a choir.
The Emcee had promised earlier that the choir would entertain the guests with some Egyptian musical feel.
2.45 pm: The choir, most clad in purely white drapes steps up before the hundreds. All eyes are fixed on the Egyptians.
The music is unbeliavably smooth. One of them is blowing a flute-like instrument. To many Ugandans, these are alien musical instruments, for sure.
It's totally beautiful music, as one of them dances to the music. He spins round and round to the ballads as the originality of the music grips everyone.
3:00 pm: The clouds finally do what they do best... RAIN! .......... good enough it's not too heavy to keep the dancers away.
3:10pm: We have more entertaiment from other Ugandan groups. Local entertainer, Alex Mukulu's group steps on the wet stage and what follows is a determined performance that can only do well to remind one of how great this day is to Ugandans.
They dance and sing beautifully and the guests are visibly in approval. Never mind the receding drizzle.
3:30 pm: And more spirited performances continue to grace the stage. Fancy that all the perfomances are entwined in a labyrinth of a richly African taste.
Clearly, it's the spirit of pan-Africanism at play here.
3:35 pm: Recurrent musical sounds of "50 years of Independence!" mark the end of the day's stage performances.
3:36 pm: Local cultural leaders and leaders of Uganda's political parties are also recognized.
3:38 pm: Looks like we are drawing to the end of the day's event here at Kololo. Everyone stands up for the Uganda national anthem and the East Africa anthem.
All at attention!
3:45 pm: A final spirited march past appears to be the dessert on today's menu.
Another spectacle to feast your eyes on! The discipline of the forces is clearly translated into the synchronized marches.
A few more minutes and we will be done here. It sure has been a busy almost eight-or-so hours at the ceremonial grounds.
4:00 pm: The march past continues.....
4:25 pm: OK, that's it folks! We have come to the end of a colourful day here at Kololo Independence grounds. Arguably the best public ceremony of the year, and in many years.
Thank you all for keeping with us here and hope that you stick with us even after this landmark day in our country's history.
We appreciate all your feedback and where we have fallen short of your expectations, we promise to be better next time.
For now, enjoy – in spirit and in prayer – what Uganda has achieved and is yet to achieve in the near and far future.
Golden Jubilee at Kololo: How it happened