Uganda @61 years: “We need to be very much certain of our political future” – Arach Oyat

Kampala I On Monday 9th October 2023, Uganda will be celebrating her 61st Independence in Kitgum District at Farm Institute Grounds under the theme: “Sustaining a United and Progressive Nation: Taking Charge of our Future as a Free Nation.”

It is unfortunate that at 61 years of independence, Uganda is still struggling to achieve full status as a free nation!


However, we need to trace and recognize the struggle for decolonization and independence which was anchored on unity and can be divided into two principal areas; the primary resistance to colonial rule that involved our traditional leaders like Omukama Kabalega, Kabaka Mwanga, Chief Balaim Akaki of Lango and others in 1880s – 1890s. 

The superior firepower of the white man and his hired Sudanese mercenaries and local natives who had been recruited by Semei Kakungulu did damage to the spirited fight put up by our kings which led to their capture at Dokolo, Lango Sub-region with their subsequent exiling to Seychelles Islands in Indian Ocean.

Decades later in the 1950s, our founding fathers led by Ignatius Kangave Musazi reflected on the achievements and challenges of our primary resistance during the decolonization and independence struggle.

This reflection inspired them to launch the secondary resistance with the founding of the Uganda National Congress (UNC) as the first modern national political Party in 1952 whose motto was “one man one vote; we want self-government now”. Later in 1954, Mathias Mugwanya founded the Democratic Party (DP) and indeed the momentum increased to end colonialism and gain our independence. 

The UNC and Uganda Peoples Union (UPU) read very well the needs of Uganda and how to deliver on those needs which required absolute unity hence forming a merger that gave birth to the Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC) in March 1960. The new baby UPC assimilated a lot of core values from UNC and never lost focus on the decolonization and independence struggle.

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Come 9th October 1962, Uganda got her independence and UPC as a founding national political Party under the wise leadership of Dr. Dr. Apolo Milton Obote was called upon to form an independent government of Uganda. In the view of unity, UPC settled for a coalition government as a senior partner with Kabaka Yekka and DP as the main opposition political Party in Parliament.

At 61 years of independence, we take stock of ourselves, and think deeply in terms of the theme “Sustaining a United and Progressive Nation: Taking Charge of our Future as a Free Nation.”

Unity has been very much elusive and this can be seen through the tough and difficult times of the 1966 crisis, the military coup of 25th January 1971 led by Idi Amin who banned political Parties and Parliament thus ruling by military decree.

This experience affected not only our freedom, and peace but the actual aspects of a modern country: its infrastructure; roads, factories, industries, schools, hospitals, markets, agriculture and mining collapsed in broad daylight. People got killed and others fled into exile. The once progressive nation that had taken a lead in East Africa, Africa and the Commonwealth was brought to its knees.

Much as Idi Amin was subsequently dislodged from power by the gallant Uganda National Liberation Front (UNLF) with huge assistance from Tanzania and her army, the Tanzania Peoples Defence Force (TPDF) on 11th April 1979, his legacy continues to haunt Uganda hence threatening our future as a free nation.

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The post-independent Idi Amin governments were more and more unstable. Prof. Yusuf .K. Lule lasted for only 68 days, Godfrey Lukongwa Binaisa slightly over a year and then the Military Commission that organized the 10th December 1980 polls which ushered the 2nd UPC government led by Dr. Apolo Milton Obote from 1980 -1985 which had a task of ensuring economic recovery. This was to involve much rehabilitation and reconstruction of our economy which had declined.

At the same time, the country experienced a very difficult civil war mainly in the “Luwero Triangle” (the old districts of Mpigi, Luwero and Mubende) between 1981 and 1986 that registered loss of lives and destruction of property; farms and houses which affected our economy as well because this is a very rich agricultural belt.

On 27th July 1985, the gunmen Okello and Okello staged a military coup that again took the country backwards with a lot of destruction to property and lives. Subsequently, the gunmen (Okello and Okello) were overthrown by the National Resistance Army/Movement (NRA/NRM) on 26th January 1986. Since 26th January 1986, there have been difficulties with political Parties and the deepening of democracy which had been frozen for about 20 years from 1986 – 2005.

From 1986 to the present times, the driving economic agenda has been to promote the private sector as an engine for a country’s development. This has had its casualties as all our leading public enterprises are no more, local industries/factories were opened to competition with giant multinational corporations, and retrenchments or laying off workers has contributed to massive unemployment. 

The private sector is too selective about where they invest and what they do. In this scenario, the rural areas have been left lagging in development. The more we drum up the private sector, the more we embrace Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) which is accompanied by huge capital repatriation of the profits. This threatens our future as a free nation!

UPC applauds the government for at least looking back and deciding to pick on the values of our independence that promoted a true mixed economy model. Uganda Airlines is back in the skies, Uganda Railways Corporation (URC) is rehabilitating the Metre Gauge Railway across the country as plans are underway to construct the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR). The talks to revive both the Cooperative Bank and Uganda Commercial Bank (UCB) are now in the public domain as well as the Cooperative Movements.

UPC notes with great concern that the theme for this year’s independence celebrations “Sustaining a United and Progressive Nation: Taking Charge of our Future as Free Nation may remain academic or elusive if we do not handle properly the political questions to do with transition.

As we celebrate Uganda @61 years, we need to be very certain of our political future as it is politics that guides the journey of the country’s development. Politics provides leadership and makes decisions, choices and actions. UPC seeks that certainty as the country marks 61 years of independence in Kitgum district at Farm Institute Grounds.

The writer, Arach Oyat Sharon is the UPC spokesperson. 

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