On Saturday, January 26, Uganda celebrated 33 years of liberation, a national holiday that marks the occasion when the National Resistance Movement captured power from Tito Okello Lutwa government. Mr Yoweri Museveni was consequently sworn in as president of the republic.
From the 1970s to the late 1980s, Uganda had been plagued by insecurity and poverty due to the bad governance. The generations that lived through those years do not ask liberated from what, but rather understand the concept of liberation because of how they experienced the dark times.
Since 1986, Uganda’s population has grown from 12 million people to more than 40 million people today, implying that 80 per cent of the current population was born in President Museveni’s regime.
It is, therefore, not surprising that the young generation is hazy on the significance of liberation day. I have spoken to many youth and their yard stick of government performance does not rank the current security of citizens and their property. Indeed, security is something they take for granted because they lack any comparisons.
Of course, the apparent disconnection is not because of the age factor alone, but also the fact that to a large extent, the national leadership has not been effective in shaping the narrative of where we have come from as a nation and where we want to go.
It is important for Uganda’s youth to appreciate the notion and significance of the 33rd NRM Liberation Day because as the common saying goes, it is hard to know where you are going, if you have little appreciation of where you are coming from. Societies that do not put the past into perspectives are bound to make the same mistakes in the future with even more disastrous outcomes.
Taking a few examples into perspectives, despite efforts to correct the wrongs of the tragedy that befell Europe with the 1947 holocaust of the Jews in Europe, where more than six million people were killed, today’s rise of anti-semitism and anti-immigration by far right groups, to the point of such groups gaining political relevance in their countries and winning seats in different parliaments, is something Europe is very worried about.
Europe, especially Germany and hundreds of Jewish foundations around the world, have invested a lot of resources to ensure successive generations can learn from what happened in 1947, so they never forget what can happen when hatred is allowed to grow. Sadly, the world has to deal with the rise of anti-semitism and racism in Europe, championed by mostly the young generation.
With the rise of Donald Trump in the United States, the resurgent of overt white supremacy groups, and increase in the prevalence of police brutality in America against African-Americans, and also that the history of slavery, and all the social injustices committed against black people more than 100 years ago, has lost all meaning.
One can also argue that the election of Barack Obama, and a perfect image of a black family in the White House, is what provoked the ugly face of America to show itself in form of white supremacy looking to assert itself against a fast changing tide in the American race timeline.
Therefore, if today’s young generation wants to imagine a peaceful, progressive, economically growing country, they must remind themselves in Uganda’s history, particularly the political history, including the good, the bad and the ugly.
Today’s liberation day gives us this chance for reflection, for assessment, and evaluation on how to mitigate scenarios that allowed past mistakes to occur.
For some of us who lived through those times, we cannot help but be grateful for the sacrifices a lot of our heroes, fallen and alive, made in securing the Uganda we have today. Interestingly, the majority of those who were in line of fire during the liberation war were young people. They bequeathed us the Uganda we have today with sacrifice of their lives, their youth, and resources.
The struggle to advance today’s society for the young generation will be different, but more challenging. Theirs is primarily safeguard, and build on the gains available today to preserve our nation’s dignity, the prosperity of our people and their security against an onslaught of a resurgent force of neo-colonial forces bent on furthering control on the continent’s destiny.
Ignorance of the history of our society, and the role race plays in global relations, will result in today and future leaders committing the same mistakes our fore fathers made by selling our societies to outside interests. Signs of the times, unfortunately, show some of our leaders are now looking to the same people, who have subjugated their societies for centuries, for solutions. Let liberation day be an opportunity for us to reflect on our collective responsibility in building, safeguarding, our society and the Africa we want.
Mr Uwihanganye works as the head of the government Citizen Interaction Centre, ministry of ICT & National Guidance.