Uganda Jubilee should not be a pseudo-event

Tuesday February 14 2012

By David Sseppuuya

What are the similarities between Algeria, Burundi, Jamaica, Rwanda, and Uganda? Well, they are all celebrating 50 years of independence in 2012, meaning it is Jubilee Year in Algiers, Bujumbura, Kingston, Kigali, and Kampala.

At different points in the year 1962, these nations got their political independence from France, Belgium and Britain, each to go their own (solo) way ever after. The fortunes have been varied, from the respective country’s post-independence political history that we have observed in the last 50 years though, invariably between all five of them, a considerable amount of blood has been shed in each one over that time.

So fed up have some been with their independence status quo that, in the run up to their Golden Jubilee, 60 per cent of Jamaicans indicated in a poll that their country would be better off if it were still a colony. Hmmm!

The stops are being pulled as Uganda prepares for her own big moment, climaxing on October 9. A few have expressed fear that, as we saw with Chogm, the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting that we hosted four years ago, the whole thing could become an eating fest as huge sums of money are released.

Probably of greater threat would be the passing of the moment as a meaningless event. We could (may we not!) just have pageants, parades and posturing, and the peoples’ fortunes would remain the same, or worse, when finally the last drum of the theatrics falls silent.

Twelve to 14 years ago, there was a lot of hullabaloo over the Millennium – its meaning and the fruits thereof were such a dominant theme for months. Targets were set to achieve this and that. Fears were raised about that and the other (does anyone remember the tension over the change of clocks on computers?). At the end of the day, if I recollect, the ushering in of the new millennium together with its benefits was not as had been anticipated. It was, in a sense, a damp squib.

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It is the desire to ensure that the Jubilee does not become mere hot air that the Uganda Jubilee Network has furnished a roadmap, so to speak, that outlines how to get real substance out of Uganda’s moment. The ‘Uganda Jubilee Handbook 2012’ (pictured, and available in major bookshops) under the theme Commemorate, Celebrate, Contemplate enumerates the jubilee season themes of liberty, family reunion, amnesty, justice, debt release, economic emancipation, and rest/restoration.

The thematic approach urges the reflection on a particular subject, like children & youth, family, health, education, agriculture, governance. Does your child know the essential history of Uganda? What are the positive and negative trends? Have you taken her through your own fond memories of the past? What difficult experiences did you go through, and how did they shape you? What opportunities are available for youth in health, education and employment? That was January’s theme (and it is not too late to catch up).

Uganda’s economic well-being is the stuff of nightmares today, and the handbook tackles them as February’s theme. Under the fact file on education (July), there is a shocker of a revelation that Uganda is ranked 98th in the world – a shocker because we still pride our education, having been up there at Independence.

In 2010, when Nigeria celebrated its 50 years, President Umaru Yar’adua declared an amnesty for MEND, the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, whose rebels had destabilised the nation so. That release gave the West African nation much-needed stability and good economic growth over the last three years, only now threatened by the terrorism of Boko Haram. Will Uganda consider an amnesty?

Will you plant some trees, or sort, recycle and safely dispose of garbage? Would community leaders consider organising a community cleaning day, or a seminar on land use? These are the challenges that June’s theme of Environment & Agriculture poses.

The handbook quotes Ghanaian Professor Stephen Adei, who has spoken in Uganda a few times, that “leadership is cause; all else is effect”. There is no denying that Leadership & Governance (September) tend to reach crisis point in Uganda, and questions to contemplate are asked of each of us. There are points of celebration and areas of reflection.

Compiled by Dr James Magara on behalf of the Uganda Jubilee Network (a coalition of the Church of Uganda, the National Fellowship of Born Again Pentecostal Churches of Uganda, the Evangelical Fellowship of Uganda, the Born Again Faith Federation, the World Trumpet Mission, and Intercessors for Uganda), it traces jubilee to its ancient Israel (biblical) roots, with warnings about the perils of missing the season. It is worth heeding.

dsseppuuya@ug.nationmedia.com