Uganda is 60. How do we go to 75?

Author: Alan Tacca. PHOTO/FILE

What you need to know:

  • After the war, Africans struggling against colonial rule and White supremacy got more sympathy from Moscow than from Western capitals.

What is in a number? Take 60. No; take 17. Uganda became independent in 1962, only 17 years after World War II.

Under Josef Stalin, that hardest of Communists, the Soviet Union fought with the Allies against Nazi Germany’s imperial madness.

The war ended in 1945. Stalin died in 1953.

After the war, Africans struggling against colonial rule and White supremacy got more sympathy from Moscow than from Western capitals.

Not because the Soviets were wonderful people who wanted Africa to be free, but because they wanted to control the Africans and their resources.

The West wanted the same control, but it had its slave, colonial and racist baggage. So, again, the ugliness of Soviet rule at home did not prevent the Communists from competing for influence on the African continent after independence.

However, as colonial records go, the British did not treat Uganda Protectorate as horrifically as, say, the Belgians raped the Congo.

That is why, to taunt Milton Obote, Idi Amin or Yoweri Museveni over their excesses, there have always been Ugandans who maintain that life was better under colonial rule.

The British were not so nakedly barbaric, so shamelessly corrupt, or so arbitrary in their law enforcement. At least there was a ‘method’ the subjects could understand, and specifics of humiliation they could challenge in a fairly coherent way. This partly enabled a peaceful colonial departure.

Fast forward. The 1995 Constitution should have ended President Museveni’s rule in 2006, at the latest. Instead, we have been watching a pathetic circus; twisted truths, straight lies, upheavals and acrimony.

Suspects the British would have arrested without drama are now sometimes just abducted by agents-cum-gangsters. Not the governor’s punch bags, judges are now publicly ridiculed. Safe house horror has its cycles. The roll call of the unjustly dead keeps growing. Our people are cowed, and resources are wasted to sustain their oppression; all in the name of keeping Mr Museveni in power beyond 2006.

That is now almost 17 years.

By contrast, in the 17 years following the return of the ‘Baseveni’ from World War II, still colonised, Ugandans agitated for independence. They variously organised themselves. They protested. They organised a trade boycott. They struck deals; some rational, some naive. But in the end they got independence.

Now take the number 60. Count the serious political victims between 1902 and 1962.

Count the serious victims between 1962 and 2022. Count the citizens who are hunting for slave jobs at home, or in the Arab world and other places abroad? Compare with 1902-1962. Adjust for the population difference.

Warning! If you are a UPC or NRM-styled ‘patriot’, do not look in the direction of those figures; for they will shock you, and you might be tempted to beg the British to come back.

The number 60 may be a significant milestone, but it does not necessarily arouse the emotions of joy or celebration that Ugandans would have wanted to share, if their journey as a nation since independence had been positively different.

How do we go from here, from milestone 60 to 75?

Who knows?

Perhaps the President’s family knows; if it is not exclusively his secret. We must wait for rumours from State House.

However, we know that a new kind of Cold War is taking shape; this time not between capitalism and communism, but between liberal democracy and autocracy.

We can only hope that if we are very lucky - exceedingly lucky – we will be led to milestone 75 without anyone invoking all Stalin’s demons.

Mr Tacca is a novelist, socio-political commentator.