OFWONO OPONDO: Uganda at 58, we should take Responsibility for our Failures

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Government Spokesperson Ofwono Opondo

This week, October, 9, Uganda marked fifty-eight years of Independence from British colonial rule, with the official ceremony held at State House Entebbe by virtual means because of the Covid-19 pandemic under high restrictions on public gathering and social distancing that has become the new normal. On occasions like this in the past we found solace in blaming colonialism and neo-colonialism for the misfortunes.

But at fifty-eight, Ugandans, especially leaders must learn to take the uttermost responsibility for failures in stride because the many years, trials and tribulations we have gone through should have been enough to offer adequate lessons from to which learn and do much better.

But even with all existing vulnerabilities, Uganda has managed to keep the Covid-19 pandemic and much of its ramifications at a reasonable distance with fewer infections and deaths. As the adage goes, the test of a leader is how they respond when tough times come upon them. President Yoweri Museveni has been a golden opportunity to make light of it all.

With this year’s theme “Celebrating Uganda’s steady progress towards economic take off and self-sustaining economic growth,” Ugandans, especially leaders should now learn to take their individual and collective national failures in stride and continue to merely heap blames on the colonial legacy. The theme reflects our collective achievements but also determined desires to scale greater heights, which should make all Ugandans face up to the new challenges especially under Covid-19. As education institutions gradually re-open for teaching and national life eases, we all need to keep in mind each of the safety measures in place to build a more resilient future that meets our national aspirations.

And while it is true that the myriad of British, imperial and neo-colonial planted legacies continue to haunt Uganda and much of Africa, six decades of stumbling under self-rule, should make Ugandans sharpen, appreciate and aggressively demand for their collective interests and destiny.

It is imperative that we continue to jealously defend our country and its resources, and identify the new threats to national security, economy, and progressive identity and cultural values. The vanity of tribal, ethnic, and religious identities and bigotries ought to be expunged from our national discourse.

On October, 9, 1962, the British handed over power to Ugandan citizens, and it was time to rejoice, albeit short-lived because no sooner had they left, than antagonistic and irreconcilable disagreements conflicts erupted among the political elites, and Uganda got embroiled in prolonged armed conflicts and national shame.

Since 1986, when the NRM took over the leadership and administration of Uganda, much of the sharp, antagonistic and irreconcilable disagreements have been brought under control, and there is greater hope for purposeful national unity and focus towards a sustained economic transformation with a shared prosperity.

The reforms and structural re-engineering of the constitution, state institutions, laws, policies and procedures that adhere to the rule of law, have created the desired stability and tranquility to facility a balanced democratic national discourse. It is however shameful that after thirty-four years under the NRM leadership supported by an overwhelming majority of Ugandans including through democratic elections, leaders seem incapable of making a decisive break with the past.

Over the years, and more recently, political and general administrative low energy seem to be creeping into the national system and becoming the dominant feature. The widespread inertia, abuse of office and corruption is gradually leading to cumulative failures in the delivery of the much needed services to the public. This failure is generating public despondency and discontent against the NRM leadership which must be quickly addressed.

The above notwithstanding, Ugandans should be proud of the many achievements registered in stability, security, democracy, rule of law, health, education, infrastructure and international credibility over the last thirty-four years. We must, nevertheless, increase our collective vigilance against lethargy and corruption in public offices, and ensure that services are delivered promptly, efficiently and cost-effectively to achieve Vision 2040 of a “Transformed and Prosperous Uganda.” As already admitted by government, Uganda has missed out on the target of achieving the middle income status by 2021. The inset of Covid-19, and its uncertain nature, characterized by greatly reduced economic activities at household, commercial, and industrial levels, the outlook for the national revenue isn’t as bright. It will call for greater collective discipline, innovation, creativity and frugality to regain the lost ground.

It is therefore necessary, that Ugandans should continue to support the East African Community (EAC) integration process which now has six member states of Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan. The EAC protocols on customs, immigration, tourism, joint infrastructural projects, defence and security among others are critical for un-locking investments and provide better prospects for poverty-eradication, improve employment, incomes, economic growth, as well as our contribution and standing in the world.

With the general elections around the corner as nominations for parliamentary candidates kick off tomorrow, and president for early next month, the NRM and Museveni still provide the best platform and pair of hands to continue unblocking Uganda’s sewerage system.

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The writer, is the Government Spokesperson and head of Uganda Media Centre

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