News and Views

Today, Uganda – the Pearl of Africa – becomes the third of the five East African Community (EAC) nations to mark 50 years of its independence.

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By Joseph Kizza
Source: New Vision

Rwanda and Burundi clocked 50 three months back on July 1, and now Uganda has followed suit.

Exactly half a century ago, the British flag – Union Jack – was lowered and the new Uganda flag hoisted to take its place in a historic event that took place at Kololo airstrip in Kampala.

That officially marked an end to nearly 70 years of British rule in Uganda and ushered in an era of renaissance for the east African nation.

And by that very event, Uganda was placed into a historical line of some 30 other African states to have achieved their autonomy from foreign rule at that time.

The late Milton Obote became the country’s first Prime Minister and was given the instruments of power by a Queen’s representative.

Fast-forward to today, and the stage is once again set for a no-ordinary Independence anniversary for Uganda.

Today, Ugandans within and those living in the Diaspora are celebrating their country’s Golden Jubilee!

And there sure is a general irresistible air of euphoria to take in everywhere you go within and around the country’s capital, Kampala – and further beyond the borders.

“I feel so blessed that I will witness such an important day in my country’s history. At least I will live to tell my grandchildren about it,” the excitement of Martin Kyagulanyi almost chokes him.

He is wearing a faded black T-shirt with the words ‘I Love Uganda’ emblazoned on it. The words fill out across almost three-quarters of his shirt in a black, yellow and red colour combination.

It is the same colour blend that adorns a hand-made miniature Uganda flag that sticks through a Sombrebro-like hat that hides half of his face.

“I can’t wait to celebrate this day together with my family and countrymen,” he beams.

The 35-year-old explains that he has always “wanted to be a part of history, somehow,” and that he sees his country’s Golden Jubilee as his best opportunity.

Like many Ugandans today, Kyagulanyi is limited to second-hand experience of the October 9, 1962 history.

With Uganda’s illiteracy rate standing at an average 73.3, many people who have gone to school have only had a more intimate feel of their country’s history through books, the Internet and through several other resources.

Such is the kind of experience Kyagulanyi has had.

As the clock ticks away, a sense of patriotism blankets the atmosphere, especially here in Kampala.

Take a walk along the main street of Kampala and right in the middle of the two main street roads is a long stretch of lawn with a décor of red, black and yellow all over.  A sprinkle to this beauty are the multi-coloured pockets of flowers blossoming out of the fresh green grass.

In the past couple of weeks, Kampala Capital Council Authority (KCCA) has been very busy doing major repairs on especially the Kampala main in-city road.

Thanks to the tireless efforts of the KCCA workers during that time, the middle road pavements have been replaced and painted.

Buildings along the streets have placards that speak a similar language: “Congratulations Uganda!”, “Golden Jubilee Anniversary!”, “ Congs UG! Congs!”

Balloons – the most common symbol of celebration – also hang loosely in a variety of formats on buildings and some street structures.

‘Lift him higher!’

A walk up Speke Road in Kampala, right opposite Standard Chartered Bank leads you to the majestic Independence Monument.

Formerly a dull original cement-grey colour, the symbolic structure has finally been given a brush – now a more lively smoother grey – so much to the relief of many concerned Ugandans.

The work of art turned exactly 50 years old a few days back, as it was officially unveiled on October 5 by then Prime Minister Milton Obote.

It illustrates a man unwrapping a [newborn] child and raising it with its hands stretched skywards, clearly signifying a newborn country let free from the bondages of colonization.

Some art critics have their own interpretation of the sculpture.

According to Dr Rose Namubiru Kirumira – a design lecturer at Makerere University School of Art and Design – the monument signifies that Britain had done her part of raising the child [Uganda], and that it was then up to its people to take it to further heights.

Indeed, it is said the art piece was funded by the British colonial government in the days leading to Uganda’s inaugural Independence Day.

And, don’t forget that it was built by Gregory Magoba, one of Uganda’s first professional sculptors.

Musaazi, Kakoma, Ibingira … and more

Sadly, Uganda has reached an important part of its journey without a long list  of key figures that were pivotal in its road to and after its independence.

Ignatius Kangave Musaazi who formed the first political party in Uganda – Uganda National Congress (UNC) – passed on in 1990 is regarded a national hero.

Despite the controversy that still surrounds over who actually designed the Uganda national flag, Grace Ibingira is popularly known to have been its designer.

The national anthem composer, Prof. George Wilberforce Kakoma died only a few months ago, in April this year following a long spell of illness, thought by many to have been as a result of his old age.

These and several others who left different legacies and a mark in the hearts of many will be remembered for their roles in Uganda’s history.

Several Faithful are attending national Jubilee prayers at Namboole Stadium that started Monday evening.

The Warid clock tower at the Jinja road roundabout near the internal affairs ministry headquarters is another spectacle to behold.

Strips of cloth in the national flag colours run systematically from the top of the tower down to the bottom in a pyramid-like fashion. For a motorist stuck in the usually heavy traffic around that tower, it is easy to get lost into the colour-rich beauty.

All is set, leaders here

Kololo airstip is more than ready to host the event, with quite a number of foreign dignitaries expected to attend.

Remember the man who handed over the instruments of power to Premier Milton Obote on October 9, 1962 on behalf of the Queen of England? 

Yes, that one. That fine white gentleman whose name you are trying to recall – Prince Edward, or as most people know him, the Duke of Kent.

He is in the country for the Golden Jubilee fete, his first visit to Uganda since 1962.

Born on October 9, 1935, the Duke of Kent coincidentally celebrates his 77th birthday today. Interesting!

Some heads-of-state and other diplomatic officials are also already in the country ahead of the main ceremony for later in the day.

Among the leaders and representatives that jetted into the country are South Sudan president, Salva Kiir; president of Burundi Pierre Nkuruziza; DRC’s Joseph Kabila; Somali president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud; Italian foreign Minister Affari Esteri,

Rwandan president Paul Kagame and his Kenyan counterpart Mwai Kibaki also touched down at Entebbe Airport on Monday.

In whole, fifteen presidents and several other dignitaries are expected to attend the landmark event.

Security has been beefed up to keep in check foreseen characteristic incidents that an event of such magnitude can attract.

Traffic officers will be deployed around town to control flow of traffic, traffic police chief, Lawrence Niwabiine has said.

Traffic guidelines on how to access Kololo airstrip – the ceremonial grounds – have already been made public.

I have heard that there will be free food at Kololo. I am not in any way sure about that though, so don’t take my word on that.

Personally, I stopped believing in the invisible principle that ‘free things are free’, so I wouldn’t spring onto the above-mentioned but unverified opportunity.

But for the food enthusiasts out there, it’s a free deal worth wishing for, afterall we are all celebrating, “innit”?

Well, here is a day worth celebrating. A day worth remembering. A day worth being a part of, and a day well-deserved for all Ugandans and those who support and believe in Uganda.

For God and my country!

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