When our country became a protectorate in 1894 it was occupied by two major ethnic groups – Bantu and Nilotic people in a territory situated at the centre of Africa, the source of the Nile and in a region immensely endowed with human and non-human resources.
Foreign visitors to the region before and after Uganda became a protectorate, were impressed by the abundance and variety of foodstuffs, manufacturing industries and resilient, innovative and industrious people never seen anywhere on the African continent. Winston Churchill advised all foreign visitors to Africa not to skip Uganda.
Notwithstanding, on the eve of the second decade of the 21st century, Uganda cannot feed, clothe and shelter her people adequately. The September 2009 report of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) observes that Uganda has entered the fourth successive poor harvest. This is a man-made problem due mainly to poor ecological policies. In 2005 Uganda was categorized in a UN report as a hunger ‘hot spot’ country needing food assistance.
The once vibrant manufacturing sector is all but gone in the name of comparative advantage that has consigned Uganda to the agrarian status.
The education sector has not really shifted from what was inherited at independence, only the quality component has diminished. Consequently, while there are many jobs in Uganda that require managerial and technical skills Ugandans cannot fill them because they were not prepared accordingly. Consequently, the country is increasingly relying on foreigners while thousands of university graduates remain jobless.
There are contrasts between pre-colonial on the one hand and colonial and post-colonial Uganda on the other. When pre-colonial communities were in charge of their destiny things went well. There was sufficient food, adequate manufactured products that met community needs and traded surplus in local and regional markets leading to capital formation and a decent standard of living.
Colonialism significantly changed the pre-colonial economic arrangements in ways that benefited the colonizer at the expense of the colonized. The fundamental changes in land tenure and land use, labor utilization, commerce and industries and trade disadvantaged Ugandans who resisted in various forms. The riots and organizations to correct these distortions resulted in the formation of political parties and independence so that Ugandans direct their destiny once again.
Britain went along with independence not because she wanted to leave Uganda alone but to use the new leaders and tighten hold on Uganda’s resources and markets. How was this accomplished? Through many years of association and UK embassy in Uganda, Britain came to know which individuals or groups that can be manipulated to serve British interests in independent Uganda. Obote was identified over others and assisted to become prime minister. When he tried to change in a socialist direction, he was booted out. Amin, the ‘gentle giant’ was made president provided he renationalized industries owned by Britain. Ugandans who had little to do with the 1971 coup cheered jubilantly. Amin’s closest advisers were British. When the Field Marshall tried to stray from the predetermined course, Tanzania was assisted by Britain and sent Amin into exile.
The selection of Lule as the next president was heavily influenced by Britain and that is why many participants at the Moshi conference were surprised when he emerged as the president. Soon it was realized that Lule was not the kind of leader when Obote supporters were still very many in the government, army and the country.
Britain assisted the return of Obote while arrangements were being made to find a ‘suitable’ successor that would work closely with Britain. In 1980 Britain identified Museveni and pushed him to power together with two other major foreign countries. William Pike has been close adviser to Museveni.
In order not to let down a strong ally, Museveni accepted economic policies that followed closely those of former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s structural adjustment. Accordingly, UK has been represented in Uganda by Linda Chalker a former minister in Thatcher’s government. Although autarky is not an option, Ugandans must begin to think seriously about how best to influence their destiny. Overdependence on foreign money and advisers including influential DFID’s has reduced Uganda to the standards of medieval al Europe – a very regrettable development.