By Andrew Barungi
Many African countries celebrate Independence Day ritualistically. They hold lavish ceremonial extravaganzas, which are of course footed by tax payers. During these celebrations, clichéd speeches about the fight against tyranny and colonialism, and stability of the State are made.
But the truth is that many African countries are worse off today than they were at independence (Botswana and a few others may be the exception).
Independence Day is the day a people celebrate independence from another country that ruled them in the past.
In Uganda, that day is celebrated on October 9. However, if we examine the above stated definition of Independence Day, can we really claim that Uganda is independent?
Uganda may no longer be ruled by the British, but a number of its economic policies are dictated by donors and, to a small extent, multinational corporations who have imposed neo-liberal policies. Some of the policies that have been adopted have increased economic growth, but that growth has not trickled down to the common man.
If Uganda or any other African country is really independent, why do they continue begging Washington D.C., London, Paris, and now, Beijing for resources?
Take a look at the voting power on the Board of the African Development Bank, whose mission is to fight poverty and improve living conditions on the continent. Voting power is split 60-40 per cent between African countries and donors, who were allowed to become members in the early 80s.
According to the bank’s statement of voting power as per August 31 2017, Uganda’s voting power is 0.45 per cent; compare that to the Netherlands, a non-regional member, whose voting power is 0.87 per cent. This could mean that donors can easily determine, rather paternalistically, the investment policies they deem fit for poverty reduction.
One of the primary aims of the Organisation of African Unity, the African Union’s (AU) predecessor, was to eradicate all forms of colonialism and to coordinate and intensify the cooperation of African states in order to achieve a better life for the people of Africa. But what does the AU do? Its new headquarters were funded by China. Couldn’t AU members foot the cost? Because of this, there is potential for the AU’s objectives to be dictated by China’s interests.
Some relics of colonialism have remained and the so-called African elite has not bothered to question their usage. I am talking about the horsehair wigs for judges and to a small extent, Speakers of Parliament, which are common in a number of English-speaking countries. Did the judicial stakeholders bother to question the use of some of these relics?
Many have retained the colonial judicial terms, rather religiously and I will not be surprised if some in the Judiciary and also parliamentary hierarchy love those relics because of the sense of superiority they derive from them. A number of countries which were colonised by Britain did away with some of the relics; the exception seems to be in Africa.
What much of Africa obtained from former colonial masters was flag independence; it has not yet obtained economic and political independence. As a result of corruption, nepotism and poor governance in post-independence, a number of Africans yearn for the days of colonialism.
Does it make sense to celebrate Independence Day, with extravagance, when the quality of healthcare and education, employment and administration of justice are at a premium? It is clearly not yet Uhuru.
Andrew Barungi is a Social Scientist
Photo: Daily Monitor