As we mark, this year, 58 years of Independence, it is prudent that we look at the bigger picture if the independence story is to be meaningful and sustainable.
The continent of Africa would have been one great nation if it had not been parceled out by the colonialists in their adventurous enthusiasm to exploit the black continent. Africa is regarded as the cradle of world civilisation. Unfortunately, today Africa lags behind other global blocs due to the mental and ideological differences of its people on account of the geographically imposed differences. All Africans can be tracked to as common ancestry. That’s why all their languages are interlinked. A common people should have a common destiny by approaching the concerns of the day with common resolve and conviction. The ultimate goal is to achieve African Integration; put another way, it is to make Africa “One Country Again”. That is lacking in Africa today!
The idea of Integration of Africa brings warmth to the hearts of true Africans. It may rile Africa’s enemies but that is to be expected.
However, there are those Africans who are willing to see “One Africa Country” come to life but they are saddled by unbelief and lack of motivation. They feel that it is an unattainable dream or one that is far off. To them, it is as if they have not picked enough inspiration from the individual independences of their countries yet celebrating them religiously every year. They are weighed down by the concerns of today’s survival unaware that today’s concerns can be addressed concurrently with those of the future. Africans should begin to think with one mind, if never before, lest we grapple with crises occasioned by lack of foresight or postponing action on issues that matter.
African Integration could have been achieved over fifty years ago by the great independence leaders who made initial steps towards the objective but were failed by the fact that newly independent African states were too weak on their own to rush into a super state.
Ironically, according to my research, the earliest moves to integrate Africa, other than God’s creative order which placed the mass of land comprised in the continent in one piece, were initiated in 1894 when the British begun work on the Uganda Railway. The British did not aim at the integration of the region but they unintentionally set in motion the integration process of the region when they decided to construct the Uganda railway from Mombasa, Kenya and later began promoting efforts to advance more unified administrative control over East Africa. Yet we failed to pick on from there and build systems that would connect the region and, progressively, the continent.
In 1961, with the attainment of independence by Tanganyika (now Tanzania), a quasi-federation of East Africa was revamped. A political federation of the three independent countries (Uganda, Kenya and Tanzania) was to be ushered in by the Nairobi Declaration of 1963, but this was not to be. Eventually, neither federation nor integration of East Africa or the other constituent regions of Africa could be achieved despite the early enabling infrastructure put in place by the colonisers after they had achieved their objectives. Yes, they did some good things although with bad intentions!
As of today, Africa is bound by nature but administratively loose along the lines of non-binding blocs with no control over the destiny of the people yet the aim should be very clear to us now-that Independence and Integration go together. The how and by whom can be resolved but practical steps must be taken now.
Uganda, like a few other unlucky former colonies in Africa, lost several post-independence decades to home-grown despotic and discriminative tendencies that replicated the highhandedness and exclusionism of the colonialists. Uganda’s true independence story begins in 1986. The rest of the time had been spent undoing “what had not yet been done” since much of the promises of independence had been violated and young Uganda was walking on shells, almost totally crumbling, which would have pleased the former colonisers so much.
There are as many independence stories in Africa as there are countries and each one is sad and as of now, losing a bit of relevance.
Without Integration, the independence story (for all African countries) will become a hollow song, a sung at occasions but without meaning or sustainability. The worst case scenario is getting recolonised-while still celebrating achievements of last century. Why not do something new which can be celebrated about our generation in relation to the struggles of our independence time leaders? Young people, where are you to back the head-of-state as he champions Africa’s strongest cause? It is not Museveni’s integration or Kenyatta’s, Buhari’s or Ramaphosa’s; it is integration of the Black Continent for the Black Continent by its own people.
As we mark 58 years, independence means that we strive to become a self-sufficient and respected continent. Development partners should only work with us on mutually agreeable and beneficial terms as opposed to exploitative parasitism which reminds us of our sad past under colonialism. We must heal the wounds of the past by securing and insuring our future.
I congratulate all Ugandans on reaching this occasion. Long live Uganda, Long live President Museveni, Long live NRM!
The author is a Private Secretary Media to H.E. the President of the Republic of Uganda incharge of Media Management.