Uganda @50: Going beyond the decay
Independence in 1962 found me in P4 at Kizinga Primary School in present day Ntungamo district in western Uganda. Kizinga hill in general was undergoing rapid development with school and church buildings being built and/or modernised. The headmaster, Erick Rwakasore (RIP), put up a semi-permanent block housing his office, a library and classrooms for p1-p3. Next he built the headmaster’s house, rehabilitated all staff houses by plastering them and replacing grass thatched roofs with iron sheets. All wooden windows were replaced with glass ones.
Canon Rev. Kiregyera (RIP), on the other hand, plastered the church single handed using local materials. He introduced a mixture of sand and cow dung as a substitute for sand and cement.
I cannot tell how the headmaster got the money he used to build but within two years the hill was shining. I recall a Nytil Textile Mills advertising team visiting the school to market their cotton products. The team was shocked to learn that this was a primary school! They had mistaken it for a secondary school! Apart from the shining roofs, the hedges were well trimmed, gardens ploughed and planted and the road to the school maintained.
Today, 50 years later, the school is nothing but decay. The semi-permanent buildings are cracked and leaning at dangerous angles. There are some additional structures but the bulk of the school buildings are of the 1960s and are falling apart.
I believe this story could be told not only about our primary schools but also about our other educational institutions including Makerere University. What of the hospitals? By 1964, Kabale Hospital was providing ambulances to bring patients to hospital. Today the hospital is there but in name only.
The big question is why have we ended up in decay after 50 years of independence? Uganda is perhaps the only country in the whole world which has suffered two full scale wars within less than fifty years of its existence. Beside the full scale wars, there have been costly schemes and manoeuvres to keep regimes in power. Consequently, the nation has not only wasted a lot of time on wars, but has lost human and physical capital which would be renewing and improving our infrastructure.
The cause of wars in Uganda may be traced to how we came to be a nation. Uganda was constituted of several disparate communities brought together by external powers. The colonialists had to contend with the exclusive demands of Buganda. Among the baggage that was handed over to Prime Minister Apolo Milton Obote at independence were the lost counties which Buganda had seized from Bunyoro. Their return to Bunyoro was to provide the spark that ushered in the use of force to solve political issues.
The spirit of Kabaka Yekka-UPC alliance, which was part of our independence bargain, keeps replaying itself at each election time. Whoever is judged to guarantee Buganda’s interests is assured of the vote. Often, however Buganda’s interests do not necessarily coincide with the interests of the rest of Uganda. The governments that emerge find themselves saddled with Buganda demands which they cannot meet while the rest of Uganda’s interests are left unattended.
As we move forward as a nation, there is need to reconcile Buganda and the rest of Uganda’s interests. I believe Buganda wants peace and prosperity and so does the rest of Uganda. We need a national conference at which Buganda and all other nationalities in Uganda should be allowed to state the Uganda they want. Following on this conference, the constitution could be amended to take on board the decisions of the conference.
A story is told of two goats tied together but each wanting to run and enjoy a delicious bush nearby. They pulled but none managed to reach its chosen bush. After being exhausted they sat together and after a good discussion, they took off to one of bushes, ate and finished it. Then they happily move to the next bush and did the same after which they went home happily!
Steven Turyahikayo is a retired banker and auditor with Bank of Uganda