On September 29, I clocked 50 years and thereby became privileged to celebrate my golden birthday with Uganda’s Golden Jubilee. I have often made a joke that I am one of the Ugandans who participated in Uganda’s struggle for independence while in my mother’s womb. Thank God my struggle was not in vain! Despite Uganda’s success story in self-governance, economic development and the fight against poverty, ignorance and disease, the greatest challenge to us, in my view, has and continues to be the wounds of history that were meted out by one group against the other; individual against another based on ethnic, religious, political, social and other sectarian divisions.
While the period preceding nation formation had a fair share of inter tribal or ethnic conflict, the post Independence period has witnessed a resurgence of sectarianism in the public, civil, political and even religious realms. The historical religious political wars of 1880s created wounds of history that were compounded by the period of the formation of political parties prior to Uganda’s Independence in 1960. The political parties were characterised by pseudo religious and ethnic ideals and thereby did not squarely address the problem of ethnic and religious identity.
Subsequent Ugandan governments have tried to heal the wounds of history through political programmes of forging unity and harmony but alas, the voices of disquiet and discontent continue. It is not uncommon to hear stories of Ugandans being denied jobs or services in certain public, political or civil service sectors simply because of their ethnicity, political or religious identity. Even in religious circles, within one faith community you often hear the faithful ranking high the issue of ethnicity in the election of a bishop or a district Khadi, let alone Archbishop or Chief Khadi.
Uganda must count itself blessed since despite the simmering ethnic and religious tension, the nation has never plunged into large scale conflict as has been the case with the Nigerian Christian and Muslim standoff, the Kenyan largely ethnic post-election violence and the Rwandan ethnic genocide that also carried religious undertones.
My pastoral visits to Nakivale refugee settlement camp in Isingiro District where there are refugees from countries like Rwanda, DR Congo, Burundi, South Sudan and Somalia has left an indelible mark on my appreciation of how peaceful and welcoming Ugandan ha been as a nation in the last 50 years, but equally so, the experience has left a challenging mark on my musing over the country’s wounds of history that could be re-opened if not addressed.
During our golden Jubilee celebrations, Ugandans ought to make every effort in healing wounds of history by extending an olive branch to people of other ethnic, political or religious identity, particularly those whom they have considered their avowed enemies. A special appeal goes to all our leaders political, civil and religious to be in the vanguard of preaching and teaching the gospel of love, unity and harmony. A prominent Muslim scholar Abdouljawad Falaturi argues that, ‘tolerance is part of human nature but intolerance is part of education’.
As part of efforts to heal our wounded history, an international conference with the theme Healing Wounded History will be held at Lake View Hotel in Mbarara from January 11to 13, 2013 and this conference will address the issue of healing ethnic, political, social, economic and religious differences. Let have more of such initiatives in order to pacify and unify this country.
Rt. Rev. Dr. Fred Sheldon Mwesigwa,