Isn’t 50 The Age Of Maturity?

The recent recognition by all political parties in the ninth Parliament of the contributions of Ugandan leaders in the struggle for independence is in my view a major milestone in the history of Uganda.

The debate over the contributions of individual leaders is one that will definitely continue, however this recognition signals a country whose political class are embracing the future rather than remain stuck in the dark politics of our past.

It is the most unifying event that has come out of this 9th Parliament.

After reading our history prior and since independence, it is clear that the decades of conflict Uganda has seen in its 50 years since independence have been partly caused by our political immaturity upon attaining independence.

It would be fair to note that at the time, we could only start from where colonial rule had allowed us to reach in terms of practical experience in leading and running a modern government.

And though we should accept that Britain had put in place a fairly complete system for a civil administration of a territory, what we were not told was that this modern form of government that we were inheriting would supersede whatever other form of rule we had known prior to colonialism.

A simple example is that in a democracy, culture is recognized mainly as heritage while tribalism is actually incompatible with the principles of equality and fairness enshrined in democratic governance.

Yet here we were, left to govern ourselves in a new nation with new boundaries encompassing so many different cultures, and at a time when we had not fully acquired the experience and perspective necessary for running a modern government.

Though at the time of independence a few individuals were already enlightened to democratic governance through their service, education and observations abroad, the Ugandan citizens understanding of the rule of law and democracy at the time of independence was surely incomparable to the level of political and economic awareness today.

I look at the harsh political experience Uganda has had since independence as one of national learning that the nation is still struggling to come to grasps with.

Where leaders would have to learn how to hold the ropes of leadership selflessly and for the benefit of all and where the common citizen nationwide would reach an acceptable level of understanding of how this system called democracy best works.

Both the internal and external pressures have been huge since independence and the destiny of this country has had to contend with considerable individual, tribal, national and international interests.

This is still true as we speak though at a lesser degree.However, today the basic ingredient for political stability is fairly secured and in place and that is the right to self determination.

The population has also become increasingly aware of their democratic and human rights and public opinion is increasingly providing direction to public policy and rightly so.

But from the many historical records available and from what I have heard and read from those who were there since independence, even if we wanted democracy back then, that would not have been possible.

To put it simply, it was like Mama United Kingdom had suddenly let us have our national cake without any more controls of how to share it.

A few people realized overnight that everything was up for grabs and that we were our own referees.That looks like a recipe for anarchy and conflict, particularly when tribalism is still playing a huge role in all social economic and political activities.

Leading democracies have gone through far worse situations than Uganda before their societies reached their present level of political maturity.The anarchy that arose from the French revolution saw retribution and poverty increase before democracy and economic stability was finally established.

In their case, France had no example to learn from as this was the first democratization of any country in history, and it took them almost 100 years before social, economic and political stability was restored.

Today their leaders peacefully access leadership and then relinquish it with congratulations to their opponents.Nelson Mandela persevered after suffering seemingly insurmountable injustice.
Notable is the fact that he achieved leadership while mostly sitting in a prison and unarmed.But he then cemented his name even higher in history when he gave the country the opportunity to continue to choose its direction to prosperity.

As we look ahead with the new generation of Ugandans who have chosen to serve this country, are we sure that they have learned how to guarantee every citizen’s right to have opposing views without anyone having to suffer retribution because of those political views.That intolerance is to me what has been the barrier to our political maturity. And it is still visible in the actual hatred, outright anger, venomous envy and personal grudges some of our leaders have with others today.

After all, wouldn’t we want to see leaders from all parties engage in heated policy and intellectual discussions, and at on the many topics where we are all in agreement?
That, to me, would be the simplest but probably the best contributing factor to political stability at 50 plus.

Hussein Juruga Lumumba Amin

Kampala, Uganda


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