Julius Nyerere: ‘Without Unity, There Is No Future For Africa’

An extract from a speech given by Tanzania’s founding president, Julius Nyerere, in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, on 6 March 1997 on how he saw African unity in the 21st century.
For centuries, we had been oppressed and humiliated as Africans. We were hunted and enslaved as Africans, and we were colonised as Africans. The humiliation of Africans became the glorification of others. So we felt our Africanness. We knew that we were one people, and that we had one destiny regardless of the artificial boundaries which colonialists had invented.

Since we were humiliated as Africans, we had to be liberated as Africans. So 40 years ago, we recognised [Ghana’s] independence as the first triumph in Africa’s struggle for freedom and dignity. It was the first success of our demand to be accorded the international respect which is accorded free peoples. Thirty-seven years later – in 1994 – we celebrated our final triumph when apartheid was crushed and Nelson Mandela was installed as the president of South Africa. Africa’s long struggle for freedom was over.

I was a student at Edinburgh University when Kwame Nkrumah was released from prison to be the Leader of Government Business in his first elected government [in 1951]. The deportment of the Gold Coast students changed. The way they carried themselves, the way they talked to us and others, the way they looked at the world at large, changed overnight. They even looked different. They were not arrogant, they were not overbearing, they were not aloof, but they were proud, already they felt and they exuded that quiet pride of self-confidence of freedom without which humanity is incomplete.

And so six years later, when the Gold Coast became independent, Kwame Nkrumah invited us – the leaders of the various liberation movements in Africa – to come and celebrate with Ghana. I was among the many invitees. Then Nkrumah made the famous declaration that Ghana’s independence was meaningless unless the whole of Africa was liberated from colonial rule.

Kwame Nkrumah went into action almost immediately. In the following year, he called the liberation movements to Ghana to discuss the common strategy for the liberation of the continent from colonialism. In preparation for the African People’s Conference, those of us in East and Central Africa met in Mwanza in Tanganyika to discuss our possible contribution to the forthcoming conference. That conference lit the liberation torch throughout colonial Africa.

Attempts at unity

Another five years later, in May 1963, 32 independent African states met in Addis Ababa, founded the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), and established the Liberation Committee of the new organisation, charging it with the duty of coordinating the liberation struggle in those parts of Africa still under colonial rule. The following year, 1964, the OAU met in Cairo [Egypt]. The Cairo Summit is remembered mainly for the declaration of the heads of state of independent Africa to respect the borders inherited from colonialism. The principle of non-interference in internal affairs of member states of the OAU had been enshrined in the Charter itself. Respect for the borders inherited from colonialism comes from the Cairo Declaration of 1964.

In 1965, the OAU met in Accra [Ghana]. That summit is not well remembered as the founding summit in 1963 or the Cairo Summit of 1964. The fact that Nkrumah did not last long as head of state of Ghana after that summit may have contributed to the comparative obscurity of that important summit. But I want to suggest that the reason why we do not talk much about [the 1965] summit is probably psychological: it was a failure. That failure still haunts us today. The founding fathers of the OAU had set themselves two major objectives: the total liberation of our continent from colonialism and settler minorities, and the unity of Africa. The first objective was expressed through immediate establishment of the Liberation Committee by the founding summit [of 1963]. The second objective was expressed in the name of the organisation – the Organisation of African Unity.

Critics could say that the [OAU] Charter itself, with its great emphasis on the sovereign independence of each member state, combined with the Cairo Declaration on the sanctity of the inherited borders, make it look like the “Organisation of African Disunity”. But that would be carrying criticism too far and ignoring the objective reasons which led to the principles of non-interference in the Cairo Declaration.

What the founding fathers – certainly a hardcore of them – had in mind was a genuine desire to move Africa towards greater unity. We loathed balkanisation of the continent into small unviable states, most of which had borders which did not make ethnic or geographical sense.

The Cairo Declaration was promoted by a profound realisation of the absurdity of those borders. It was quite clear that some adventurers would try to change those borders by force of arms. Indeed, it was already happening. Ethiopia and Somalia were at war over inherited borders.

Nkrumah was opposed to balkanisation as much as he was opposed to colonialism in Africa. To him and to a number of us, the two – balkanisation and colonialism – were twins. Genuine liberation of Africa had to attack both twins. A struggle against colonialism must go hand in hand with a struggle against the balkanisation of Africa.

Kwame Nkrumah was the great crusader of African unity. He wanted the Accra Summit of 1965 to establish a union government for the whole of independent Africa. But we failed. The one minor reason is that Kwame, like all great believers, underestimated the degree of suspicion and animosity which his crusading passion had created among a substantial number of his fellow heads of state. The major reason was linked to the first: already too many of us had a vested interest in keeping Africa divided.

Prior to the independence of Tanganyika, I had been advocating that East African countries should federate and then achieve independence as a single political unit. I had said publicly that I was willing to delay Tanganyika’s independence in order to enable all the three mainland countries to achieve their independence together as a single federated state. I made the suggestion because of my fear – proved correct by later events – that it would be very difficult to unite our countries if we let them achieve independence separately.

Once you multiply national anthems, national flags and national passports, seats of the United Nations, and individuals entitled to a 21-gun salute, not to speak of a host of ministers, prime ministers and envoys, you would have a whole army of powerful people with vested interests in keeping Africa balkanised. That was what Nkrumah encountered in 1965.

After the failure to establish the union government at the Accra Summit, I heard one head of state express with relief that he was happy to be returning home to his country still head of state. To this day, I cannot tell whether he was serious or joking. But he may well have been serious, because Kwame Nkrumah was very serious and the fear of a number of us to lose our precious status was quite palpable. But I never believed that the 1965 Accra Summit would have established a union government for Africa. When I say that we failed, that is not what I mean; for that clearly was an unrealistic objective for a single summit.

What I mean is that we did not even discuss a mechanism for pursuing the objective of a politically united Africa. We had a Liberation Committee already. We should have at least had a Unity Committee or undertaken to establish one. We did not. And after Kwame Nkrumah was removed from the African scene, nobody took up the challenge again.

Confession and plea

So my remaining remarks have a confession and a plea. The confession is that we of the first generation leaders of independent Africa have not pursued the objective of African unity with the vigour, commitment and sincerity that it deserved. Yet that does not mean that unity is now irrelevant. Does the experience of the last three or four decades of Africa’s independence dispel the need for African unity?

With our success in the liberation struggle, Africa today has 53 independent states, 21 more than those which met in Addis Ababa in May 1963. [Editor: With South Sudan’s independence in 2011, Africa now has 54 independent states]. If numbers were horses, Africa today would be riding high! Africa would be the strongest continent in the world, for it occupies more seats in the UN General Assembly than any other continent. Yet the reality is that ours is the poorest and weakest continent in the world. And our weakness is pathetic. Unity will not end our weakness, but until we unite, we cannot even begin to end that weakness. So this is my plea to the new generation of African leaders and African peoples: work for unity with the firm conviction that without unity, there is no future for Africa. That is, of course, assuming that we still want to have a place under the sun.

I reject the glorification of the nation-state [that] we inherited from colonialism, and the artificial nations we are trying to forge from that inheritance. We are all Africans trying very hard to be Ghanaians or Tanzanians. Fortunately for Africa, we have not been completely successful. The outside world hardly recognises our Ghanaian-ness or Tanzanian-ness. What the outside world recognises about us is our African-ness.

Hitler was a German, Mussolini was an Italian, Franco was a Spaniard, Salazar was Portuguese, Stalin was a Russian or a Georgian. Nobody expected Churchill to be ashamed of Hitler. He was probably ashamed of Chamberlain. Nobody expected Charles de Gaulle to be ashamed of Hitler, he was probably ashamed of the complicity of Vichy. It is the Germans and Italians and Spaniards and Portuguese who feel uneasy about those dictators in their respective countries.

Not so in Africa. Idi Amin was in Uganda but of Africa. Jean Bokassa was in Central Africa but of Africa. Some of the dictators are still alive in their respective countries, but they are all of Africa. They are all Africans, and all perceived by the outside world as Africans. When I travel outside Africa, the description of me as a former president of Tanzania is a fleeting affair. It does not stick. Apart from the ignorant who sometimes asked me whether Tanzania was in Johannesburg, even to those who knew better, what stuck in the minds of my hosts was the fact of my African-ness.

So I had to answer questions about the atrocities of the Amins and Bokassas of Africa. Mrs [Indira] Ghandi [the former Indian prime minister] did not have to answer questions about the atrocities of the Marcosses of Asia. Nor does Fidel Castro have to answer questions about the atrocities of the Somozas of Latin America. But when I travel or meet foreigners, I have to answer questions about Somalia, Liberia, Rwanda, Burundi and Zaire, as in the past I used to answer questions about Mozambique, Angola, Zimbabwe, Namibia or South Africa.

And the way I was perceived is the way most of my fellow heads of state were perceived. And that is the way you [the people of Africa] are all being perceived. So accepting the fact that we are Africans, gives you a much more worthwhile challenge than the current desperate attempts to fossilise Africa into the wounds inflicted upon it by the vultures of imperialism. Do not be proud of your shame. Reject the return to the tribe, there is richness of culture out there which we must do everything we can to preserve and share.

But it is utter madness to think that if these artificial, unviable states which we are trying to create are broken up into tribal components and we turn those into nation-states, we might save ourselves. That kind of political and social atavism spells catastrophe for Africa. It would be the end of any kind of genuine development for Africa. It would fossilise Africa into a worse state than the one in which we are.

The future of Africa, the modernisation of Africa that has a place in the 21st century is linked with its decolonisation and detribalisation. Tribal atavism would be giving up any hope for Africa. And of all the sins that Africa can commit, the sin of despair would be the most unforgivable. Reject the nonsense of dividing the African peoples into Anglophones, Francophones, and Lusophones. This attempt to divide our peoples according to the language of their former colonial masters must be rejected with the firmness and utter contempt that it richly deserves.

The natural owners of those wonderful languages are busy building a united Europe. But Europe is strong even without unity. Europe has less need of unity and the strength that comes from unity in Africa. A new generation of self-respecting Africans should spit in the face of anybody who suggests that our continent should remain divided and fossilised in the shame of colonialism, in order to satisfy the national pride of our former colonial masters.

Africa must unite! That was the title of one of Kwame Nkrumah’s books. That call is more urgent today than ever before. Together, we, the peoples of Africa will be incomparably stronger internationally than we are now with our multiplicity of unviable states. The needs of our separate countries can be, and are being, ignored by the rich and powerful. The result is that Africa is marginalised when international decisions affecting our vital interests are made.

Unity will not make us rich, but it can make it difficult for Africa and the African peoples to be disregarded and humiliated. And it will, therefore, increase the effectiveness of the decisions we make and try to implement for our development. My generation led Africa to political freedom. The current generation of leaders and peoples of Africa must pick up the flickering torch of African freedom, refuel it with their enthusiasm and determination, and carry it forward.



4 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Ronald Okuonzi,

    That is Why African Union is NOT Pan-Africanism…no matter who says it is !!

    OAU is still the Legal Personality for the Creation of the African Unity .

    I totaly agree that AU ( African Union ) is not Pan Africanism . The only one I know is OAU ( Organisation of African Unity ) which derived or derives from Pan Africanism . Instead AU ( African Union ) is a derivation of EU ( European Union ) for destroying the African Unity Efforts

    The point to make here and is of importance for our African people and other peoples to recall and know is the distinction between African Unity and the African Union . African Unity is the consciousness behind the movement of a group of people of different racial origin or political perceptions towards unity.

    The purpose of this unity is to defend the existance of the People of Africa . This is the definition of African Unity . The reason being that , from 1440 – 1840 the period of the Slave Trade took place . Africans became a commodity to be traded in . When this was fought by the Africans against the Europeans and the Arab – Asians the substitution of Slave Trade became : Civilization , Commerce and Christianity which came to be known as the Colonization of the People of Africa (1840 – 2000 ) .

    Decolonization started 1960.

    The Slave trade and Colonization created divisions among the People of Africa . There were Anglophone Africans who created a culture of a group of Africans. Francophonie African was another group of Africans . The third group was Lusophone. Ladophone was the the fourth and the last was North Africa associated as a part of Francophonie Africa and Arabicphonie . In otherwards Four or Five major different African Identities and Cultures were created from 1440 to 1960 , resulting in differences and conflicts due to antagonisms and internal opposition amongst one another .

    It was from this conception to solve the problem of African disunity on a continental basis the concept of African Unity was born . A Unity of the Francophone , Anglophone , Lusophone , Arabic phone and Ladophone Africa . This Unity took form as several groups such as the Casablanca group , Brassaville group , Monorovia group and the Sudanic group where different existing countries whether Dependent or Independent aligned themselves .

    This view was born out of Pan Africanism which was founded around 1840 and 1860 but was properly recognized in 1897. The first meeting took place in 1900 . This was the Paris and Lissabon meetings . It was Pan Africanist .

    This meeting consisted of Black Africans from the continent of Africa , America , Asia , Europe and Oceania . So from 1900 to 1945 , when the Manchester Conference of Pan Africanists was held , there was no proper perception of African Unity as yet . But , On the 25th of may 1947 during a Birthday ceremony organised by Jomo kenyatta ( Deputy Secretary ) and Kwame Nkrumah ( Secretary ) for John Anacleto Atobua Agami , King of Lado by then and ( Chairman for the Organisation of African Chiefs ) the concept that Pan Africanism is not enough if it does not have a Root in the Mother continent was discussed.

    This gave to birth to what is described as African Unity . Meaning , the Pan Africanist movement for the African people. The secretary still remained Francis Kwame Nkrumah of Gold Coast ( now Ghana ) , Deputy . Secretary was Johnston Kamau ( later known as Kenyatta ) from Kenya Colony and Mombasa Coast Protectorate ( Kenya ) .

    Col. John Anacleto Atobua Agami King of Lado remained the Chairman . Col John Atobua Agami was assasinated by the British in 1948 , as he was considered politically dangerous as his actions were against European colonial interests as a whole.

    As the entire Africa ( excluding Ethiopia , Liberia , Egypt and Republic of South Africa , RSA ) was colonized , it was not possible to expand and organise the new Association of African Unity . It was finally revived by the Secretary of the African unity association , founded in London the 25th of May 1947, Francis Kwame Nkrumah who became prime minister of Gold Coast in 1957 . It was revived through the Embassy of Sudan in the UK , due to the Suez war of 1956 and Egypt was represented by India in this meeting of Independent African States. The purpose and objective of the London meeting in 1957 was to organise a Conference for the Dependent and Independent African countries in Gold Coast (Ghana) in 1958 Accra .

    This 1958 meeting took place with Kwame Nkrumah as the Chairman now .
    The objectives were the Land of Africa , the Labour and Liberation of the African peoples from the colonial yoke and slavery . This was developed from 1958-1961 . This culminated with the Lagos conference of 1961 which brought together the Casablanca group , the Monorovia group and the Brassaville group .

    In 1963 the Organisation was finally founded in Addis Abbaba whereby its Charter was approved on the 25th May. This date was chosen in Honour of the assasinated Chairman of the African Chiefs ( and African Unity association ) Col. John Anacleto Atobua Agami King of Lado as it was his date of birth. This is what came to be known as the Organisation of African Unity .

    Now we come to the African Union

    In the first place the African Union is not seeking for Unity as previously described . The Organisation of African Unity had developed the Lagos action Plan of 1980 , establishing the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights in 1981. The only Human Rights Charter recognizing collective Rights ( Nairobi Conference 21st June 1981) . Drawing Africa`s Priority Program for recovery in 1985 and finally drawing up the Treaty establishing the African Economic Community and other actions which were to take form as African Unity.

    The concept of the African Union was to implement the African Unity Programs and Activities . This was to be done through the establishment of a Constitutive Act based on the OAU Charter. The aim being to implement the Programs of the OAU from 1980 to 1997. For this a meeting was called on the initiative of the OAU in July 1999 arranged an OAU conference which took place in Libya on the 9th of September 1999 , ( Sirte ) .

    In fact , here the possible reforms were to be looked at and developed into possible Programs for the Unity of the people of Africa . A suggestion to establish a Constitutive Act based on the OAU Charter of 25th May ,1963 was agreed upon .

    It was not a change of Charter. A charter is a Basic Body of Rules creating a Legal Personality . A Constitutive Act is a drawing up of Administrative proceeding / Rules to improve the Organisation or Legal personality . In short I am saying a Constitutive Act is Administrative Law based on a Charter . Therefore the AU Constitutive Act of 11th July 2000 is not a Charter but Administrave Law , based on a Charter which is Body Rules for creating the Unity of the African Peoples and the Continent of Africa .

    This makes the African Union Constitutive Charter , an illegal Act as a replacement of the OAU Charter. It is an attempt to change the OAU Charter which is the backbone and Protection against the Recolonisation of the Continent of Africa and the People of Africa. The African Union ( 11th July 2000 ) opens the door for Europe to Recolonize Africa, just like the Paris resolution of 3rd August of 1875 laid the foundation for the partition of Africa 1885 , following the Slave Trade of 1440 . Africans must realise the OAU Charter is still valid and is a tool for the Defence of the African people and
    Continent of Africa .

    The funny thing ( makes people LOL ) is they transferred the Constitutive Act of Lome (Togo) 11th July 2000 , transferred the African Countries under the Supervision and Administration of the European Union , which is in short an Act of Recolonisation of the African Continent , with NEPAD being the Programs through which the European Union can dictate to the Africans what they can do and cannot do .

    We in Lado we like to joke that NEPAD stands for New European Partnership for African Domination although they claim it stands for New Economic Partnership for African Development . DO YOU GET THE SENSE OF THE JOKE ?

    The African Union is not a Legal Personality but an Administrative Structure through which recolonisation is being practiced in Africa now .


  2. Mr. Ronald Okuonzi,
    I was about to ask you where you have been all this long with such important information, but I remembered that it is “Better Late Than Never.”
    I am also amazed to learn that John Anacleto Atobua Agami, the King of Lado who was assassinated in 1948 was a Colonel. My amazement is that even the current heir to the Throne of the Kingdom of Lado, rose to become a Colonel in the Uganda Armed Forces. I mean John Bart Atobua Agami now living in Denmark.
    With such an historical background in which the young Agami grew up, I wonder why he did not carry his father’s ‘Torch’ for the African cause! I remember the times I had a chance to discuss with him, his wish was to revive the lost Kingdom of Lado. A gentleman he is and certainly a born Leader, he took every challenge so gracefully, but always hoped that the Kingdom of Lado will return to its full existence.
    Thank you very much for this information.

    Byaruhanga, Jonny Rubin.

  3. eroti,

    Mr Jonny Rubin , Thanks for your useful comment .


    Sometime back , I recall , yes , John Bart Agami mentioning to me of having talked openly to some Ugandans about Lado and about his Role in Uganda and Lado State Political Affairs in Denmark when they visited him . Yes , He is a source of informations you can trust to get from and He like his father did for the King African Rifles ended by building the Uganda Army for the Independent Uganda as Uganda had no Army / Armed Forces yet in the British Uganda Protected .

    As of the highest a black Military Officer only by then of Her Majesty’s Government’s Service Order in Uganda and Lado by then , you can immagine his Role and Impact he had on his Shoulders to handle the Uganda , Lado and the African Issues in General . The immage of Lado , He kept vivid and is still vivid in Mother Africa , thanks to him for that and depicting even that the Colonial influence on Africa is still going on and until Lado is free , Africa’s Colonial Issue is not over yet . His Father stood strong on this Issue too when He was the first Chairman for Africa in the PanAfrican Association as I have writen or reported here above in message to all our readers . By that time of the transfer of the Relative Documents of PanAfricanism , was done by at least to transfer step by step the Administrative Offices which was by then in Trinidad and Tobago to exist in Africa in the long run to be finally in the Mother Continent of Africa . As Lado was the Heart Central ( Sudan Central Africa – Lado ) , the Headquaters of PanAfricanism at the beginning was then cited to have been in Lado as was Agreed in the Manchester Conference held in 1945 .

    If our Readers want more information onto know about him , John Bart Agami , hereby is a copy of the open Interview with him for their Records please :

    As He says :

    Concerning my personal background, may be the first thing I will tell you about is my own family . I think that is where everyone should start . So , the name Agami is my family name . It means you belong to the Agau Clan . Our family where leaders , we stayed in Egypt . We came to what is today known as Ethiopia . And we ruled Ethopia for 7 centuries , that’s from 640 AD to 1270 AD . Due to Political upheaval , we left and ended up , today , where we are , in Lado in Equatorial Central Africa ( ECA ) .

    Now my family continued in politics , though my Ancestor (Negus) Sambala Naiga left Ethiopia , to be exact , Lake Tana where our home at that time was . Today Lake Tana is in Western Ethiopia . And Lado means the land where our Forefathers are buried .

    We are today in the Upper Nile Basin ( Nile-Congo watershed ) living between the 3 mountains :

    1) Mt. Liru (Jaki Lolo) ,

    2) Mt Iti (Dribidu Tere) where my father (John Anacleto Atobua), my grandfather and my great grandfather – respectively Lemiro and Ayingani – are buried , whereas Ajua my great great grandfather is buried near Mt Liru .

    3) Mt Luku (Sambala Naiga) . Politically we have always been in the limelight. Jaki Lolo , Dribidu Tere and Sambala Naiga are the Three Hero-Founders of the Lugbari Nation:- (Moru – Madi ) at Foot of Mt Rejaf .

    Personally, I was born in 1942 , on the 7th March , at 19 hrs 29 mins , on a Monday . I am the second born of our family . John Thomas Candia was the eldest of the family ( born in 1938 ) . The difference between him and me was four years . And , of course , my Father was John Anacleto Atobua and my mother was Anna Maria Orideru . I am John Bart Onzima ; Agami is our family name . It ( Agami ) is also our clan . So , we all use the name Agami . My own name is Onzima but my father , my brother and I : we all used the first name John as our first name (Christian name) .

    Tom was born in 1938 when my father was at war . My father reached the military rank of Colonel , serving in the Kings African Rifles ( KAR ) 4th Regiment . Which was British , with headquaters in Bombo , Uganda . He went to fight for the British in Burma in WWII with the 4th Regiment of the Kings Africans Rifles , which later was stationed in Jinja , Uganda .

    My father resigned to carry out the Independence of Lado in 1947. He was replaced by a British Colonel called Alan Knight , whom I knew very well . He was a sort of family friend , an Englishman , a rare case .

    My father was assassinated on 14th April 1948 , because he asked USSR to raise the question of Lado at the UN in 1947, and the British found that was not the right thing to do . They said my father was opening the eyes of many Africans and African countries .

    This is because my father became the chairman of African Chiefs in a conference which was held in Manchester in 1945 , and Kwame Nkrumah ( his first name was Francis ) became the Secretary and Jomo Kenyatta ( his real name was Johnston Kamau ) He became Assistant secretary. This was also known as the Pan African Association.

    This was a frightening issue for the Americans and the British . Therefore he ( Atobua ) was assassinated. There was a 4 Year Lado-British war following the assassination of Atobua from 1948 to 1952 . This Lado-British war was stopped by Sir Winston Churchill when he became Prime minister in 1951 . But during the time of the assassination of my father in 1948 , a Labour Government was in Power, led by Rt Hon Clement Richard Attlee as Prime minister of Britain .

    Today we have a Labour Government again , led by Rt Hon Anthony Charles Blair. So , I hope they will do something positive this time. And I , myself , after finishing in St. Aloysius college , Nyapea , my basic secondary education in 1960 , I was prevented from taking my Cambridge School Certificate which was given by Cambridge University Examination Syndicate .

    The reason was , I was too dangerous to be educated , because Britain could not be sure of my future thinking . So I was taken by force to Kings African Rifles in 1960 and commissioned as a Lieutenant in the third KAR , ( 3rd Regiment) which was Scottish commanded , East African command , in Nairobi , Kenya .

    In 1961 , I was taken to Sandhurst , ( the Royal Military Academy in England ) . I finished my studies there the same year, which was not an easy issue for the English , knowing it was my Grandfather , who fought the British the most ( from 1914 – 1919 and 1930-1937 ) . I was taken back to the 3rd Regiment in Nairobi , Kenya .

    In 1962 , while a Captain I was then taken to go and fight in Western Uganda by the border with Ruanda . At a place called Kisoro . After this , I was taken back to Nairobi and appointed High Commissioner ( KAR ) . Today when you talk of High Commissioner you are talking Diplomacy but Militarily we should say High Adjutant of KAR .

    I represented the British Imperial Chief of Staff in Nairobi . On march 1st 1962 , I was appointed a full Colonel without passing through the rank of Major first and sent to command 4th Regiment (KAR) to Uganda . I took the job , to organize within 6 – 9 months , the Uganda Army for Independence which was due on 9th October 1962 .

    Uganda did not have an Army. They only had a Regiment ( 4th Regiment of KAR ) . They did not have a Ministry of Defence . So I had to organize and Head the Ministry of Defence in Uganda myself . So I did all that , under British Colonial Administration . Colonel William (Bill) Shane who had served with my father in WWII in Burma became my Military Advisor . Before my coming he was serving as Chief of Staff in the British Protectorate of Uganda ( 4th Regiment KAR ).

    There was no African I was dealing with . I was only dealing with Europeans . Everything was European in concept and so forth . That is why , I clashed with the British ; and I was arrested on the 11th September 1962 judged at night and 12th September 1962 I was imprisoned for 7 years in Luzira maximum Prison ( next to the execution chamber Room 8 ) . The reasons were all Political in nature.

    The issue was : I was asked to sign that Lado should be passed into British Administration . I refused to sign it and for three weeks I was tortured in Luzira Prison . In October , I organized with some of my soldiers ( 4th regiment KAR ) an Escape from the Prison. That was in 1962 . From then till now I have been in exile ( barring a brief period in 1971 from June to Nov and another period from January 1973 to April 1974 ). I have been in Exile for at least 40 years.

    The Experience of the Colonial Period bears no comparison to today . During those days , one of the things , I noticed was that , you never shared toilets with Europeans or Asians . In every toilet , it was written on your left African , in the middle Asian , on the right European . It was an Offence for an African to urinate in a European toilet . It was changed only after Independence . This is the true nature of Colonialism.

    You never shared the same Toilet , let alone Restaurants , Hotels and even Schools . You never mixed . But the Colonial System was organized . so that , the Governor was Supreme and commander-in-Chief .

    He took his Orders from England , either from the Foreign Office or Colonial Office , from either Secretary of State for Foreign affairs or Colonial Affairs . The legislative power was all invested in the Governor ( the Power to make Laws ). The Africans were not in the Legislative Council ( Parliament ) .

    The country concerned was then divided into Provinces , and each was headed by a Provincial Commissioner , in the case of the English speaking countries , who was always an English man . The Provinces were divided into Districts , and Districts were headed by the District Commissioner , they were all English , or Scottish , or British , or maybe Irish .

    Therefore you can see in the Whole Administration , there was no African , at all , until the so – called Independence . When were the Black Africans able to gain experience to run themselves ? Black African Governments were all overturned , destroyed and all this period they were kept / held out of Government . What could one expect from them , the Africans ? That’s a good question.

    My answer is : NOTHING. That’s one of the difficulties today , for the African Leaders to run their countries. To me , they have no knowledge , no experience to run a nation-state , and they were denied that Right . They were not trained to do it . Any African who tried to be Patriotic was either killed , or deported or put in prison because you were not allowed to do anything but sit and wait to labour as a Slave . Period !!!

    There was no such thing as Human Rights. Because you were Primitive and you had to be civilized by a European . As one writer fom Nothern Europe put it ” Africa is like a Black Ghost vessel moored to Europe and Asia ”. The Attitude against Africans is the worst .

    I could go on and give you a lot of other areas , but this will tell you , if you could not share a toilet , what else could you share ? I think that analyses the difference . The Colonial World was different . It has no comparison with what is today . There is no comparison . You just have to learn it for what it is . You have to learn to understand it bit by bit . That is the wisest thing a wise man or woman can do .

    This is what my family has been battling with , and why the Independence of Lado was not given , as we did not respect European Superiority as they claim .

    Ronald Okuonzi

  4. Mr. Ronald Okuonzi,
    What a wonderful piece of history, so heartfelt, told by the person who has lived through it all and still around, willing to share even more of his life experiences with whoever so wishes.
    I feel blessed to have learned a little from the man himself, Col. John Bart Agami. His speech here reveals much more about his family and indeed about himself. He contributed a lot that shaped Uganda but sadly, even after independence when Uganda had gotten her own government, the new leaders namely, Dr. Apolo Milton Obote and Sir Edward Mutesa among others, did not re-examine the case of their compatriot, Col. John Bart Agami. It is a shame to us the Africans that we are still scared and unable to overrule the colonial powers’ injustice against one of our own although, it is over half a century since we got “independence.” It is very sad to see that he is getting old in exile, with his birth dreams unfulfilled.
    Colonel John Bart Agami deserves appreciation for his contribution in the shaping of the Uganda Armed Forces before her independence. Surely, even the Uganda Defence Forces we have had since the Independence of Uganda, were built by the ideas and knowledge of Col. John Bart Agami.
    Returning to the ‘African Unity’, it requires more than courage to advocate for it. Even a mere organisation that brings the Africans together in a white man’s country is perceived as a danger to the world. That’s all for now, or else I need more courage to state more.
    My appreciation for your effort to enlighten us about Col. John Bart Agami and his legacy and also about the independence of Africa, is simply beyond words.

    Byaruhanga, Jonny Rubin.

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