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Resilience and Commitment will Guarantee our Freedoms

By Ofwono Opondo

 Oct. 5, 17

Tomorrow Uganda celebrates fifty-five years of independence from colonial rule under the theme “Uganda’s freedom must be anchored in the spirit of hard work, resilience and commitment.” What should have been time to rejoice was short-lived because no sooner, than antagonistic and irreconcilable disagreements erupted among the political elites.
The independence government formed in 1962, by an alliance of the Uganda People's Congress (UPC) and Kabaka Yekka (KY) soon degenerated into battles of egos and eventual breakdown of the government leading Uganda into prolonged turmoil. The miscalculation by the ceremonial president, Kabaka Sir Edward Muteesa, and Apollo Milton Obote as executive prime minister is critical in understanding the political and social elements that forged and continue to shape Uganda.
From then to-date has been marked by tribal and religious sectarianism, bigotry, and chauvinism, state abuse of power and human rights, state and economic collapse, intermittent conflicts including a lengthy civil wars, which were finally defeated in 2005. A combination of measures has since engendered national security, peace and stability, democracy as well socio-economic transformation creating hope in the whole country. In 1995, a new constitution was promulgated creating a no-party all-inclusive Movement System, under which political parties remained in abeyance in an effort to heal past wounds which largely worked.
A constitutional referendum cancelled this 19-year ban on multi-party politics in June 2005, and since then elections to most political offices have been through universal adult suffrage under a multiparty competitive system. Previously marginalized groups-the women, persons with disability, youths and workers have been given affirmative slots on all managerial units of government.
Uganda is a multiparty presidential and parliamentary system in which the President is both Head of State, and Government with executive powers, while legislative functions are shared between the executive and legislature (Parliament). As we commemorate 55 years of independence, we must understand that a lot of change is taking place mainly for the good of all and violent hubris blowing over the political horizon is un-necessary.
On the ongoing constitutional amendments, our leaders need to use the mandate given to them by the constitution under Article 259 and effectively plan for the country. The spirit of legislation needs to be maintained and Ugandans don’t need to be violent however contentious the issues might be because the framework provides how matters are resolved peacefully.
Government has released 15b for the forthcoming local council (LCI and II) elections that had stalled since 2002. The Electoral Commission has also issued a road-map which we urge all Ugandans to follow with keen interest in order to meaningfully participate in choosing their leaders.
The NRM government under President Yoweri Museveni is proud of the many achievements registered over the last thirty-one years, but we must increase our collective vigilance in the fight against corruption, wastage and ensure that services are delivered efficiently to achieve Vision 2040 of a “Transformed and Prosperous Uganda.”
The size of our GDP has risen from USD 4bn in 1986 to USD 25.53 billion, and should, indeed can be much bigger if we collectively worked harder to boost productivity and exports. Currently, the export per capita for Ugandans is USD 91, USD 107 for Tanzania and USD 139 for Kenya. The above figures are a far cry when compared to Malaysia’s USD 7493, South Korea at USD 11104, and the BRICS countries average of USD 1799. By supporting the current Government policy of zoning Uganda into productive zones for livestock, coffee, fish farming, and value-addition chain to primary products, we shall raise export earnings in one year and instantly catapult into middle income status, even before oil is drilled from the ground!
 We now have over 5200 Kms of tarmac roads compared to the 1200 Kms of 1986 which, also was in need for urgent repairs. Several oil roads are being constructed, while an airport in the Albertine region is also planned to prepare the country to harness oil by 2020.  This will be supplemented by a USD 3.5bn Pipeline from Hoima to Tanga to ease export of the black gold. Expansion works at Entebbe International Airport to handle increased traffic is ongoing. Preparations for the commencement of works on the Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) are also in advanced stages. When complete, the SGR will considerably lower the cost of freight to and from Mombasa. Government plans more 1000 megawatts from Karuma and Isimba dams, in addition geo-thermal resources in Lake Katwe, which when added to the existing 850 megawatts will ensure self-sufficiency for a while.
Indeed, these developments are in line with the NDP II 2015/16 – 2019/20, which identifies frontloading of investment in infrastructure and power generation, among others, as a key factor to strengthen Uganda’s competitiveness for sustainable wealth creation, employment and inclusive growth.  
Ugandans should continue supporting the East African Community (EAC) integration process which now has six member states Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and South Sudan. The EAC protocols on customs, immigration, tourism, joint infrastructural projects, defence and security among others are critical for un-locking investments and provide better prospects for poverty-eradication, improve employment, incomes, economic growth, as well as our contribution and standing in the world.