What happened to the dream of national unity?

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As some might remember modern African nations where curved out of desperate tribes (nations), with different histories. Here in Uganda the British found tribes like Buganda and Bunyoro both with a unified history spanning over 500 years. Once conquered it was understandably never the concern of the western colonizers ( Britain, France, Belgium, Portugal) to unify these African tribes into one strong nation. Actually, for the British, they governed through a Divide and Rule official policy. The Baganda, led by collaborator chiefs, for instance, were used as allies to subjugate the Banyoro, whom their people had long historical links, into one Uganda nation.

Once most of these colonized nations became independent in the early 1960s, the primary duty of an African President was therefore to foster national unity, lest the nation splinter. This is what became of Congo ( Katanga secessionist war 1960-5 ); and, Nigeria too ( Biafra secessionist war 1967-70) both of which were engulfed into bitter wars leaving millions dead.

Closer home founding fathers like Julius Nyerere of Tanzania and Milton Obote of Uganda had no other but make it their mission to unify the new nations, with all their differing tribes. However, they met opposite success. Obote’s failure unlike Nyerere was that you had ancient kingdom’s here in Uganda and his policy of coercion (in 1966 his forces attacked the Baganda king who fled and died in exile) met stiff resistance. In hindsight, persuasion and not force, might have worked in Uganda, perhaps.

Given this troubled history you would think President Yoweri Museveni who often talks of his beloved dream for an integrated East Africa would be desperately working towards that goal of national unity, the unfinished business of Uganda before we march into East Africa federation. One unrivalled strategy would be to minimize tribal chauvinism. In 1994 Uganda’s neighbour, Rwanda, broke down into a genocide as the nation had longer ignored the necessity of not glorifying one tribe over another.

So, going by recent presidential speeches on the national stage many are left to wonder.

First, during the State of nation address, June 4th, 2021 we heard of “a real Munyankole” ( not “real Ugandan”) being promoted. This is 2021 and not 1921; after a century of intermarriages, travel and exposure among different tribal members of Uganda. What advise can we give our children who have grown up intermixing that they have no idea of “real” members of one tribe over another!

There was also a disparaging reference to those “Banyankole who eat pig..”! Pork is a delicacy enjoyed throughout Uganda, and while this might have been said in jest, there are thousands of Ugandan households who fetch a living from this industry. Why, as President, a fanatical cattle keeper, in his own right, should he jeopardize the livelihood of others who choose other means!

And, during Heroes day, June 9th, giving another national speech we got to understand the Baganda support an evil system, the mailo land tenure. For all its historical faults well addressed in our 1995 constitution the mailo land tenure, founded on the superior concept of private property, has created the most prosperous region in Uganda with Kampala, Wakiso and Mukono districts responsible for over 70% of Uganda’s GDP.

Besides, the Baganda have always generously welcomed members of other tribes in this thriving land market economy. Which tribe in Uganda has not had a member reap benefits from the mailo land tenure? Yet, the Baganda must be evil- for a people who support an evil system by inference must be evil too, or for a pass, just dumb.

When after 68 years of independence from the colonizers who bought us into one nation, we are still bothered with “real” people in one tribe, bash one region over another, openly despise the means of livelihood of others, you wonder how one modern African nation can ever unify into a unified pan African country!

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