Friday, October 9, 2009



8th October, 2009
By Cyprian Musoke
and Steven Candia

UGANDA marks 47 years of independence from British rule today with celebrations at Kololo airstrip.

An array of VIPs is expected to attend.
Among them Southern Sudan President Salva Kiir and Liberian President Sirleaf Johnson as well as ministers, MPs, civil servants, religious and traditional leaders and diplomats.

As in previous years, the opposition parties said they would not attend the celebrations, arguing that the event has become an “NRM affair”.

The theme for this year’s Independence Day celebrations is: “Unity, a key factor in protecting Uganda’s destiny and independence.”

The theme was chosen because of the recent divisions in the country, said the Minister for the Presidency, Beatrice Wabudeya.

Uganda has known eight presidents since the British Union Jack was lowered and the Ugandan flag hoisted, some of them lasting for only a couple of months.

The first post-colonial president was the Kabaka of Buganda, Sir Edward Muteesa II. He was ousted by Milton Obote, who in turn was overthrown by his army commander, Idi Amin, in 1971.

When Amin’s brutal dictatorship fell in 1979, Prof. Yusuf Lule and Godfrey Lukongwa Binaisa had brief tenures.
Disputed elections were held in 1980 that made Obote bounce back. His second term lasted for five years. He was toppled by Gen. Tito Okello Lutwa in July 1985.

Lutwa’s junta was shortlived. It was swept away in January 1986 by Yoweri Museveni after his National Resistance Army waged a five-year guerrilla war.
For the last two decades, Uganda has seen relative stability and development, characterised by economic growth, increased revenues from taxes and a growing GDP.

Real GDP per capita has tripled in the last 20 years, according the UN Human Development Report, from $515 in 1987 to $1,454 in 2005.

Social indicators have also improved, although not fast enough for Uganda to reach its targets under the Millennium Development Goals by 2015. Adult literacy has increased from 43% of the population in 1970 to 58% at the time the NRM took power and 74% today.

Under-five mortality went down from 224 per 1,000 births at independence to 195 in 1986. It has stagnated at around 135 since the beginning of this decade, below the 56 per 1,000 births target. The number of people living below the poverty line stood at 55% by the time Museveni took power. It went down to 31% in 2005 but has since gone up again to 37%. More efforts towards poverty alleviation are needed to reach the 2015 target of 28%.

Access to safe water saw the biggest jump. Only one-fifth of the population had access to a safe water source at the time of both independence and the NRM take-over. This went up 46% at the end of the 1990s to reach 64% this year, according to the 2009 World Health Report.

Life expectancy has improved from 43 years at independence to 52 years today. In the 1990s, however, it saw a sharp drop – to 41 years – as a result of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Uganda’s population has grown five-fold in the last 47 years, and its urban population more than 10-fold.
There were only 6.5 million Ugandans at the time of independence, 341,000 of whom lived in urban centres.

Today, Uganda’s population is about 31 million, while people living in urban centres have reached almost four million. About half of Uganda’s population is under the age of 15.
The Police yesterday issued guidelines to ensure smooth traffic flow around the venue of the celebrations. Upper Kololo Terrace will be closed to traffic from 6:00am till the end of the function.

Guests with vehicles bearing red stickers will access the airstrip via Elgon Terrace and will park before the Heroes’ Corner. Invited guests with blue stickers will access the venue through Wampewo Avenue and park near the main entrance.

The public can access Kololo via Wampewo Avenue and park near the main entrance, while Wampewo Avenue will remain one-way from the roundabout to the airstrip.

Meanwhile, several party leaders have indicated that they would not attend. DP president Ssebaana Kizito said the celebrations had become an NRM affair.
“I will not attend because the aspirations we fought for at independence to get our own government have not been realised. Like Jomo Kenyatta used say: ‘It’s not yet Uhuru.”

FDC spokesman Wafula Oguttu said his boss was out of the country. “But whenever we attend such functions, the President begins abusing us, yet he is the one who invited us.” Miria Obote said she would travel to Arua to celebrate the life of her late husband, Milton Obote.