Dec 9, 2022

Mawazo Writing Africa

Writing about the main

Tale of two countries conjoined at the hip by colonial England

There is a history of two countries, England and the Vatican in Europe, each relatively small but with enormous global influence.

The United Kingdom is an earthly kingdom, but its monarch is the Queen of England is , leads the worldwide Church of England.

The Vatican is also a physically independent state – one of the smallest in the world – but with about 1.4 billion clergymen worldwide, a population shared only with China, Like India and China is Facebook.

Another tale of two countries is that of Kenya and Uganda, both independent for about six decades and busy determining the fate of their peoples. The two were joined at the hip by colonial England, and subsequent operations to separate them have not been too successful, as their border communities continue to behave as one. When powerful states visit a far-flung poor country, they speak a phrase in the local language understood by the locals, using words that are well calculated to have a profound impact. They can be prophetic, but the ultimate reality can be the opposite.

When Pope Paul VI. In July 1969, when he made the first papal trip to Africa, he told his hosts in Uganda in Luganda that he wished them peace. Peace was what they desperately needed, as a quarter of the country was under emergency/martial law for three years after the violent overthrow of the Buganda monarchy.

But before the end of the year, the peace the Pope had had prayed for it to slip further when emergency law was extended across the country following an attempted assassination of President Milton Obote.

Political parties, except for the ruling one, were banned. Things got even worse that year when the one-party government was overthrown and replaced by a military dictatorship that treated everyone ruthlessly.

Their eight-year rule was ended only by an eight-month war in Tanzania that culminated in seven years of anarchy governments that ended in 1986. But a dubious conflict broke out in northern Uganda that lasted for another two decades. The wastage of resources and lives has yet to be quantified.

The war in the north has ended, but to the north-east there is another dubious conflict in Karamoja, a region comprising over 11.4 percent of Uganda and various deposits of valuable minerals. After state armed intervention, it occasionally cools and then flares up again.

Today, the conflict in Karamoja is at its worst as armed warriors attack and rob everyone while natural weather elements conspire to to smother him food production that starved 1.2 million people in the fertile country.

Next door in Kenya, Queen Elizabeth II visited in November 1983 and was impressed by the country’s efforts to making schooling accessible to every child, under the spirit of Harambee, who saw communities pooling resources to build schools everywhere, something her colonial government hadn’t really prioritized.

The Queen said so from then on in Kiswahili, the ancient saying that wit is wealth (akili ni mali) should be changed to education is wealth (elimu ni mali).

The Extension of primary, secondary and die tertiary education increased and by the late 1980s Kenya was independent in terms of education.

Ke nya and Uganda have almost the same population, but Kenya’s GDP is now three times that of resource-rich Uganda.

The Ugandans heeded the Pope’s prayer for peace and have put so much effort into safety. Over half a century since the Pope prayed in Luganda, Uganda has built an impressive security machine operating in several countries across the continent.

But Uganda is still seeking peace in its northeastern region, where 1, 2 million people live people lead a bizarre existence; where anyone can attack anyone and take their emaciated cattle and even their life “just like that”!

In Karamoja, strong statements from security officials have yet to be translated into the peace that the Pope wanted Uganda 53 years ago.

You’ve now seen the widely shared inaugural FT 2022 ranking of Africa’s fastest growing companies, with Kenya taking the spotlight. Others who have impressed are South Africa, Nigeria and Egypt. Kenya’s Siamese twin Uganda is not included.

Kenya’s impressive performance is no coincidence. It can be read in the Queen’s words of wisdom 39 years ago: Elimu ni mali. Kenya is quite poor in resources but invests in people. And now that the world is fueled by ideas and innovation, is it surprising that Kenya is growing rapidly?

Joachim Buwembo is a Kampala-based journalist. Email: [emailprotected]