The felicitation “Happy Independence!” this week did not apply to you if you’re not yet fully independent.
Full independence is hard to define on a national level but my simple mind associates it with breaking away from colonial ties, ceasing to be dependent on foreigners for ordinary, everyday stuff that we should surely be able to do for ourselves, and projecting Uganda with a positive confidence that puts us level with the best the world has to offer, where we can.
Ironically, this Tuesday (Yes! THIS past week!) the Princess Royal – NOT Ssangalyambogo of Buganda – launched a charity hospital ship on Lake Victoria, but on the Tanzania side. I heard it on BBC (again, Yes! That’s the British Broadcasting Corporation…smile) and listened to the commentator say how the ship was “bringing medical care to residents of the area’s 3,000 islands.
For real – it’s here: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-29516911
The “first ever ship of its kind on the lake”, said the enthusiastic reporter, will run for about 25 years to come…since it is second hand, having been put to work for decades in the UK – like many of your cars, electronics, furniture, clothes and even underclothes!
“I feel good,” said one of the shiny-faced residents after the calm Princess Royal had said some things about the gift, and after comments by a British gentleman with a white beard who was actually a Reverand and ticked all the stereotypical boxes required to make the scenario look exactly as expected.
It was as if the British monarchy had timed this gift because the thousands of examples here called Non-Governmental Organisations, and the percentage of our national budget that is funded by ‘development partners’ are not enough to illustrate our situation.
Full independence means being able to look that gift carefully in the eye and work out whether the ship wasn’t just being dumped cleverly onto Lake Victoria as wrapping around some admittedly much-needed medical equipment.
It also means being capable of providing medical services for all our people rather than having to rely on handouts of this nature, especially on the same lake that hundreds of tycoons spend weekends whizzing across in luxury boats loaded with fine whiskies, imported salmon, cream cheese and crackers, and leaving expensive whiffs of eau de toilette in the wind behind them.
Full independence means not thinking like the colonialists wanted us to think; it means breaking away from the education system that has made us the way we are, and it means being more than the native Africans they came to liberate with religion and basic education. This education point requires a long treatise that will be handled later, but that tackles the colonial idea that the African brain was limited and could therefore only be trained to do simple things following clear instructions.
Full independence means understanding economics well enough to harness our resources from production to consumption. It means knowing well enough to produce well enough to supply our own market, and those larger ones elsewhere; it means adding value to what we produce by way of simple and complex processing.
And full independence means, on the consumption end, NOT buying foreign products where local ones exist and in good comparison and competition. It means government procurement officers, or even private ones, buying Star Cafe and Good African Coffee BEFORE Nescafe.
Full independence is when you buy more locally manufactured products thanimported ones because they are of good, if not better, quality and because the money you spend doing so stays within this economy and is used to grow it. It’s realising that hardwood floors made in Uganda by Ugandans can actually be much smoother, warmer and more beautiful than ceramic tiles imported from China or Spain (and #SpainIsNotUganda); and that furniture made in Uganda can actually be steady, nice and durable – (the carpenters themselves should realise this first).
And it’s not being so daft as to walk through shopping centres and believing the phrase ‘Made in England’ is proof of good quality, “China” means ‘fake’ and Uganda doesn’t even exist.
Going back to ceramic tiles versus wooden floors, being fully independent means defining ourselves by our situation rather than that of foreigners; our houses are constructed based on foreign concepts and considerations – brick and mortar as if we are prone to wintry weather requiring such insulation, instead of our natural materials suited for tropical Africa.
It goes back to our colonial education, which is still being rolled out till today – just check your children’s schoolwork or ask them a simple questions such as ’How many seasons do we have?’
I was pleased when my own gave a lengthy explanation that included the four usual suspects from Spring to Winter, and then our equator-based dry and wet seasons as separate, but I know they still suffer some vestiges of colonialism – and I will do my best to free them of these by the time they get to adulthood.
They will NOT be like the middle class pretenders highlighted in my favourite read this week – a blog post (http://thisisafrica.me/decolonising-mind-eddy-kenzos-success-irks-ugandas-middle-class/) that explained why Eddie Kenzo is so disliked by a mentally colonised middle class that believes his inability to speak english is reason for ridicule.
(I am a grammar nazi myself, but I only police those who have studied the full thirteen years from primary one to senior six, and those employed in professions that require them to be grammatically astute – such as journalism.)
The ridicule instead, should be aimed at those who didn’t realise that this week they should have mourned, reflected and re-adjusted themselves. Don’t get me wrong – we HAVE made some good strides, but we still have very long way to go before we can really celebrate mbu Happy Independence!