By Babirye Milly Babalanda
As we end the Independence month, what is the takeaway? Does Uganda matter in the eyes of the world? Would the world miss us if we ceased to exist or disintegrated into a stateless heap? In answer to this question, I referred to two messages sent to us at Independence; one from the United States, issued by Secretary of State, Mr. Anthony J. Blinken, and the other from the Secretary General of the United Nations, H.E Antonio Gutierrez.
In part, Blinken’s statement read: “The United States also appreciates Uganda’s commitment to welcoming those fleeing war and persecution. By offering to temporarily host evacuees from Afghanistan, Uganda has shown that its hospitality and generosity extend across the globe. We also value the contribution of highly effective Ugandan peacekeeping forces to efforts to maintain peace and security in the region”.
H.E Gutierrez said, in part: “On this Independence Day, I count on the Republic of Uganda to help strengthen the United Nations and build a better and more peaceful world for all.” These are very important pronouncements coming from these powerful friends in the advanced world. The take home is that Uganda matters in the world and that our existence adds a brick to the framework of global functioning.
Coming on the occasion of Independence, it means that our Independence is a great contributor to the wellbeing of the free world. Luckily, it was not flattery on the part of the US and UN. It was duly earned recognition for Uganda’s sacrifices for the stability of the Great Lakes region and Africa at large. If there is a country where Uganda has not had an active stabilising hand in Africa, then that country has not needed any. Even where there is no ongoing conflict, it’s not for the absence of background efforts to preserve peace and security gains.
As a country that lost 20 of its post-Independence years in instability until 1986, and undergoing a period of civil war after 1986, marked by the LRA war in the North and East, being a stable and prosperous country that went from a deficit of peace to now exporting peace cannot be taken for granted. We thank the world for noticing these gains and hope to reinforce our position in areas where we are strong and improve where we are weak.
It also matters that the world speaks to us as equals rather than as underdogs who would only take lectures because of fragile and undefined leadership. Some may think that receiving messages of goodwill from world leaders on major occasions is a formality, and that it comes to anyone. I don’t think that that is how things work. Even diplomacy is evolving! Rather than flatter us, we would rather not receive any message or receive messages that give us an “accurate” or critical picture of how the world sees us.
There exist places in the world where people do not know enough about Uganda, where Uganda is synonymous with stagnation, and endless and meaningless power struggles. Those can be excused. They are simply uninformed and unprogressive and need us to update them at every opportunity.
At some point, I am told, the colonisers, while planning to hand over instruments of Independence, which they also did reluctantly, predicted doom for Independent Uganda. They said the young country would fail and fall into an ungovernable state. Was it their plan or they undermined our resolve to manage our affairs?
Of course, some of our people almost made those grim predictions come true, but not all Ugandans were asleep. They ensured that Independence was liberated and consolidated, ushering us in the commanding position in which we find ourselves today. Thanks to our global friends from Italy, Sweden, Nicaragua, Malta, Iran, San Marino and others who wished us the best, our collective pledge is to indeed help make the world a better place in more ways than one.
Within the same month, Uganda participated in the Expo Dubai 2021. A high powered delegation led by none other than President Yoweri Museveni attended to give Uganda’s image a boost. The world was reminded of the opportunities available. Several investment deals were secured. We also learnt of opportunities available in the global econosphere which we can use to boost our productivity and presence.
The Dubai experience teaches our Diaspora to make use of their connections to market Uganda at all times. It doesn’t matter whether you are unhappy about something; there is always something positive to exhibit to the world, even the way you carry yourself when in other countries and what you say about your homeland.
It all comes back to the crux of this year’s Independence theme: “Mindset change”. Even as you fault what is going on, how do you present your criticism patriotically, mindful that the world sees and benefits from Uganda’s progress? Do you abuse or you advise, do you raise issues justifiably or do you raise them to score political capital? What is your own involvement if we are to carry out a census of “who is doing what?” in and for Uganda?
I thank our patriots and global allies for teaching us to love and celebrate Uganda more.
The author is the Minister for the Presidency