49th Independence Anniversary address by the President of Uganda in Lira 2011

Sunday 9th October 2011
By President Museveni, given in Lira

HE The Vice President;
Rt Hon Speaker;
His Lordship the Chief Justice;
Rt Hon Deputy Speaker;
Rt Hon Prime Minister;
Their Highnesses, the Cultural Leaders;
Hon Ministers;
Hon Members of Parliament;
Distinguished Guests;
Ladies and Gentlemen;

I greet all of you and congratulate you at the 49th Anniversary of Uganda’s Independence.   Uganda, in the last 49 years, went through a lot of trouble – military coups, unconstitutional changes, civil wars, terrorism, economic collapse, unbridled sectarianism etc.

Happily, most of these are now behind us.  Since 1995, we promulgated a Constitution that was agreed on by the elected delegates of the people, the Constituent Assembly (CA). 

This has given us the widest possible democratic representation of the people of Uganda: Constituencies, Women, Youth, Workers, People with Disability and Soldiers.  This was in addition to the separation of powers between the Executive, the Judiciary and the Legislature. The traditional leaders were also restored and given a clearly cultural role away from politics and administration which had caused a lot of problems in the past.  If this Constitution is used responsibly by the concerned stakeholders, it will push us very far.

The economy of Uganda, although doing well, was still small in 1961, at the end of colonialism.  Our exports were, for instance, only able to bring in US$ 135 million.  It was a typical enclave economy, meaning a small island of modernity (in the towns) surrounded by a sea of under-development (in the villages).  This could be seen from the grass-thatched houses that covered the whole countryside of Uganda at that time, the small number of students in schools, literacy levels etc.  Unfortunately, even this little enclave economy collapsed during the time of Idi Amin and subsequently.  In 1986, we started the hard job of repairing the economy, the politics and the security of the country.

The economy has been doing very well ever since 1986.  The foreign exchange earnings into Uganda now stand at US$5.2 billion compared to 1961 when the same figure was US$ 135 million as already pointed out.  These are broken down as follows:

  1. Exports of goods - 2,164 millions;
  2. Exports of services- 1,314 millions;
  3. Remittances from Ugandans working abroad -   915 millions;
  4. Investments from abroad -   848 millions.

These were figures of 2010.

These figures do not include grants and loans from outside.  The development can be seen everywhere – housing, school enrolment, new roads etc.  Let us, again, quote the figure of school enrolment as an example.  In 1986, there were 2.5 million pupils in primary schools.  There are now 8.5 million in the primary schools alone.  In secondary schools, the enrolment was 190,000.  It is now 1.5 million.  In the Universities, while it was just 5,000 students, it is now 120,000.  There are still problems of inadequacies here and there.  The progress, however, is unmistakable.  Literacy rate which was only 50% in 1986 is now 73%.

However, the economy could have done much better and it will do much better.  There have been two major problems holding back total transformation: unnecessary controversies surrounding strategic investment decisions on the one hand; and relying, in the initial years, on external funding.  We are going to have an NRM Members of Parliament (MP)’s retreat next week in Kyankwanzi to discuss in-depth these issues. 

These controversies, resulting in loss of development time, are, without any doubt, responsible for the disequilibria that persist in our economy, the great progress we have made notwithstanding.  Controversies delayed our investment in electricity (Bujagali) and caused power shortages.  Controversies led to delays in the expansion of sugar production and, hence, the current sugar shortages. 

We have been forced to import 40,000 tonnes of sugar, thereby squandering US$40 million.  Too many unnecessary imports, arising out of these delays in investment projects, have caused the shilling to depreciate (the dollar being more expensive when you spend shillings to buy it).  This has contributed to the uncharacteristically high inflation rate of 28% quoted for last month.

Nevertheless, there is also the problem of higher global prices for commodities – sugar, cement, steel, gold, copper, petroleum etc.  This is actually good for Africa.  Until recently, only three (3) groups of human beings, the World over, were living a good life.  These human beings were the only ones living in concrete cement buildings with steel re-inforcement (emitayimbwa); they were the ones using electricity and, therefore, using copper wires; they were the ones driving cars and, therefore, using petrol more; etc etc.  Recently, however, four huge groups of human beings globally have broken into the middle class category (living good modern lives). 

These are the hundreds of millions of Chinese, the hundreds of millions of Indians, the tens of millions in Brazil and tens, or possibly hundreds, of millions of Africans.  These billions of people, who previously, lived in grass huts or straw huts, are living in cement concrete and steel re-inforced houses.  They are driving cars, accessing electricity and eating better food.  This has increased the demand of cement, steel (for mitayimbwa and other products), petroleum, copper, sugar etc.  Is this a bad thing for Africa which produces these items for which we have been getting low prices in the past?  It is not.  It is good for Africa.  However, we need to produce more of them and quickly.  We should not waste time on any investment decision.  This is what I have telling you since 1986.

The English say:  “Procrastination is the thief of time”.  The Baganda say: “Nantabulirwa yasaabala bwa buumba” – the one who could not listen to advice, went into the lake with a clay boat and, of course, could not cross the lake because the clay boat disintegrated in the middle of it.  Boats are made of timber or steel and not clay.  The Banyankore say:  “endimi nyingyi, itukuriza obushera” - many tongues (opinions) spoil the porridge.Endless controversies will make us lose opportunities.

Bujagaali will start producing electricity in November, this year.  We are moving on Karuma, Isimba, Ayago and many of the mini-hydros such as Ishasha, Buseruka and Nyagak which we shall commission soon.  We are also going to use our petroleum and gas to generate electricity.  Moreover, we are going to use grass and other biomass to also generate electricity and also make charcoal briquettes.  If all those concerned support our proposals, you will find that Uganda’s opportunities are tremendous and prosperity is assured.

In the case of Uganda, there is also the great opportunity of the huge regional demand as well as the internal demand.  These are great stimuli to production.  You have seen how everything is in demand – cows, goats, crops etc.  Let us produce more. 
We are going to compensate the residents of Sukuru hills in Tororo so that they vacate that area to allow the building of the fertilizer plant there. 
This is important for agriculture in Uganda and in the region.  With oil, we shall also be able to produce urea – another type of fertilizer.  These are all great opportunities.  Let us take advantage of them.

Finally, the security is a settled issue.  We have defeated the Kony terrorists and they will never come back.  We have defeated the Karimojong cattle rustlers.  Those who were saying that we should read the Bible to these killers were wrong.  Our policy of punishing killers was right and you now have security.             ADF is till there in Congo in spite of the good efforts of the Congolese Army.  Meanwhile, MONUC is happily co-existing with the killers of ADF in Congo.  That is what they call peacekeeping.  The UN could look at our peacekeeping in Mogadishu.  We are ready to help the Congolese Army defeat ADF so that people of Eastern Congo get peace and these criminals account for their crimes against our children at Kichwamba Technical School.  Our Army is very strong and will promptly crush any incursion of terrorists from Congo.

It has been good that we have celebrated the 49th Anniversary here in Lira, the home of the late Mzee Milton Obote - first Prime Minister of Independent Uganda.  We salute his contribution to the bringing of Uganda’s Independence.  There were other contributors to Uganda’s Independence – Abdalla Anyuru, Yokosofati Engur, Adoko Nekyon etc.  All these were from Lango.  They worked in partnership with other Ugandans from other parts – I. K. Musaazi, Kununka, Jolly Joe Kiwanuka, George Magezi etc. to bring about our Independence.  We salute their contribution. 

I wish you a good celebration of the 49th Independence Anniversary.

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