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Happy Golden Jubilee

By Haggai Matsiko

Museveni launches `century of Uganda’

There are times when it looks like the success or failure of an important occasion hangs on the outcome of a single event in the ceremony. Amidst the unprecedented excitement, pomp, and pageantry at celebrations to mark Uganda 50 years of independence at Kololo Anniversary Grounds in Kampala on Oct.9, that event was the ritualistic hoisting of the national flag; that and the host, President Yoweri Museveni’s speech.

For a minute, the Uganda flag that had remained unfurled after being hoisted, refusing to straightened out and swing gracefully in the mid-morning wind. When it finally did open and start whipping about in the wind, it sparked cheers from the excited crowd in what felt like a renewed sense of patriotism.

President Museveni too did not disappoint. In a short speech given against the threat of an impending tropical storm, he emphasized that Uganda would be a medium earning country in the near future and a first world economy in the next 50 years.

“My belief in that road map is unshakable,” he said, “By working with our partners in the region; we shall ensure this century is Uganda’s century and Africa’s century.”

It was a fitting climax to an event the many, like Akorimo – the man who raised Uganda’s flag for the first time in 1962 and was at Kololo 50-years later,  had waited for a long time to witness.

Never before in his 26-year long reign, the longest of any Uganda president, had Museveni hosted so many heads of state and invited guests at a national Independence Day. Amongst the heads of state, Democratic Republic of Congo’s Joseph Kabila was the first to arrive followed by Burundi’s Pierre Nkurunziza, South Sudan’s Salva Kirr, and CAR’s Francoise Bozize.  Somalia’s new president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, Kenya’s Mwai Kibaki, Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, and Egypt’s Mohammed Mursi who travelled with a choir to entertain Uganda’s and several other countries.  All in total, delegates from about 30 countries graced the celebrations.

President Museveni and his wife, Janet, had earlier made a befittingly grand entrance in an open-roof SUV ahead of a 30-something fleets of cars, waving to excited crowds. Accompanied by chief of Defence Forces Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, the Commissioner General of Prisons and the Inspector General of Police, Lt. Gen. Kale Kayihura, the presidenthad shortly toured the mammoth parade for about twenty minutes before witnessing the hoisting of the Ugandan flag.

The national colours of red, yellow, and black dominated in the VIP tents, the uncovered grounds where ordinary folks braved a slight shower, and the newly built pavilion where invited guests, mainly army officials, diplomats and several lucky Ugandans cheered and waved myriad tiny paper national flags.

Some had arrived as early as 7am as the sun was just tearing through the sky. By 9am the Kololo grounds was already a bevy of activity as the several bands of security forces put last minute touches to their drills and the first guest started arriving to red carpet receptions as soon as they got out of their  gleaming Mercedes Benz limousines, Range Rovers  and huge SUVs.

By 10:00, the queues of those attempting to enter the grounds snaked several metres backward and even some invited guests had to wait several minutes for security to clear them. Ordinary celebrants, estimated in their thousands, braved the longest queues, sometimes swinging back and forth like a single solid sea of humanity that threatened to overwhelm the security barriers as police and army personnel struggled to control them.

Popular local artistes, Wilson Bugembe, Julian Kanyomozi, Ndere Troupe and others were on hand to entertain and sooth the anxious crowd.

When the ceremony started, the Uganda people’s Defence Forces (UPDF) bedecked in their army green ceremonial dress, with its shiny golden sashes, and shimmering led the parade that comprised of the Uganda Police Force, Prisons force and other several groups of Ugandan workers, youth, and women organisations. The entire stretch of the grounds shimmered in a motley of bright colours in reflection of the guard of honour’s new marching guns and contrast with the plain white of the huge white tents that sheltered guests.

Then the airforce entertained crowds as they showed off their flying antics, whizzing their jet fighters overhead to releases plumes of smoke in the national colours of red, yellow, black against a clear blue sky. Lt. Colonel Fred Kiyingi commanded the four L39 choppers, three of which dotted their paths with fumes of the national colours. Then Capt. Steven Kigundu, wished Uganda’s good celebrations as he commanded the three Sukhoi jet fighters that flew very close to the ground letting off thunderous sounds to the excited of the revelers.  As Ugandans cheered, one can only imagine what was going on in the heads of other heads of states. For, Museveni, it cannot go without saying that he beamed with excitement as his airforce showed off his war toys.

Luke Orombi, the Anglican Archbishop prayed for Ugandan’s to make that hard step and forgive each other. He prayed for the souls of all former presidents and castigated corruption and other evils. When Mufti Sheikh Shaban Mubajje’s turn came, he prayed for blessings for President Museveni to lead the country to prosperity and Ugandans and their country the pearl of Africa.

The President himself continued a theme he has hammered away at in speeches throughout this period. He highlighted what he called the bottle-necks to Uganda’s development; ideological disorientation, failure by the state to support private sector, underdeveloped service sector, unskilled human resource, inadequate development of infrastructure, under developed agriculture and lack of democracy. Then he mentioned how his government was solving them one by one, for instance by increasing power generation to 810MW from 150MW at independence.

The President also emphasised the importance of the investors and consumers. “In modern times, these two, the investor and the consumer are the most important sovereign actors,” he said. A fitting way to wrap up an invent where the Aga Khan, who has invested in several big projects including the just recently commissioned Bujagali Dam, occupied a special place.

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