Uganda under British Rule Better Country than Uganda Today

Sam Akaki


Sam Akaki is a Ugandan living in London



Ambassador Joan Rwabyomere, Uganda High Commissioner to Britain, recently hailed the massive population increase in Uganda, from 9 to 34 million, as one of the country's main achievements since Independence! She spoke on 6 October 2012 at Uganda Golden Jubilee luncheon organized by British men and women, who served in Uganda before or shortly after Independence,

In 1962 when Uganda achieved Independence, I was a primary school pupil in Apac town. On that day, my teachers supervised a jubilant march through the dusty town. School children and adults sang and danced to the favorite song in Apac and throughout Lango District then: “Obote, Obote, Obote [Independence Leader] has brought Independence; DP, DP, DP, and [Democratic Party] go with the British!” Only one man, my uncle Bisansio Akaki, a Catholic DP supporter, had the courage and foresight not to join in the chorus.

It was not long before everyone was leaving the Independent Uganda and following the British! I can vividly recall and contrast what happened under British colonial rule with what happened afterwards. The British introduced laws which protected people against famine, communal violence and preventable diseases. Today the vast majority of the 34 million Ugandans are mere statistics, languishing in abject poverty, ravaged by famine and preventable diseases. Under the British every homestead protected against famine, required to have famine grain store, and to deposit some grains at the collective food bank located at every sub-country headquarters.

Under the British hygiene was a serious matter. Every home was required to have convenience facilities. It was an offence to grow or smoke drugs, make or drink waragi, transmit venereal diseases, sleep with someone else’s wife, impregnate a woman who was not your wife, elope with a woman or merely point a finger at someone and say “you will see!” Today Rulers point fingers at hated tribes and tell them, we will deal with you, and follow it up, with terrible consequences.

Under the British, everyone between the ages of 18 and 65 was required to pay a basic poll tax with a progressive extra amount added for those with several heads of cattle. Those who did not pay their taxes were sent to prison or made to maintain public roads. Today, tax avoidance is considered a virtue, especially by government officials and businessmen.

Under the British there was peace and security, which continued for the first five years of Independence. I remember that during that whole period there was only one murder in our local town of Apac. Our School was closed for a week until the suspect was arrested.

But with independence came the freedom for Ugandans to commit homicide at an industrial scale. The British built, staffed and equipped health centers in every county headquarters. The British or the Missionaries built and equipped primary schools and junior secondary schools in every sub-county, senior secondary schools in every district and Makerere College, and Kampala Technical College. There was also the School of Hygiene in Mbale where they taught preventive medicine.

Until 1964 or 65, Ugandan students sat for the well organized and well regarded Cambridge School Certificate examinations. By mid-60s, some of the Cambridge School Certificate graduates such as captains Kimanuka, Roy Magara and Tom Lalobo were already commanding or training to command the then East African Airways super VC10 jet aircrafts.

 In his book, A Report on the General Election to the Legislative Council of the Uganda Protectorate held in March 1961, RC Peagram who supervised the poll provides details of what was a transparent election process. Today in our country every election is an exercise in savagery. As for Individual freedom, whereas the British colonial administration allowed opposition DP’s vanquished Benedicto Kiwanuka and his supporters to mark the Independence Day in any way they chose, today, opposition leaders are arrested, beaten and imprisoned, as the ruling side celebrates!

Today the tragic irony of the UPC’s [Uganda People’s Congress] old song that said DP should leave with the British is plain for everyone to see. Since 1965, civil wars, tyranny and poverty have made Britain the destination of choice for Ugandan asylum seekers and migrant workers. Given a choice and means, most of the 34 millions Ugandans would vote with their feet and vacate the country, leaving Rulers and their families in Uganda.

If as Ambassador Joan Rwabyomere claims, mere population surge was a development indicator, Norway would be one of the poorest countries in the world. With just 4.9 million people, Norway’s GDP of $502 billion, allows it to give its people the best public services with extra cash left to dish out in development aid to impoverished countries like Ugan