Chris BishopBy Chris Bishop|October 11, 2022|4 Minutes|In Opinion


Canoes flags freedom and an ice cream suit  Uganda at 60

At the weekend, it was 60 years since the east African nation of Uganda took the freedom of governing itself and writing its own story.In 1962, the colonialists pulled down the Union Flag for the last time and said goodbye after decades of shipping out resources, building post offices and constructing railways. Entebbe signed off as the capital and in stepped Kampala.

If you watch the British Movietone News coverage of independence day in Kampala, on October 9 1962, it seems like more like 6,000 years ago, rather than a mere 60 years ago.

A lot has been written about the late Queen, in the last month, about how she attended tens of thousands of occasions around the world in her reign – but she missed out on  the birth of Uganda.

In her place flew in the incredibly wooden  Duke of Kent – 40th in line to the throne- dressed in a ridiculous starched white suit, looking a cross between a commissionaire and an ice cream seller. Both he and his wife floated through a sea of unwarranted deference and marching bands as if they were God’s anointed. It was cringe, as my daughter would say, like something out of the 19th century.

On the waters of Lake Victoria there was canoe racing and joyful crowds lining the sun-baked  streets. The stuff of a school picnic, rather than the birth of political freedom.

But joy, nonetheless;  the looks on faces that radiated the hope of a fresh, bold,  tomorrow.

It is always good to use these anniversaries as a way to take stock, not only  of emerging African nations, but also the rest of the world. What a world it is right now: Ukraine and Russia locked in ever more worrying combat, economies and currencies falling, old certainties looking as outdated as the Duke of Kent’s ice cream suit.

Uganda may have had its battles in its early years of independence:  military coups; an invasion by neighbouring nations; the traumatic expulsion of the so-called Ugandan Asians; years of conflict and instability leading to thousands of deaths. Old hands used to tell me that, in the bad old days even running black market goods was a nightmare in a Kampala divided by a number of armed groups.

But, at  very least, Uganda’s wealth is largely in the hands of Ugandans, 60 years on from independence. Many  Ugandans – including a number of entrepreneurs – have never had it so good.

Sure, Uganda, like other nations around the world, has to close it gaping wealth gap. According to some estimates the top 1 per cent of wealth owners have more than the bottom 50 per cent of wealth owners in Uganda. The country could also help this by reforming the ownership of land to give more poor Ugandans a chance to till the soil.

Through it all, Uganda has been free and fruitful enough to create a number of millionaires and billionaires who are out there creating wealth and jobs despite these difficult times.

Take a bow: Patrick Bitature, Sudhir Ruparelia and Godfrey Kirumira, among many others, as we celebrate 60 years of cheers and tears for Uganda.