Your Excellency, Emmerson Mnangagwa, President of the Republic of Zimbabwe;
The Leaders of the State and Party of Uganda;
Other Dignitaries present;
Ladies and Gentlemen.
As we meet here in Sironko, I would like to use this occasion to congratulate Ugandans on this occasion of the 57th Anniversary of Independence. Congratulations all of you.
Secondly, on your behalf, I would like to welcome our brother, H.E. Mnangagwa, President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, for agreeing to come and join us on this occasion of our celebrations. When you have embaga, imbaka (a feast) and a relative comes to join you in okujaguza, kumwihoyo (celebrations), that act consolidates the brotherhood and sisterhood. The 1.3billion people of Africa are, indeed, relatives.
Contrary to the position of the reactionaries, whose spectacles never see the similarities or linkages among the African people, the NRM, right from the beginning as a student Movement, saw the deep linkages and similarities among the African people.
In 1966, when I put all my 3 choices for further studies at the University of Dar-es-Salaam, I was not just interested in education. If it was just education, there was the University of Makerere. Why, then, Dar-es-Salaam? We were looking for Undugu (brotherhood). When, in 1968, I led a solidarity student group to the liberated areas of Mozambique, in Cabo Delgado Province, what were we after? Undugu (brotherhood). Yes, there are many tribes and clans in Africa. However, all these tribes and clans, using linguistic classification, are in only four clusters: the Niger-Congo (Bantu and Kwa groups of languages); the Nilo-Saharan (the Cushitic groups like the Oromo of Ethiopia, the Nubians of Sudan and Egypt, the Nilotics, the Nilo-Hamitic, etc.); the Afro-Asiatic (Arabic, Tigrinya and Amharic); and the Khoisan groups of Southern Africa. The whole of Southern Africa is occupied by, mainly, the Bantu peoples with some Khoisan groups (the Khoi Khoi, etc).
When you ask the Shona of Zimbabwe what they call woman in their language, they will tell you: “Mukazi”. What do you Ugandans call woman in your Bantu dialects? “Mukazi”.
I am happy that both the African Union and, recently, SADC, have adopted Swahili as an official language. Swahili is a distillation of a non-sectarian dialect out of the numerous African dialects (Bantu, Afro-Asiatic, etc.) and even from the non-African languages. The Swahili word for table, Meeza, is originally from Portuguese. Even the indigenous dialects like the ones of Uganda, now use the word “Meeza” for table.
I, therefore, thank H.E. Mnangagwa for agreeing to come and check on his relatives in the Great Lakes on this occasion of Uganda’s 57th Independence Anniversary.
Thirdly, I want to use this occasion to extend the condolences of the Ugandans, again, to Your Excellency, on the death of our elder and comrade freedom fighter, Mzee Robert Mugabe. Mzee Mugabe made a historic contribution to the liberation of Zimbabwe. He spent 10 years in prison on account of that. Stand for one minute to remember his contribution. May his soul rest in eternal peace.
During a big portion of these years, Uganda was in turmoil and was following the reactionary ideologies of sectarianism (religion and tribe and even race e.g. against the Ugandan Indians), anti-democracy and neo-colonialism. Since 1986, however, the patriotic line of the NRM of: Patriotism, Pan-Africanism, Social-economic transformation and Democracy, gained the upper hand.
That is how Uganda has been able to build a strong national Army for the first time in the last 500 years, achieve economic recovery and achieve an annual rate of growth of 6.1% per annum for the last 33 years, in spite of the strategic bottlenecks that were in place and in spite of our population growing from 14 million people in 1986 to 42 million people now. We have been achieving these relatively high rates of growth in spite of lack of electricity, high transport costs from the ocean of US$.3,456 per 40ft container by road instead of US$1,800 per the same container by rail and in spite of the high cost of money (interest rates of the exploitative and economy- distorting Banks).
Of course, the cost of labour has been low. We were able to achieve economic recovery and growth, these strategic bottlenecks notwithstanding, because some of the sectors do not need electricity much. These include construction which always grows at the rate of 12.5% per annum, transport, etc. Since 2006, however, I put my foot down and insisted on putting more money in transport and electricity. That is how we now have good tarmac roads from North to South, East to West, North-West to South-East; North to South-West. We are now also going to start on the road to the North-East ─ Moroto-Kotido-Kaabong-Kidepo-South Sudan border. The road from Oraba on the border with South Sudan to Bunagana-Cyanika on the Rwanda-Congo borders in the North-South-Westerly direction, is 647miles (1,042kms). The one from Kidepo valley to Bunagana will be 655miles (1,054kms) via Kampala. Good road transport is good for passengers but not so good for cargo in terms of costs. The cheapest form of transport is water, the next cheapest is rail transport; then, road and air ─ in that order.
Therefore, my strong decision, now that we have abit of money provided we budget properly emphasizing production ahead of consumption, is that we concentrate on the three cost-pushers: transport, electricity and the cost of money. The answers for these cost-pushers are: cargo and even passengers to be transported by high speed trains; to provide adequate and cheap electricity for manufacturing and some aspects of services; and Uganda Development Bank (UDB), capitalized by the government, providing low-interest loans for manufacturing, hotels, tourism assets and internal trade for locally manufactured goods. On the side of agriculture, we need to address the issue of irrigation so as to stabilize agricultural production and utilize our cooperative advantage of abundant fresh water. We are also concentrating on tarmacking the roads leading to the oil areas to make it possible for the pipeline to be constructed. The pipeline sections are very huge. They cannot easily be transported on murram roads. We are spending this money on the roads for oil because it will enable oil to be pumped out of the ground and come to the aid of the economy.
We are also going to build all weather tarmac roads in the major tourism areas: Kidepo, Bwindi, etc. This is because tourism is already bringing US$1.5billion in the economy per annum.
The NRM is absolutely sure that with these measures, the economy of Uganda will grow in double digits. The Ministry of Finance is estimating the rate of growth of 6.3% for this financial year. This is on the basis of the present economic base which still has high electricity costs, high transport costs, etc., etc. What will happen when these bottlenecks are eliminated? This is what the economists should focus on ─ a Ugandan economy based on low-costs of production, not the old economy of Uganda of minimum recovery but with still high costs of production. That will soon be the story of yesterday. Given our raw-material base, we shall have scores of textile, food-processing, wood-processing, etc., factories. We already have many fish processing factories. All this is possible, not only on account of the internal efforts mentioned above but also because of the EAC, COMESA and the CFTA. You cannot sustainably produce, if somebody does not buy what you are producing or the market is taking modest quantities of what you are producing. Therefore, the CFTA is a matter of life or death for Africa. CFTA will not only absorb the products of African factories, but it will also enable us to negotiate credibly with the USA, EU, China, India, Russia, Brazil or the ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nation) countries. Economic integration under the CFTA is for the prosperity of our people, the Africans.
In the East African Community, however, in addition to the efforts under COMESA, the EAC and the CFTA of economic integration for prosperity, we have been working, eversince the colonial times, for political integration in order to create a strategic centre of gravity for the strategic security and survival of the African people. In the last 500 years, colonialism caused the extermination, the domination for a time or the perpetual domination of a significant portion of the human race: in North America, the Red Indians; in South and Southern America, the Incas, the Aztecs; in Australia, the Aborigines. I was happy with New Zealand when I went there. The immigrant group seemed to have realized the mistake of exterminating the indigenous people and they were trying to make amends. Africa, on account of our strong genes and civilization, we were able to survive the 500 years of assault from Europe in the form of the slave trade, colonialism and neo-colonialism. Hence, here in East Africa, since long ago, our elders led by Mwalimu Nyerere determined to create a powerful centre of gravity in the form of the East African Federation. In recent years, we revived the struggle for this dream. Right now, there is a Constitutional Drafting Committee, with members from all the 6 countries of the EAC working on a draft constitution for, initially, an East African Confederation, to be presented to the EAC Summit. This is an effort some of us have supported for the last 56 years eversince we joined our elders in the 1960s. Having our celebrations here in Sironko, highlights the importance of this economic and political integration.
The future, therefore, is bright. All of you, then, should wake up and engage in production in the four sectors of: commercial agriculture, manufacturing, services and ICT. Especially in agriculture where there are still 68% of the homesteads that are only working for the stomach and not the pocket (khuholera inda sili sillingi), those families should wake up and engage in small-scale commercial agriculture with ekibaro (calculation). With these, we shall seriously tackle poverty and unemployment.
I thank you, congratulate you, again and wish you good luck.
9th October, 2019 - Sironko