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Uganda’s Independence Day – Valtteri Nurminen

Last week, Uganda celebrated its Independence Day. This year it marked the 56th year of freedom from the British Empire. The following article provides a short glimpse of Uganda’s often turbulent history and tells how the country celebrates its Independence Day.

Uganda endured colonialism for almost a hundred years. The famous Sir Henry Morgan Stanley was the first European to explore Uganda in 1875. Shortly after that, the European missionaries started their efforts to convert Ugandans into Christianity – the dominant religion in today’s Uganda. Britain’s two major interests in Uganda, however, were not religious. One interest was to secure Britain’s control of the river Nile, which flows through Uganda into Lake Victoria and the other was the exporting of cotton, tea and coffee for economic gains. The British Empire practised “soft rule” in Uganda and let the local Bakungu chiefs to govern. After WWII, protests and riots demanding independence forced the UK to start preparing for the decolonization of Uganda.

Finally, on October 9th 1962 Uganda became independent. The first nine years were ultimately a struggle for power. The leadership over Uganda was supposed to be shared between the President Mutesa and Prime Minister Milton Obote. This didn’t work for long, as the latter one staged a coup in 1966 and made himself a dictator.

Uganda’s darkest moments followed after another coup in 1971, this time by the infamous Idi Amin. The following eight years resulted in at least 100,000 Ugandans being killed and the collapse of the national economy due to nationalization and theft of many businesses by Amin and his partners in crime. Amin’s tyranny came to an end in 1979 when he was defeated by Tanzanian troops in a war that Amin had started with hopes of rescuing Uganda’s national economy. Idi Amin, the man of many terrible crimes, never faced justice over his actions.

The years after Idi Amin, saw the former dictator Obote's return to power. However, a huge opposition was formed against him. This led to a civil war, where the National Resistance Army in 1986 put Obote's repressive rule to an end.

Fortunately, since that there has been a relative political stability in Uganda and the economic growth has been steady since the 1990s (4-7% per year). Especially, poverty alleviation has been effective in Uganda.

The Independence Day is a big celebration in Uganda. Parades and cultural shows, such as traditional dancing and music are performed everywhere in the country. Ugandans enjoy traditional food and drinks together with friends and family.

The national flag of Uganda is in the centre of attention during the Independence Day. The colours of the flag represent the people, sunshine and brotherhood of Africa and the bird in the middle is the national symbol of Uganda. In fact, the forward stepping grey-crowned crane symbolises Uganda’s drive to progress.

COCO is firmly dedicated to supporting the Ugandan crane to take steps forward. COCO’s Fremosa Primary School has been educating 124 students since 2011. COCO has plans to expand to support more schools in Uganda soon, through sustainable agriculture training and expanding our Schools for Life programme.

COCO wishes Uganda a happy 56 years since independence!

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