Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta presides over East Africa’s most powerful economy. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.
Uganda’s neighbor to the east and partner state in the East African Community, Kenya, celebrates the 58th anniversary of independence with pomp and pageantry December 12. One year after achieving independence in 1963, Kenya became a Republic on December 12, 1964 which explains why today is officially called Jamhuri Day. Jamhuri is Kiswahili word for Republic.
Congratulations to the people and Government of Kenya on this auspicious occasion and national day. Uganda and Kenya have, on balance, enjoyed cordial and mutually beneficial bilateral relations since both countries attained independence in 1962 and 1963, respectively. I was in High School when Kenya achieved independence.
As Uganda’s principal route and gateway to the sea, I believe it’s in Uganda’s national interest to develop and maintain cordial diplomatic relations with Kenya. Except for a few unfortunate and regrettable incidents in the 1970s and 1980s, Uganda has enjoyed friendly and fruitful relations with Kenya, consistent with one of the pillars of Uganda’s foreign policy, namely promotion of good neighborliness.
In order to promote and maintain cordial, friendly and mutually beneficial relations with Kenya, the government of Uganda should post a credible career diplomat as High Commissioner to Nairobi together with equally credible support staff, preferably career diplomats. Many failed politicians who have been sent to Nairobi as Uganda’s High Commissioner to Kenya have frankly done enormous damage to Uganda’s national interest.
In the 1960s when Uganda and Kenya achieved independence, the two countries were comparable in terms of economic and social development. The Uganda shilling and Kenya shilling were at par. In the education sector Uganda was slightly ahead of Kenya. It’s not surprising that many Kenyan leaders were educated in Uganda, such as, former President Mwai Kibaki, Kisumu Governor and prominent scholar Professor Peter Anyang Nyongo and Charles Njonjo, the country’s former attorney general, to mention a few.
Today a chasm divides Kenya and Uganda. Uganda is stuck in a typical third world category, with bleak and doubtful prospects of joining Kenya and Tanzania soon as middle income countries. According to the World Bank, in 2020 Kenya’s per capita income was $1,840 while Uganda’s was $817; Tanzania’s was $1,077. One Kenya shilling is today the equivalent of 30 Uganda shillings. The national budget of Kenya is more than three times that of Uganda. The gap appears to be widening annually which begs the question, why is Uganda lagging behind Kenya and Tanzania?
In my opinion, adoption of wrong national priorities since 1990, lack of good governance and lack of competent, effective and efficient leadership of integrity are the main root causes of the ever-widening gap between Kenya and Uganda. Endemic and systemic corruption on a massive scale is deeply rooted in both countries and unless corruption is eradicated soon, the vice will retard progress and continue to negatively affect economic and social development of Kenya and Uganda, and the biggest losers are wananchi, the ordinary citizens of East Africa.
In Uganda corruption is sadly the hallmark and enduring legacy of Gen. Yoweri Museveni’s National Resistance Movement (NRM) regime. According to the Inspector General of Government (IGG), Betty Kamya, a whopping and mind-boggling 10 trillion shillings, the equivalent of $2.8 billion—25% of the national budget—is stolen annually. This is done with impunity, from public resources by Uganda’s corrupt and greedy ruling clique, political elite and senior bureaucrats. It’s an outrage and a tragedy of monumental proportions. Uganda’s political leaders routinely pay-lip service to the urgent need to eradicate corruption from our beloved country. Their slogan, “zero tolerance to corruption” is empty talk and as worthless as the Zimbabwe dollar.
As Kenyans prepare to go to the polls in August 2022, the country appears to have caught “election fever” amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The frontrunners for the presidential race are Kenyan Deputy President William Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.
Odinga seems to enjoy the support of outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta.
I congratulate Kenyans for honoring presidential term limits.
I wish the people of Kenya free, fair, credible, legitimate and peaceful elections. May the best candidates win.
December 4, 2021.