Tale of Two Nations: Kenya celebrates the 58th year of progress, while neighbor Uganda starves to death


Kenya‘s President Uhuru Kenyatta runs the strongest economy in East Africa. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Harold Acemah

[Aluta Continua!]

Uganda’s eastern neighbor and partner state of the East African Community, Kenya, celebrates the 58th anniversary of independence with pomp on December 12th. A year after independence in 1963, Kenya became a republic on December 12, 1964, which explains why today is officially called Jamhuri Day. Jamhuri is the Kiswaheli word for republic.

Congratulations to the people and the government of Kenya on this auspicious occasion and national holiday. Uganda and Kenya have maintained cordial and mutually beneficial bilateral relations since the two countries gained independence in 1962 and 1963, respectively. I was in high school when Kenya gained independence.

As Uganda’s most important route and gateway to the sea, I believe that it is in Uganda’s national interest to establish and maintain friendly diplomatic relations with Kenya. Aside from a few unfortunate and unfortunate 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, promoting good neighborliness.

In order to promote and maintain cordial, friendly and mutually beneficial relations with Kenya, the Ugandan government should send a credible professional diplomat to Nairobi as high commissioner, along with equally credible auxiliary staff, preferably professional diplomats. Many failed politicians sent to Nairobi as Uganda’s High Commissioner for Kenya have frankly inflicted enormous damage on Uganda’s national interests.

In the 1960s, when Uganda and Kenya gained independence, the two countries were comparable in terms of economic and social development. The Uganda shilling and the Kenya shilling were tied. In terms of education, Uganda was slightly ahead of Kenya. Unsurprisingly, many Kenyan politicians have been trained in Uganda, such as former President Mwai Kibaki, Governor of Kisumu, and prominent scholar Professor Peter Anyang Nyongo and Charles Njonjo, the country’s former Attorney General, to name a few.

Today a chasm separates Kenya and Uganda. Uganda is stuck in a typical Third World category, with dire and dubious prospects of soon joining Kenya and Tanzania as middle-income countries. According to the World Bank, Kenya’s per capita income in 2020 was $ 1,840 while Uganda’s was $ 817; Tanzania was $ 1,077. One Kenya shilling is now equivalent to 30 Uganda shillings. Kenya’s national budget is more than three times that of Uganda. The gap seems to be widening from year to year, raising the question of why Uganda is lagging behind Kenya and Tanzania.

In my opinion, the adoption of wrong national priorities since 1990, the lack of good governance and the lack of competent, effective and efficient conduct of integrity are the main causes of the ever-widening gap between Kenya and Uganda. Endemic and systemic corruption on a large scale is deeply ingrained in both countries, and if corruption is not eradicated soon, vice will slow progress and continue to negatively affect the economic and social development of Kenya and Uganda, and the biggest losers are Wananchi, who ordinary citizen of East Africa.

In Uganda, unfortunately, corruption is the hallmark and enduring legacy of General Yoweri Museveni’s National Resistance Movement (NRM) regime. According to the General Inspector of the Government (IGG), Betty Kamya, an unbelievable 10 trillion shillings, the equivalent of 2.8 billion dollars – 25% of the state budget – are stolen every year. This is being done with impunity from public funds through Uganda’s corrupt and greedy ruling clique, the political elite and high-ranking bureaucrats. It is an outrage and a tragedy of monumental proportions. Uganda’s political leaders regularly pay lip service to the urgent need to eradicate corruption in our beloved land. Their slogan “zero tolerance for corruption” is empty talk and as worthless as the Zimbabwean dollar.

As Kenyans prepare for the elections in August 2022, the country appears to be caught in “election fever” amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The front runners in the presidential election are Kenyan Vice President William Ruto and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga.

Odinga appears to have the support of outgoing President Uhuru Kenyatta.

I congratulate the Kenyans for honoring the President’s term in office.

I wish the Kenyan people free, fair, credible, legitimate and peaceful elections. May the best candidates win.

Arua, Uganda.

December 4th, 2021.


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