“Say what?” That was my instant reaction to comments that some so-called political and technical leaders of Uganda made during a forum at the Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industries and Fisheries Joint Agriculture Sector Annual Review (JASAR) 2016 that discussed sustainable land use management of Uganda’s land.
I was like, who are these people who are discussing Ugandans as though they, the discussants, are foreigners discussing Uganda? Even though they were to have been foreigners discussing Uganda, generally accepted norms of Ugandan societies, at least, and likely of the World, in this modern day and age, do not condone the content, manner and tone of that discourse, surely.
You see, the tendency of the discourse at that forum was generally to firmly locate our people, Ugandans, within paradigms in which it was okay for our people, fellow Ugandans, to be referred to by their fellow Ugandans in derogatory terms and with significant contempt.
One particular such contribution stood out for me, the one which was made by Professor Ogenga Latigo, Member of Parliament representing Agago North Constituency, a constituency which is located in Acholi sub-region, in Northern Uganda.
In essence, Professor Latigo is of the view that the people who elected him to represent them in the10th Parliament of the Republic of Uganda, Ugandans, need to be removed from Uganda’s land so that more ‘intelligent’ people, I wonder from where, should come and farm Uganda’s land.
Making a spirited ‘scientific’ argument for the dispossession of Ugandans of their land and for state sanctioned land grabbing of Ugandans’ lands here is what Prof. Latigo said:
Some years ago Prof. Rubahayo taught us plant breeding and told us that when the Americans wanted to mechanise, when slavery was banned, and they wanted to mechanise cotton production, they designed a machine and they also designed the crop.
Too many times we talk, we focus on the land and we do not redesign ourselves. You try all your skills to fit the challenge into who we are, without re-designing ourselves. Can we redesign ourselves? What do we want to be? If we want to remain as we are, obviously we are heading for chaos.
All those countries that re-designed themselves, they never increased their land holdings, but they decided that the land that we have, few people will use it to give us the food we need and then we re-direct the rest of the population to something else.
Part of the things you see here are symptoms of that problem. As long as we remain peasants, what option do we have other than to go and fight for that land? We may have to invest more on quality education so that we can have people who can competently use their brains rather than the hoes.
Eeeeeh! I kid you not. I was astounded. The disdain that Professor Latigo holds for the majority of Ugandans is clearly and easily deduced from his comments. That a member of parliament can think that it is okay for him to publically refer to the people that he represents as less intelligent and less competent because they are farmers who grow the food that feeds the nation is the sad reality of Uganda’s warped political arena.
How is it logical today, 9th October 2016, to assert and celebrate Uganda the nation-state being fully independent for 54 years, when Uganda’s current Parliament consists of persons with mindsets such as of Professor Latigo?
Persons whose minds are obviously still colonised by a perception of Ugandans that was held by the worst of the colonialists – contempt against black Africans and their knowledge systems; yes, the kind of contempt against black Africans that the likes of the Belgian King Leopold II held, for example.
Sadly, those who spew such patronising, elitist, and derogatory points of view of Ugandans in Uganda are often equated to being ‘modern’ or being modernisers. How is it modern or modernising to impoverish one’s people of their land and to push them into being landless, homeless, ‘street rolex-vendors’ who are food insecure slum dwellers?
It is in fact ironic that those who accuse others of being dictators, such as Uganda’s current political opposition party members do, of which Prof. Latigo is among, and should then turn around and advocate for dictatorial tendencies.
Professor Latigo, once the Leader of the Opposition in Uganda’s Parliament, for example, while crowning his argument at the JASAR forum about the need to move the majority of Ugandans whom he deems less ‘competent’ and less ‘intelligent’ off Uganda’s land, argued as follows:
The law can say that Latigo you have your 1,000 acres but because you are a Ugandan and Uganda must export coffee and in your place you can grow coffee, on 10 percent of your land grow coffee. Whether yourself, or you get somebody to grow it but 10 percent of that land must produce the coffee that will transform our country, transform our people and then we can progress.
So what is the difference? Isn’t it the case that Professor Latigo is in fact advocating for the return of the enslavement of Ugandans on our own lands? Moreover, in order that we be exploited to produce raw materials for the state, in a similar manner as the English Colonialists did with coffee and cotton.
Has the independence of the nation-state Uganda come full circle? His Excellency Apollo Milton Obote must surely be restless in his grave. His vision on 9th October 1962 was that:
In shaping our new country, (we should aim) to achieve a consolidation in which neither the rapid progress of the recent years nor the age-old customs of our forefathers are lost or diminished, but rather fused into a new national characteristic in which the best is preserved while the worst may be thrown away.
No doubt, Professor Latigo’s advocacy is for us, the nation-state Uganda, to throw out the best of the age –old customs of our forefathers and to preserve the worst of what comes with so-called rapid progress – such as mass dispossession of Ugandans of their lands.
We should never celebrate pernicious attitudes such as held by Professor Latigo, particularly so on this the 54th anniversary of Uganda’s independence from the English Colonialists.