Ugandan elite are at it again — becoming patriotic and nationalistic rather late in the day.
This time it is about a United Nations logistical centre that is located in Entebbe. Entebbe is a very important peninsula, located just a stone’s throw to the south of the capital Kampala. It was the capital of the colonial state of Uganda before Independence. It is also where the country’s only international airport is and also hosts State House, the presidential palace.
A week ago, word went around that the UN centre was to be relocated. Indeed, a UN report had recommended that three such centres be in Nairobi, Mexico and Budapest for Africa, the Americas and Europe respectively.
President Museveni sent a diplomatic note to the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on the matter. Guterres responded by giving a strong assurance that the centre would remain at Entebbe.
Guterres re-echoed the UN’s recognition of Uganda’s contribution to peacekeeping efforts and also praised the country for hosting over a million refugees.
But in the three to four days that the proposed relocation of the centre had been known to the Ugandan public, Ugandans especially in Kampala, had gotten so worked up and quick sulky suggestions were made such as the country quitting the UN and also “re-directing” the one million South Sudan refugees in Uganda to Kenya.
They accused the international community of ingratitude for Uganda’s sacrifice in Somalia and the hosting of so many refugees. Actually, a junior minister in the Foreign Affairs ministry said the proposed relocation of the UN centre would be a sign of “bad faith and also an insult to the people of Uganda.”
Favour and sympathy
After the situation was calmed by Guterres’ response to Museveni, we started to look more critically at ourselves.
While rightly invoking our nation’s huge sacrifices for nationals of other countries, our heads also had cooled down enough to concede that while we deserved to benefit from our active membership to the UN, we need to do something about how we use such opportunities if we are to deserve keeping them.
The reason Nairobi almost took the centre from Entebbe was Kenya’s superior logistical environment. After all, we are here talking of a world logistical centre, for crying out loud.
Telecoms, roads, and other such systems in Uganda are not really something to write home about. We have for example failed to grow our tourism sector not for lack of attractions but for inferior logistics and facilities.
While we can punish our own country for not working on our logistical environment enough, we have no right to punish the rest of the world with our poor attitude to development and lack of modern facilities.
One day, Uganda will not have a president of Museveni’s clout who can call up the UN chief and get things changed in the country’s favour. We need to prepare for that day, and the best way to prepare is by doing the right thing instead of only praying for favour and sympathy.
Joachim Buwembo is a Kampala-based journalist. Email: [email protected]