Would redistributing regional borders make Uganda happy?
We Ugandans love history. This love for the things of the past almost led us to war with Kenya in 1976. Our valiant then president, the one and only Field Marshal Idi Amin, had asked all Ugandans to read a certain book which detailed how “our” territory was seized by the British. and given in Kenya in 1902. Before this fateful “decree in council” was signed at Buckingham Palace on April 1, 1902, lakes Rudolf (Naivasha), Elmenteita, Nakuru and Baringo were in Uganda.
Mzee Jomo Kenyatta became enraged at Amin’s history lesson to the Ugandans, and for weeks things were very bad between Nairobi and Kampala.
A few weeks ago, at the end of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, regional social media jokes focused on that sub-region that almost pushed Kenya to fight Uganda 45 years ago. It turns out that all the young men and women who made it possible for Kenya and Uganda to be the only two African nations in the top quarter of the Olympic medal table (no South Africa, no Nigeria, no Ethiopia in sight) are from this region.
Kenyans said that all of those athletes who beat the world are Kenyans. The Ugandans said they were Ugandans. If history-loving Ugandans were also paying attention to detail, they would have claimed that the 1902 ‘Decree in Council’ was signed on Madman’s Day and so it was a joke, meaning that Eliud Kipchoge and his company belong to Yoweri, not Uhuru.
This joke of the communities that belong on both sides of the border was appreciated at the highest level of the two countries when the Ugandan president suggested to his Kenyan counterpart to exchange the Awori blood brothers. So we take the sweet Moody Awori and send the fiery Aggrey Awori to Kenya.
A return to even later pre-1911 borders would have made the Ugandan president even happier as troublesome military intellectuals like Kizza Besigye and Henry Tumukunde would be in Rwanda as their sub-region of Kigéi would not be part of Uganda.
However, back to athletics, a revision of the pre-1914 borders would deprive Uganda of its singular historic claim as Dorcas Inzikuru, the person who set the first world record in the women’s 3,000-meter steeplechase, would belong to the South Sudan, where its West Nile-region submarine belonged.
In terms of security, this 1902 decree perpetuated the boring and endless anarchy of northeastern Uganda and northwestern Kenya today. Fifteen years ago, Uganda succeeded in disarming its Karimojong warriors and subjected them to the same penal code as the rest of the country.
But because “our” territory extending as far as Lake Turkana was transferred by the British to Kenya, the Ugandan police and the Ugandan People’s Defense Force were unable to retrieve the weapons from the hands of the Turkana Kenyans. and Pokot. Thus, our unarmed Ugandan Karimojong has become easy prey for ex-Ugandans Turkana, Pokot and other cattle thieves. So, last Christmas season our Karimojong sold many beef cattle to Kenyan and Sudanese traders and used some of the money to rebuild their deadly arsenal which the government had depleted and shut down. Now we are back to armed lawlessness in the northeast.
By the way, the redistribution of borders in the 20th century still has an impact on politics today. Kenya was not supposed to have a tip of Lake Victoria. This means that with Uganda stretching all the way to Naivasha, William Ruto and Raila Odinga would all be Ugandans, well contained by Yoweri Museveni. Kenyans would be gearing up for next year’s election without these two guys anywhere in the equation.
And there is something that many Ugandan intellectuals opposed to the proliferation of neighborhoods do not know. Elderly islanders from Lake Victoria told me that when Museveni took power in 1986, they finalized their petition to the UN and several other authorities seeking to leave Uganda for the United Republic of Tanzania. I don’t know if Museveni was aware of the move, but the islanders of Ssese – who belonged to the Masaka district on the mainland that didn’t care about them – got a district now called Kalangala as one of the first acts. of the new revolutionary government.
But this is a very recent story that is unlikely to disturb today’s millennial cyber warriors. A hundred years from now, the people around will analyze whether the unique Victorian islands would have been better for marine ecotourism under Tanzanian jurisdiction than the Kenyan oil palm plantations under Ugandan jurisdiction that they have become.
Joachim Buwembo is a journalist based in Kampala. E-mail:[email protected]