Since some Ugandans, especially political players, have a tendency of highlighting the US as a model of democracy and free speech, let me first give a background about Washington’s Birthday/Presidents’ Day. Like in the case of Uganda, 13 states of the present-day US were once colonized by the British. They include Connecticut, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Rhode Island, Maryland, Virginia, North Caroline, South Carolina and Georgia.
To a certain degree, the British policy of mercantilism undermined the economies of those states, because it focused on the maximization of British exports to those states while minimizing those states’ exports to Britain. Such a policy brought about an unfavourable balance of trade on the side of the 13 states. An unfavourable balance of trade is when the value of a country’s imports is greater than its exports. This meant that the reserves of the 13 states were always deprived. In an effort to end British rule, representatives of the 13 states attended the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia, where they resolved to form an army. They formed it on June 14, 1775. They named their army, the Continental Army. They agreed on George Washington as its commander-in-chief. In that capacity, Washington commanded the Continental Army during the American War of Independence, which began on April 19, 1775, and ended on September 3, 1783. In the ensuing fighting, their army lost 6,800 fighters. In spite of these losses, they emerged victorious. Therefore, a declaration of independence for the United States was made in July 1776. The defeated British through their King George III signed the Treaty of Paris, witnessed by a delegation from the US, comprising John Adams and Benjamin Franklin. In light of Washington’s exceptional leadership qualities, the people of the US endorsed him as their first/independent president. And during his tenure, he drafted and ratified the constitution of the US. Because of Washington’s indelible contribution, in 1879, Congress passed an Act setting February 22 every year as a federal holiday in honour of Washington. They officially named the day Washington Birthday. In 1968, the Uniform Monday Holiday Act shifted the Washington Birthday holiday to the third Monday in February. Without a doubt, Washington’s great contributions to the United States are a lot similar to what President Yoweri Museveni has strived for Uganda. He liberated Uganda from a political and economic abyss in 1986. He has since spearheaded the democratization of the country as manifested by regular elections at all leadership levels, promulgation of the country’s pro-people Constitution of 1995, empowerment of women in leadership, disciplining the military, sanctifying the right to life and property, among other countless achievements. Therefore, commemorating his birthday as the youth and other Ugandans will do on September 8 at Kololo, is a clarion call for us to guard jealously the achievements so far attained and also look forward to achieving more under the day’s theme – Developing the culture of entrepreneurship in youth,” women and the country at large. I appeal to Ugandans not to take the President’s achievements lightly. There are several countries which are in a failed mode due to wars and poor leadership. That is why we should thank God for the gift of our dear President, who has steered the country excellently. Therefore, on the day we shall commemorate his birthday, our message to him should be – Be happy our president! Today is the day you were brought into this world to be a blessing and mustard seed to the people of Uganda, East Africa and Africa! May God give you more birthdays to fulfil all your obvious pro-people dreams! The writer is a senior presidential adviser, political affairs, Office of the National Chairperson/national coordinator bazzukulu