Uganda Celebrates 50 Years of Independence

On October 9, 2012 Uganda celebrates 50 years of independence. Like the United States, it was under British rule, for over one hundred years as a matter of fact. But unlike America, Uganda suffered abuses of several brutal dictators after obtaining its independence.

I am 42 years old, so I have no memories of living under Great Britain's thumb. However, I do remember Idi Amin. When I was young, we would hide in the forest when we saw Amin's troops approaching. People lived in fear of being stopped at roadblocks where they could be raped, beaten, robbed or killed. I am sure many of my readers have seen the movie, The Last King of Scotland featuring Forest Whitker. He won an Oscar for his portrayal of Amin, and thanked the Ugandan people for helping him find the soul of the movie.

As Uganda celebrates its 50th year as an independent nation, have things improved? Although we are a democracy, we have voted for the same president, Yoweri Museveni, a military leader, since 1986. It doesn't take a genius to know one man should not lead a country over twenty years.

We have a degraded road system in rural areas, worse than in Rwanda, a country that is led by a man educated and trained in Uganda, Paul Kagame. We have little or no healthcare facilities in many parts of the country, and too many people struggle with HIV/AIDs and malaria. Our educational system is inadequate and many children don't even receive basic reading and math.

Despite the KONY 2012 story focusing on Uganda's past child fighter problems, , the Ugandan people remain hopeful for a better future. There were positive stories in the news too.

Stephen Kiprotich won the second Olympic gold medal in the history of Uganda. His success brought so much joy to the Ugandan people, that every Ugandan I know on Facebook adopted Stephen's photo for a profile photo.

Not long after, the Uganda Little League baseball team became the first team from an African country to win a game at the world series.

My own recognition as a CNN hero brought the Uganda to the forefront in the media.
It brought to light our work with HIV/AIDs orphans, our focus on lifting up entire communities along with the children, our focus on women's issues and helping grannies take care of the thousands of orphans across the country. In my book "A School for My Village" you will see the power of grannies in saving this country's youth.

I recently attended the Clinton Global Initiative where our Nyaka organization made a commitment to increase the number of grandmothers we serve. Currently we serve 7,000 grannies who care for 34,500 orphaned children. Because of the good political will in Uganda today, we will be able to add three more Districts next year and save more lives through our Grannies program.

Uganda still has its problems, with political corruption and uneven distribution of wealth and resources taking their toll, but I remain hopeful about its future. I see Uganda prospering over its second 50 years as an independent country because of the generational investment we have all contributed toward and will continue to support.

Uganda needs to continue empowering women and grandmothers, because when women are empowered, the whole community is empowered. I encourage every granny in the U.S. to join us and start a granny program in your community. Our major partners in granny program are the Stephen Lewis Foundation and the Segal Family Foundation.