Cultural institutions push for recognition

An analysis of budget allocations to the various sectors of the economy in Africa shows that culture is by far the least favourite child of the government, taking up just between 0.50 per cent and 1 per cent of the total share.

According to Uganda’s civil society, culture and cultural affairs are often marginalised, instead of being considered central to the nation’s development. Thus, culture commands a low priority in spending, with only 0.03 per cent of the national budget.

As Uganda prepares to go to the polls next February, cultural institutions have made 16 demands to the government, and have also requested the establishment of a well-funded ministry of culture to support national and regional cultural institutions.

“We need a ministry because culture is very important in the development of Uganda. Culture plays a very important role in every aspect of our country. You cannot have a Ministry of Karamoja or Northern Uganda and not have a ministry of culture, to oversee the operations of cultural institutions, among other roles,” the Prime Minister of Ankole Kingdom, George William Katatumba argued.

Cultural institutions are also demanding that they be involved in local and national government planning mechanisms, and that they be allocated budgetary support for effective participation in sustainable socio-economic development.

These were among the resolutions arrived at by representatives of cultural institutions taking part in the Citizens Manifesto process at the Nob View Hotel in Kampala on November 13.

Working with the Uganda Kings and Cultural Leaders’ Forum, the representatives of cultural institutions came up with a statement titled Expectations and Aspirations of Cultural Institutions in Uganda 2015-2021.

The statement calls for peaceful co-existence respect for the diverse cultures – large and small impartial treatment of indigenous communities and their respective institutions and the recognition of indigenous knowledge as the basis for transformative development. The statement will be reviewed annually.

The group wants the government to verify, return or compensate the property and assets of cultural institutions it confiscated when it abolished kingdoms in 1966.

When the kingdoms were restored in 1993, the government was obliged to return all properties which including lands and buildings. Although the government has returned some properties, it is still holding on to many that remain unaccounted for.

The group is also demanding the re-establishment of the National Language Commission and the fully incorporation of culture in the education curriculum.

According to Mr Katatumba, the National Language Commission will help develop the indigenous languages that have played a key role in the aancement of Uganda.

“We cannot develop or think critically in foreign languages like English. Indigenous languages are vital in the preservation of our culture, yet our children cannot speak them. These local languages have developed us because they are grounded in morals, how you greet, interact with others, learn and develop as a person,” he said.