A Toast to Jamaica
On the day I turned a year closer to 40, Jamaica became 50 as an independent nation. As is wont to happen when one shares a birthday with a great nation, I thought of all those things Jamaican. Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. Check. Holiday with the wife. Check. Getting lost in New York with my dreadlock [wig] wearing brother. Check. Usain ‘Lightening’ Bolt . Check, Check, Check and Check again! The latter honored his country by being the greatest althlete of all time – As at August 14, 2012, Mr. Bolt held the 100 and 200 meter olympic records on the track.
Again, I celebrated this victory and show of strength in the sense that this was another piece of good news for the world and especially, his fellow Jamaicans. However, in this first among many adjectives and pronouns, this did not take away the overall negative connotations that post independence brings to me. Full disclosure: I wrote, about 7 years ago, that many African countries deserve to be recolonized simply because of their sheer bloody incompetence at improving the living standards of their own people. Besides, as a Ugandan citizen – a country which shares an independence birth year with Jamaica – I know that my home has been going to and from the doldrums since the Union Jack was lowered on October 9, 1962.
Anyhow, the truth is that there is much to celebrate about Jamaica. Yes – I have to been known to fulminate on occasion about African and Caribbean nations, and my colleagues Emmanuel Musaazi and Ryan Elcock do manage to reign me in. That notwithstanding, it has come to me that criminal gangs in Jamaica only end at the edge of Kingston, the capital. Besides, the country has both a female Prime Minister and a female chief justice. Surely, that ought to be good for women’s rights – things that are dear to my heart.
On the other hand, lighthearted [and yet profound] articles such as this one only serve as a reminder of how far Jamaica has to go to be considered a member of the League of Developed nations!
Therefore, what can one say about Jamaica – aside from regurgitating the economic and social development facts? Well … nothing much, that has not been said already. Ken Chaplin actually manages to sound like a grumpy old East African when he waxes post independence lyrics such as these:
‘In our 50 years of [Jamaica's] Independence … the population has moved from 1,627,414 in 1960 to 2,709, 291 in 2011 … More than one million Jamaicans live below the poverty line of JMD $110,099.56 (US$ 1,241.96)… The area in which the governments have failed miserably is in fuelling economic growth to put more money into social services to meet the population increase. None of the prime ministers since Independence in 1962 were fully able to cope with the economic realities of the time.’
With all due respect, therefore, to my colleagues who would prefer to celebrate the good news, I once again, bring my overall frustration with the tepid development in both Jamaica and many parts of the post independence world. Having lived in both the Third World and many parts of the First One, my overall feeling is that while Princeton New Jersey is as different from Montego Bay as New York is different from Kampala or Nairobi, we ought to juxtapose Kampala, Kingston, Nairobi, Montego Bay with New York, London and even Princeton from two perspectives:
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