The Minister for Presidency, Hon. Frank Tumwebaze last week stated that the government is coming up with a law that will introduce compulsory patriotism training for all Ugandans with the aim of reminding them their duties and responsibilities as citizens. A statement which has been received with a lot of criticism from Ugandans from all walks of life including me but from a different perspective.
To start with, patriotism is the love for one’s country/community or society. whether taught or not taught, a country deserves patriots to always be there for it when it comes to times of national crisis for example terrorist attacks and when in times of happiness like celebrating olympic gold(s) milestone and sports. And not being there in only times of happiness(The direction most Ugandans have taken).
If Hon. Tumwebaze’s version of patriotism lies under the armpits of nationalism, reminding the citizens there duties and responsibilities to the state, then am fully in support of that new development.
The mindset some Ugandans are having that patriotism cannot be taught is totally pedestrian. I believe that if someone can be taught (by society) to hate others, then someone can also be taught/reminded to love his country/society.
Well a section of Ugandans are arguing that some societies have not taught patriotism to their subjects and its actually being achieved. Here in Uganda, the Baganda(as a society) are the best example. They have extraordinarily shown allegiance to the Kabaka and the Kingdom of Buganda in their activities. They have been together when the Kasubi tombs were burnt, the pride they show when singing all stanzas of the Buganda anthem, the voluntary contributions to the kingdom activities, they attend all kingdom activities voluntarily in big numbers sometimes making me wish I was a Muganda (due to lack of extreme patriotism as a Ugandan) a thing I wish could be extended to the whole country. How Buganda has achieved that, am yet to learn.
I keep praying that should be reflected in whole Ugandan state but such allegiance to the nation by all sections of citizens has proved to be challenging to be achieved nationally which I believe is due to factors some which include;
The political history of Uganda. Uganda as a state is not more than sixty years old and perhaps we don’t have a rich history to appreciate our culture as citizens. On the other hand, The Divide and Rule colonial project led to the “unbalanced distribution of powers’ to the different regions. The special recognition of Buganda Kingdom at the time of independence naturally made it think its far better than the other regions.
The poor governance history of Uganda. All governments in Uganda after independence came into power as a result of coups and have never appreciated works of previous governments. This coupled with corruption which according to the EA Bribery Index by Transparency International, Uganda remains the most corrupt nation in East Africa for almost the last five years. This has made Ugandans lose trust in the governments (who in this sense are unpatriotic) and consequently losing interest in state affairs which are political in nature.
Therefore, Ugandans have historically never shown allegiance to the state. It is clearly evident that most Ugandans do not even know all the stanzas of the national anthem, we like associating ourselves with products from other countries, we don’t support even our local football teams, we don’t stand out to complain about the corruption of our leaders, the leaders themselves not being exemplary by indulging themselves in series of vicious cycles of corruption, among others have shown that we lack the love for our country.
Thus, if the government comes up and says they want to teach patriotism to the citizens to promote unity as ugandans, I find it nothing wrong with it.
The government has over the last five years tried to introduce patriotism clubs in different schools around the country mainly targeting the youth who are the custodians of this country’s future. Last year I happened to be among the pioneer university students to undergo a one month patriotism training course at the Non-Commissioned Officers Academy in Jinja under the theme “Training In Patriotism For Social Transformation & Modernisation”
Besides the course being interactive, I happened to have learnt more on my country as I was given chance to do which I did not get anywhere in classrooms I have been to since childhood for example, All the anthems we subscribe to as a state, thoroughly appreciate the concept of constitutionalism, meet different high profile government officials(hearing from the elders) and generally fulfilling my duties and obligations to the state as a citizen under article 17 of the 1995 Constitution Of the Republic Of Uganda.
China and Singapore are some of the countries which have taught patriotism to there citizens right from childhood. This has made the citizens more willing to ensure social harmony and responsibilities important perhaps explaining why they are not winning corruption gold medals like Uganda. In USA, the love they have for the state symbols for example the national flag, the emblems, monuments and the pride they have while singing there anthem is really symbolic which is the direct opposite in Uganda. So if such countries can achieve teaching patriotism in classrooms, then why can’t Uganda also embrace such developments?
Perhaps the teaching of teaching patriotism will only become a problem if the current government wants to use this opportunity for political patronage.
We have seen the ruling government being brutal against the opposition politicians. The Kampala Lord Mayor and Dr. Kiiza Besigye are the biggest “beneficiaries” of this treatment. Therefore for the government to ensure that this concept of patriotism is embraced by all citizens, a few questions must be answered to the citizens.
Who is to carry out the implementation?. If the answer is the government and not all figures in Uganda’s politics including the opposition members, then it raises more criticisms. First this is because by many government officials who will preach patriotism, are considered unpatriotic by the masses because of the rampant corruption. On the other hand, with the ongoing intolerence of the opposition, there is a likelihood of bias by the different opposition politicians
What is going to be taught?. If the answer is the political history, duties of citizens to the nation(not NRM), torelence of all opinions whether FDC or NRM and all ways of being a responsible citizen, they are welcome. If it is vice verser, then I must say this is another platform going to be used by the ruling government to ‘recruit’ new faithfuls in a more efficient and effective way compared to the ongoing patriotism clubs running.
Who/Where is going to be taught?. Is it going to be taught in the NRM caucuses or schools and universities. The idea of patriotism is best taught to young citizens as they are considered the next leaders of the country.
Hence if the government is able to answer such questions to the Ugandans, I find myself willing to embrace once more that training once more and all other Ugandans to effectively be used to be patriotic to the nation because we are lagging behind on the issue of patriotism to the neighbouring countries for example Rwanda and Kenya.
If i may put back the question to you, is patriotism in Uganda a myth or reality?
FOR GOD AND MY COUNTRY