FARUK KIRUNDA: There is hope for Patriotism revival in Uganda

I have seen clips of very cheerful students undergoing Patriotism trainings in some schools with a lot of optimism. What foregoing generations of school goers missed at that formative age is a reality of the present generation. They have a chance to be imparted with ideals of thinking and working for the general good as opposed to the self, and growing up as value-added citizens for national interest.

Students of Sseke Secondary School in Lwengo, Bweranyangi Girls SSS in Bushenyi and St. John S.S in Lyantonde, among others, will never be the same again, not forgetting Kitebi Secondary School in Rubaga Division, Kampala, where President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni launched the National Patriotism Environmental Protection campaign on April 19.

The concept of Patriotism features prominently in the President’s speeches as he awakens citizens to cherish the gift of being Ugandan, working for Uganda and if need be, dying for Uganda. As an iconic Patriot himself and a champion of the gospel of Patriotism, Uganda is undergoing a Patriotism rebirth or revival!

The general definition of “Patriotism” is “A feeling of love and devotion to one’s country.” It’s also known as “Nationalism”.
Anybody can be a citizen of a country but it’s a different thing to be a Patriot. Uganda has around 45million citizens but how many of those would qualify to be called Patriots? What would a census of patriots show? Chances are, we are more citizens than patriots and it’s high time every citizen graduated to become a patriot.

President Museveni has diagnosed that part of Uganda’s problems are rooted in deficiency of patriotism, and rightly so! Unpatriotic people holding us back despite the sacrifices others have made.

A Patriot doesn’t segregate people with sectarian lenses. For a patriot, all Ugandans are equal and deserving of respect and service. A patriot doesn’t see people and judge them based on tribes or religion or backgrounds or political line of thinking. All those practicing sectarianism are certainly not patriots. Uganda is a sizeable country with a teeming population. If we all looked at one another as brothers and sisters, we would progress faster together. Our human resource would translate into a capital pool of motivated citizens working for national transformation.

Unfortunately, we still have citizens thinking inwardly, towards their kinsmen as the only people worth considering. That is wrong. Tribalism is a bad cancer but easy to cure if people look more towards what is good for Uganda rather than what is good for a small group.

Small groups are inherently weak and unrecognisable. For instance, if in seeking leadership rather than galvanise people around national causes one uses tribal rhetoric and speaks for the interests of a few select people, how can they possible win majority support when other groups see themselves excluded? That’s why President Museveni has remained dominant on the national stage-he knows the value of promoting and marketing national interests and pushing for unity. Many times, he wins more support from areas other than his own backyard in Ankole, like Karamoja.

His opponents are rejected because they sell sectarian ideas which are very hazardous for our young nations, and which have had catastrophic consequences in our region. Uganda bled to near death because of faulty politics which did not take into account of the new dispensation of a republic encompassing peoples of various ethnic backgrounds. If there is anything which the colonialists did right was forming tribal chiefdoms into nations, even unilaterally, thereby introducing the colonised persons to the concept of unity in diversity. It was a good idea for people of different ethnicities being brought together into functional statehood with unitary leadership as opposed to having tribal chiefs or kings.

Sixty two years since Uganda became independent, anybody still acting with the “chiefdom” mindset needs a strong dose of Patriotism to fit in the emerging society. When one fails to adjust to change, change changes you forcefully. Leaders must be Patriotic if they are to serve everybody since they must get in contact with people who are not of similar ethnicity.

And with the evil of corruption, all corrupt people are not patriotic. Indeed, Patriotism is a solution to corruption. A Patriot doesn’t engage in stealing public resources or misusing office. When the President urges us to be Patriotic and some people sneer, it means that they want to continue seeing corruption in the country.

By being Patriotic, we serve society better because we put interest of the whole above our own. With Patriotism, we are ready to go the extra mile for the benefit of Ugandans at large. All those medical workers who neglect their duties, teachers absconding from duty, legislators who sign for allowances and leave without attending sessions, those who steal money for roads, leaders extorting from PDM beneficiaries before giving them their Shs1million, rioters destroying public property and criminals of all kinds are unpatriotic.
In short, anybody engaged in acts which impede national wellbeing and progress are unpatriotic.

In Patriotism, I see solutions for major challenges of a fast transforming country like Uganda. If we do not live (and die) for Uganda, who will, Americans or Vietnamese? Pan-Africanism-if we do not stand, live and be ready to die for Africa, who will?

The Patriotism Secretariat headed by Commissioner Hellen Seku has an important role to play in renewing the love and devotion of Ugandans for their country, tapping the young as well as the old so as to spur a revival of Patriotism as a way to promote responsible citizenship, servant leadership and effective service delivery.

The author is the Deputy Press Secretary to the President of Uganda

Contact: kirundaf2@gmail.com