Are Ugandans Mistaking Party Allegiance For Patriotism?

If you stood at the gate of Uganda’s parliament and told our parliamentarians that whoever cannot sing the 2nd stanza of the National Anthem will lose his/her seat, half of that house may end up with empty chairs.

But if you asked them to recite party slogans, mottoes and principles, many would pass with flying colours. NRM ones will recite the manifesto well, DP will tell you about their history as the oldest party, UPC will relish their history in Uganda’s independence and NUP will sing all stanzas of “Tuliyambala engule”.

The concept of patriotism deals with feelings, attachment and commitment to one’s country above everything else.  Patriotism is love for the country and willingness to sacrifice one’s own good including one’s life for the protection of common liberty, freedom and national culture. It is based on spiritual attachment to the country rather than political virtues being played out in the country. Otherwise what happens if those political virtues are broken? Will you stop loving your country?   

Here are views of other eminent people on patriotism; “Patriotism is conviction that this country is superior to all others because you were born in it” George Bernard Shaw.

‘Patriotism is not a short, frenzied outburst of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime” Adlai Stevenson.

“Patriotism means to stand by the country. It doesn’t mean to stand by the president” Theodore Roosevelt.

As a Ugandan, how do you gauge yourself when measuring your level of patriotism according to these individual’s views? Are you patriotic or simply ideologically passionate? Many times we have mixed up our political inclinations for patriotism, you find someone believing that without his or her political party or preferred candidate, Uganda is not important anymore and is doomed.

We have heard opposition leaders tell foreign investors not to invest in Uganda on account of disagreeing with the ruling National Resistance Movement and yet these leaders have members of parliament who draw monthly salaries from the public coffers. Where do these leaders expect the government to get money to pay their member’s exorbitant salaries in parliament if investors don’t come and set up shop in Uganda and pay taxes?

This is where we have put party allegiance beyond and above national interests, where one forgets that investors not only pay his opposition party members in parliament but also provide jobs to their voters and Ugandans in general. Better still, investors don’t leave the country because another political party has won elections, they stay and continue to pay taxes and employ Ugandans. Why would a politician want jobless Ugandans while campaigning on poverty alleviation slogans?

A patriot will aim at developing his/her motherland no matter who is in power, he/she will fight for a common good for the whole country. A corrupt member of NRM is the same as a NUP member calling on investors not to bring industries in Uganda. One denies Ugandans employment and taxes derived from investors and the other swindles the taxes paid by investors that are supposed to be used to build public goods. They both hinder development and deny citizens employment and better services.  

Uganda has had individuals who steal money from government coffers and invest or keep it out of the country and those who steal from out of the country and invest or at least spend it in Uganda. I will consider the latter as having a sense of patriotism while the former parasites. After all, Europe developed by stealing from other lands and taking the loot home, that is patriotism as well. Unfortunately we tend to come hard on Ugandans who steal from out and bring the loot home under some international laws and agreements yet we take long to recover (if we do at all) any monies stolen from here and kept in western capitals.  

As a country, failing to enforce laws banning polythene bags (Kaveera) has demonstrated lack of patriotism. This failure at institutional level has created dangerous levels of environmental degradation, indiscipline and impunity. A Ugandan driving a Shs200m car will unashamedly throw an empty bottle of mineral water out of the car window. The amount of kaveera and plastic bottle trash in Kampala’s drainage systems clearly shows our very low levels of patriotism. We are totally oblivious of our responsibility to love and protect the only country that gave us life.

“Ëmpitsi yowanyu, ekuryanekurundarunda” is a Kinyankore/Kikiga proverb that means a hyena that knows you will devour you with some respect. As a developing country, Uganda will present any citizen with a lot of challenges from joblessness, poor healthcare and low pay even where one has the job but the most important aspect is that Uganda is home. Besides, as citizens, we are also obliged to do something for the country for her to return the love. Hence patriotism is a two way traffic, that the more love and affection one accords to a country, the more love and affection the country returns. 

This is what German born US senator Mr Carl Schurz said when he was scolded on the Senate floor as too willing to criticize his adopted country “My country, right or wrong: if right, to be kept right; if wrong, to be set right.”. In other words Mt Schurz was saying that a patriot must be caring enough for one’s country to try and correct it when it goes astray. But government haters abuse and trash their own country as a shithole or banana republic, (derogatory and racist words coined by Europeans and Americans), they make bizarre comparisons elevating countries whose citizens run here to seek shelter, food and safety as better than Uganda just to satisfy their delusions of grandeur.

But lack of patriotism in Uganda is not surprising, it starts from our homes and schools. Our education curriculum has been praising colonisers for too long, we were taught that lake Nalubaale (Victoria) was discovered by John Speke, that speaking English is a measure of intelligence, that Canadian prairies whose agricultural products we never see or eat are best farmers and that hanging valleys and black forests of Switzerland have the best scenery on earth, much better than Kisoro. A product of this education system will find it hard to be a patriot because his/her psyche is damaged.

However, ironically, we can reverse this problem through education by having all school programs start with all three stanzas of the national anthem at all levels. The first thirty minutes of class are dedicated to Ugandan symbols and flags at primary level. This instils a sense of patriotism and a sense of belonging to a community, these symbols are representations of what the country believes in.

Organize pupil visits to national monuments and their historic value and expose them to role models to look up to. The heroics of Yvonne Namaganda, should be taught to Ugandan children to create heroes out of them, teach the rich heritage Uganda possess from the kingdoms that formed the country, stories of Abaseveni (7th battalion) of King’s African Rifles that fought in World War 2 and Uganda’s struggle for independence.

As a country, we need to prioritize good remuneration to those who sacrifice to serve Uganda. Our Doctors should not fail to educate another Doctor, teachers should not wallow in poverty and veterans retire into homelessness. It does not make patriotic sense for a member of parliament to work three days a week and earn forty millions a month while a doctor who works 24 hours saving lives gets three million shillings. This anomaly needs correction otherwise we create mercenaries rather than patriots ready to take Uganda to another level economically.    

Many Ugandans who live abroad have opted for duo citizenship and for a good reason. And yet for us who are still here abuse Uganda as if we have an alternative. Lucky Dube sung thus ``The grass is greener on the other side till you get there and see for yourself”. Africa is the fastest growing continent, for me, the grass is greener here in Uganda and Africa.