Government should rethink better on patriotism

Government should rethink better on patriotism
David Mafabi


President Museveni flanked by security minister Amama Mbabazi has commissioned many secondary teachers and students in Uganda into cadres of patriotism.

In bid to boost up teaching of partriotism, government also asked for Shs. 3.5 billion in the coming financial year to teach partriotism across the country [Daily Monitor 21 April].

For those who have lived in these times, since 1986, you could have seen Museveni undergo political metamorphosis. As a student, later a revolutionary, Museveni never believed in democracy with all its democratic processes and structures, he was purely a Marxist but now he advances capitalism something he least believed in and has started preaching patriotism.

Although he espoused ideals that represented the interests of the proletariat; comradeship is what they preached and never at any one time did they preach patriotism.

The country thus lost out the opportunity to act together as one to redress the mistakes committed by the former regimes as lack of patriotism, sectarianism and tribalism that ate up the old regimes were adored by the new rulers in masks.

But now 23 years down the road with Marxism buried, many of the bush cadres dead or a spent force, the comradeship spirit dead and confronted with new political and economic realities which are creating a new force of intellectuals opposed to him within the party itself, Museveni has now started grappling with patriotism to attempt to ameliorate the steadily decreasing political support with increasing opposition within the party.

In Mbale Museveni urged the teachers ‘Patriots’ to besides teaching learners about rats, frogs and cockroaches to teach children also about Uganda and patriotism.

Although the teachers were taught as talking points for government; Basic introduction to patriotism, Cadreship and methods of work, Evolution of humans by a team led by Security Minister Amama Mbabazi, many of them could not differentiate Patriotism from ‘NRMism’ as they kept singing;

“No change, fourth term, we shall stand by you in big numbers come 2011”

In as much as I expected the president to speak about patriotism, instill the spirit amongst the teachers, he kept talking about NRM and telling the “patriots” that his long stay in power was in fulfillment of the national demands.

True, we need patriotism; it is a matter that requires urgent national and multiparty consensus in order to put in place the most appropriate topics that would re-initiate patriotism amongst our people but to market our party as we justify our long stay in power and to instill fanatical and vociferous support for the ruling government is wrong. We can do better than this?

When I asked one teacher about patriotism, I was disillusioned to recognise that there are still Ugandans who either think exactly like Museveni about patriotism or have not moved an inch from thinking that good governance and democracy reside in president Museveni and NRM party.

Take it leave it, we are not going to instill patriotism in any Ugandan as long as we call workshops to cover up NRM government failures by pre-occupying ourselves with self-praises and unreasonable, unrealistic condemnation of the past regimes without addressing patriotism itself.

The socio-political reality today is that the ruling government is patronizing over a regime of serious rising impoverishment of Uganda in terms of moral, ethical, social, political, cultural and economic development; should Ugandan burry their heads in sand like the proverbial ostrich for purposes of patriotism? and can patriotism be preached, embraced amidst these vices?

Scholar James Bryce says: “Our country is not the only thing to which we owe our allegiance.  It is also owed to justice and to humanity. Patriotism consists not in waving the flag, but in striving that our country shall be righteous as well as strong” 

Unless our conception of patriotism is progressive, is all inclusive without inclination to political affiliation, has the element of humanity with no hatred or bitterness towards anyone, respect for human rights, equal justice before the law, it cannot hope to embody the real affection and the real interest of the nation.

What do we mean by patriotism in the context of our times? I venture to suggest that what we mean is a sense of national responsibility … a patriotism which is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, one not bent on marketing fourth term and seeing Mr. Museveni as the only man with a vision for Uganda but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.

But when a few teachers ‘now patriots’ selected from the ruling party supporters announce fourth term for president Museveni in the name of patriotism, it is not only unpatriotic and servile, but morally treasonable to all Ugandans of sound mind.

French Phisolosopher Montesquieu remarked: “If I knew something that would serve my country but would harm mankind, I would never reveal it; for I am a citizen of humanity first and by necessity, and a citizen of France second, and only by accident” I think this is where we ought to be.

Each man must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, which course is patriotic and which isn’t.  You cannot shirk this and be a man.  To decide against your conviction is to be an unqualified and excusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let men label you as they may but don’t allow them to rob you of respect and dignity by deciding for you your own destiny.

In bid to revive patriotism in Uganda, let us answer the following questions; who should be involved? Find the input of our academic institutions of higher learning? And above all strive to find a comprehensive and well-thought-out input from everyone in Uganda irrespective of his political affiliation, class and sex.

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