OPINION: Patriotism! A tool for manipulation

Asimiire Ritah Biirabo is the executive director of Equality Mission Uganda.

Asimiire Ritah Biirabo is the executive director of Equality Mission Uganda (PHOTO/Courtesy).

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

Patriotism, as we all identify it with the passionate love one has for their country is a virtue that pushes citizens to work for their country selflessly and make it better. Moreover, it helps in building the nation stronger.

A truly developed country is made up of true patriots. In other words, patriotism means keeping the country’s interest first and this can be specifically seen during times of conflict.

Usually, we refer to our country as “our motherland”. This further proves that we must have the same love for our country as we have for our mothers.

After all, our country is no less than a mother; it nurtures us and helps us grow. Everyone must possess the virtue of patriotism as it makes it better.

When everyone works for the betterment of the country, there would be no conflict of interest. Thus, a happier environment will prevail, and after that, peace and harmony will be maintained. In short, patriotism does have great importance in developing the country.

It is intended to eliminate any selfish and harmful motives which in turn lessen corruption, a long term bridge to faster development.

If the one randomly rams into a full parliamentary seating and asked every other parliamentarian to sing the last two stanzas of the Ugandan National Anthem, it is unfortunate that Uganda would lose two thirds of the large number of parliamentarians, if not all.

On the contrary, the number that would recite the different manifestos, slogans and mottoes of their respective parties would be a handful.

As NRM, passes with “prosperity for all”, we shall have NUP come up with the different songs talking about “removing a dictator”, UPC will relish their history in Uganda’s independence as DP will table their long-living history in Uganda’s politics as the oldest party.

The idea of patriotism has got more than just politics, for it includes but is not limited to feelings of love, devotion, and sense of attachment to one’s country. This attachment can be a combination of many different feelings, language relating to one’s own homeland, including ethnic, cultural, political or historical aspects.

Just like our politicians are willing to sacrifice so much for the political virtues than they do for the country. It is sad that they will sacrifice anything and everything only to attain political seats. So, would one stop loving their country when the political virtues are broken and no more?

According to Theodore Roosevelt’s view of patriotism, “Patriotism means to stand by the country. It doesn’t mean to stand by the president.” how then does one weigh oneself when measuring one’s level of patriotism? Are you patriotic or simply ideologically passionate?

Many times we have mixed up our political inclinations for patriotism, whereby one believes that without their political party, preferred candidate and position, Uganda is not significant anymore and is predestined.

Occasionally, we get scenarios where a certain individual or group of people say to foreign investors not to invest in Uganda on account of contradicting with the ruling party 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 ridiculous salaries in parliament if investors are not given chance to carryout businesses 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 their 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?

For a patriot’s determination is develop their motherland regardless of who is in authority; they will do all it takes to come to blows for a common good for the whole country.

A shady member of the ruling party is the same as a member of the opposition tirelessly 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.
Lack of patriotism in Uganda is not surprising; it starts from our homes and schools.

Our education curriculum has been praising “the white man” for too long, we were and are still being taught that speaking English is a measure of aptitude and astuteness, that hanging valleys and black forests of Switzerland have the best scenery on earth.

Amazing how they do not talk about the hills of Kabale, Kapchorwa, kisoro, among others. A generation that goes through such an education system will find it hard to be a patriot because consciousness 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 and this will instills a sense of patriotism and a sense of belonging to a community, these symbols are representations of what the country believes in.

As a country, we need to prioritize good recompense to those who sacrifice to serve Uganda. Our doctors and 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 millions a month while a doctor who works 24 hours saving lives gets only driblets of money.

This incongruity needs correction otherwise we create mercenaries rather than patriots ready to take Uganda to another level economically.

We do not have to travel to different places to look for greener pastures, because the pastures here are greener than we can imagine.

Thinking that Ugandans don’t differentiate between party allegiance and Patriotism, would therefore give one the impression that many Ugandan politicians use patriotism as a tool for manipulation.

The writer, Asimiire Ritah Biirabo is the executive director of Equality Mission Uganda.


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