Saturday March 15 2014

New law won’t bring patriotism

The government is drafting a law to make patriotism compulsory for all Ugandans. According to Minister for the Presidency who is in charge of the patriotism programme, Frank Tumwebaze, the law will define duties that reflect patriotism. He told Parliament on Wednesday that under the new law, Ugandans will be expected to show patriotism through protecting public resources like roads and fighting corruption.

First of all, this proposed law is unnecessary and futile. Patriotism is not enforced, it’s inculcated in the population. The government can achieve that by delivering on its obligations that make every citizen proud of their country such as a sound economy, good roads, quality education, justice system, freedom and democracy, improved livelihoods, etc. In the absence of these key things, no amount of lectures or severity of laws will make people patriotic.

Besides, patriotism is not measurable, it’s a matter of mental perception. How will the government measure the amount of patriotism it has achieved under the programme?
Since its introduction about three years ago, the programme has been consuming billions of shillings of taxpayer’s money but government cannot show how much patriotism has been achieved.

Minister Tumwebaze’s claim that protecting public resources like roads and fighting corruption is a sign of patriotism is amorphous and bizarre. These are things done every day by right thinking people world-over. They are not a measure of patriotism. They just show good character. To have a good character does not require a law.
In addition, the current patriotism programme has no defined syllabus. Instead children are subjected to training in paramilitary skills and gun handling, which might even inculcate a mentality of violence among the youth. The teachers are mainly soldiers.

Such an arrangement cannot deliver the desired patriotism. If the government wants to teach patriotism, let there be a defined course outline incorporated into the school syllabus, showing what will be taught and by trained teachers, not military men.
Subjects like civics or political education can be reinstated in schools as it used to be the case. We don’t need a law or paramilitary training for patriotism.