Friday March 21 2014

You can’t force patriotism on citizens

One’s devotion to their country cannot be coerced. Indeed affection for any object must flow freely from an informed appreciation of such an object. Therefore, contemplating a legislation to enhance patriotism is futile.

Rather, in Uganda’s case, concerted effort is required to cultivate a culture in which everyone acknowledges validity of each other’s stake in the country’s wellbeing. Fostering the spirit of mutual inclusion will inspire citizens to visualise a rewarding common destiny to strive for, each contributing within their ability.

It should be remembered that Uganda was created primarily for material imperial gains. It’s architects gave scanty regard to interests of inhabitants of lands they consolidated within imaginary political boundaries for optimal exploitation. This has made for a rocky union, more than 50 years of which we have now been under self-rule.

Imperialists exploited Uganda’s rich ethnic diversity too, often playing communities against each other. Core to indigenous identity, ethnicity became a tool for alienation and kept patriotism from taking root. Regrettably, seeds of ethnic mistrust planted then still flourish while those of patriotism sown at the dawn of self-rule fell mostly on rocky patches, sprouted but soon withered away; precious few stalks that stood on fertile grounds have since been devoured by corruption. Undeniably, therefore, “grafting” and nurturing patriotism in Uganda is a worthy cause. Success should guarantee the country a fruitful course and would help establish sound foundations upon which future generations, especially, could realise their individual potentials and the country’s, to meritoriously take proud places alongside progressive peoples and societies.

During the 1972 Munich Olympics, John Akii-Bua was applauded universally when he raced away in the finals of the 400-meter hurdles, finishing in record time. Akii-Bua’s feat – and compatriot Stephen Kiprotich’s winning marathon run at the 2012 London Games – and the infinite pride they earned for and stirred in Ugandans show what folly it would be to set a standard bar for everyone, hoping for excellence and the honours it invariably yields. And, endearing country to citizens need not entail bulging budgets, lest the scheme is mistaken for just another to fleece the country.

Russell Moro,