UG@51:Happy anniversary to patriots, pseudo-patriots, non-patriots, traitors, etc
Posted Sunday, October 13 2013 at 01:00
An anniversary such as independence, however contested that word tends to be in the so-called Third World (what a denigrating phrase), gets many people all gooey declaring how we are one.
#WeAreOne. Kenyans think they are. At least the Kenyan media do. To that hashtag in a bit.
National days are not just days for the re-enactment of state ritual. They are also days for patriots to yet again declare their patriotism. I suspect Mr Wole Soyinka would have a word on that – as in tigers proclaiming their tigritude.
I have never been sure whether I am a patriot. Look, I am not one to ever declare, even in passing, that I will die for Uganda. I am suspicious of people who want to die for that sort of thing.
They are dangerous extremists. They should be in an asylum somewhere, not roaming amongst the rest of us. They need help.
If I were in the army and the Tanzanians attacked like they did in 1979 and my superiors ordered me to the frontline, I would go out of a sense of duty. That, however, would not preclude a decision to be a conscientious objector - somehow.
Uganda has experienced more turmoil than most countries in the world. I have not done any research, but I find most Ugandans would rather kill for tribe than for country. Killing for tribe is still a terrible, terrible idea.
The one reason I love Uganda, although I would not kill for it or for my tribe for that matter, is that I know of no set of people who routinely bad-mouth their country.
That must be liberating in a rather perverse way. Take the oil thing. Uganda is yet to start export of oil since commercial quantities were found in 2006. Ghana found their commercial quantities in 2007 and started exporting crude in December 2010.
Listen to Ugandans and you would think hell is here. Because Ghana moved quickly to start export of crude (which is incidentally offshore unlike Uganda’s and therefore poses fewer socio-economic and technological challenges) as opposed to refining, some Ugandans think we are idiots for taking our time even if that time is being spent working on the legal and regulatory mechanisms and training people. If it were a different country taking as long as Uganda, Ugandans would be berating themselves for having rushed yet there was no reason to. Much of this idiocy is driven by sheer ignorance of the industry. That is okay since nobody says ignorance has ever stopped a Ugandan mouthing off.
I still like Ugandans for going off at the mouth and the keyboard and the touchscreen even if I would not die for them as a collective.
Mr Museveni realises how fickle some of us are regarding patriotism, hence the reason he came up with the utterly bone-headed idea of patriotism clubs in schools – mchakamchaka having come up short.
Hey, Mr President, how I feel about Uganda cannot be decided by presidential fiat. It is complicated, Mr President. That is what we say on Facebook, which I suppose you know about from your grandbabies. Or from the patriots at Uganda Communications Commission.
Whatever. We Are One. The Kenyans proclaimed after the Westgate attack last month. I can understand the government heading headstrong in that direction. But the media!
#WeAreOne was a hashtag dominating the set of one of the Kenyan TV stations, complete with repeated playing of the national anthem. I switched to cartoons.
Not that I have no empathy. I simply reject empty patriotic gestures, especially when played out in such a way that everyone must agree. Why proclaim unity and patriotism only in adversity or in times of immense uncertainty? Why not unity in diversity always?
These paroxysms of unity, starting with the last elections, are no good for the Kenyan media. It does not help Kenyan unity long term when the media become an appendage of the state in times of national anxiety and stop asking even the most basic of questions. The Kenyan media are guilty of over-learning the lessons of 2007/2008.
After we were slaughtered on July 11, 2010, I never saw any Ugandan media outlet engaged in that sort of pointless embrace of the flag. I like Ugandans’ sense of subversion. Maybe we are on the road to being a truly free and great country in all our glorious kavuyo.
Belated Happy 51st Uhuru Anniversary to us all – patriots, pseudo-patriots, non-patriots. “Traitors” too.
Mr Tabaire is a media consultant with the African Centre for Media Excellence. firstname.lastname@example.org