What role to do I have to play in transforming Uganda from a predominantly peasant low-income country to a strong middle income country by 2040? What’s my responsibility in ensuring Uganda remains a safe place? What is my role in safeguarding Uganda’s natural resources?
These questions have been running through my mind for the past days since I attended the Transformational Leadership Development Course for government communication officers at National Leadership Institute(NALI) inKyankwanzi. Pondering these questions has led me to embark on a journey of self-discovery, a journey of appreciation, a journey of hope.
See, like many educated Ugandans, I speak ‘good English’ and attended what one may describe as the right schools. I like to talk about western politics with that all familiar hint of admiration and spend hours lamenting about the failures of our government. We love to play the blame game, don’t we?
How often has a Ugandan smugly picked out that expensive product made in the UK amidst a maze of Ugandan made ones? The excuse is something aboutfreedom of choice and the Ugandan product not being any good. Never mind that they have never tried it. The same person finds time to complain about why Uganda has “even failed to manufacture matches”. Never mind that Uganda manufactures matches, thank you very much.
As educated Ugandans we very often speak without concrete information. A quick voyage around twitter will reveal this attitude in all its ignorant glory. We occasionally speak of the needs of ‘Omuntu wa wansi’ and blame the government for not catering for their needs. Yet, how many have read the current the National Development Plan (NDP) and past NDPs that should be our guide to whether the State is delivering or not? The NDP sets the broad direction for the country and sets key objectives and targets upon which one could use to assess the performance of the country.
We would have more productive discussions if, regardless of political affiliation, we spoke from a point of knowledge. Knowledge we can acquire quickly by simply perusing a plan, a report, a book, a speech etc. Knowledge, which - thanks to technology - is usually just a click away.
In the words of Maj Gen Kasura-Kyomukama, the director of NALI, we suffer from secondary ignorance which he describes as “Not knowing that one doesn’t know’’.
It sounds harsh, doesn’t it? See, I went to NALI expecting the stereotypical “Muchakamuchaka” experience. Anticipating to roll in the mud and shoot an AK47 rifle. It, however, turned out to be a fully immersive intellectual experience, with some military drills in the mix of course. The weeks I spent at the institute taught me a profound lesson; that humbling yourself at the face of truth is the beginning of learning. Our lack of knowledge put us at a disadvantage because we are unable to correctly interpret the things around us.
How can one comprehend the present and future of Uganda, for example, whilst they know only little of our history beyond what was taught in school?
Possibly if we try to understand the geography of the country, weshall look at things from a different perspective.
It’s sad that my generation has been blessed with an opportunity of endless information and yet we whirl in the sea of misinformation and argument driven by opinions and not facts.
Ultimately, I want to become a better Ugandan who is motivated bysacrifice and patriotic commitment to my country. Patriotism doesn’t mean undying devotion to a political party. Patriotism is the person in power proposing to contribute to building a road in Congo because of clear economic and geo-political reasons. Patriotism is the person on the other side of the isle taking time to appreciate those motives and making an informed contribution that takes Uganda forward. Boisterously screaming “taxpayers’ money” will only create an echo chamber of inconsequential noise.
At NALI, I learnt that like salvation, mind-set change is a journey. . I am ready to unlearn and learn.
MsAngella Ndagano is a communications officer at the National Information Technology Authority.