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We could use a State of Soul Nation address

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Emilly C. Maractho (PhD)

Every year, we listen intently to State of the Nation Address. Well, some of us. President Museveni knows this thing and he fortunately skips the most dull moments. You still manage to get entertained and educated. 

We hear of the achievements of Uganda, the many things we have done well and are going to do even better. Taking stock of a year is not easy. Still, the President gives us ordinary people a good sense of the things we are enjoying under his good leadership. I will not bore you readers with things of the generals. I know how to leave matters of generals to the generals. 

As the President carried on with his address last week, it occurred to me that we could add to this address, a different kind. What if in addition to State of the Nation Address, we had an annual Soul of the Nation address? This could be presided over by the Chief Justice and given by the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda. 

There is the real stuff we see such as roads, the completion of dams that people in West Nile desperately need to be connected to the national grid, factories we commission every year, Kira motors supposedly doing incredible things, income, taxes and so on. 

Quite frankly, it is easy to see where the changes have been. And even easier to see how far we still have to travel and all the missed opportunities, lost to different things. 

Under Soul of the Nation address, we could capture things like those of us who need a lot of prayers to be forgiven. Talking of matters of the generals.  

We can also give the Anti-Homosexuality Act along with all the troubled souls now suffering because of it a special hearing chaired by the Speaker of Parliament, to collect grievances and anecdotes of all the leaders of Uganda persecuted for passing a law that is so badly needed, in fact by all Africans.

Cultural imperialism is real, so we can be sympathetic to these groups. After all, in the Soul of the Nation address, we can look at all our problems collectively, and see how to bear one another’s burden as instructed.

All the suffering citizens of Uganda unhappy with corruption, unemployment, inequality, poor services, and just plain ungratefulness can bring their petitions to the Leader of Opposition. Misery loves company as they say.  All those people who sabotage our national development with their foreign agents too need special sessions. This section would be the most interesting and bring in quite some characters. We can use these people as our whipping posts for a while.  

I once heard a story told by a preacher, about a man who had a difficult job and horrible bosses. He also had a beautiful family – a wife and children. Every day, after a difficult time at work, the man returned home. Before entering the house, he would go to the large oak tree behind his house, and whip the tree till all the tension in his head had melted away. By the time he enters the house, he is the loving husband and father his children deserve. He literally, hanged his bad brakes on the large oak tree. 

When I heard that story, it made me think of how many of us just need a whipping post in life. And many leaders find whipping posts to explain their shortfalls away. It can always be that individual or institution. It is much easier to find a whipping post than to own up to or take responsibility for our failings. So many of us indeed focus on finding those whipping posts so that we remain clean and continue to look good.

The proposed state of the soul address could give us good pointers on what whipping posts we are using. We could develop Mabira forest into a national centre for whipping our problems with special corners. I know, cynicism can only undermine our good fortunes, but when you see the magnitude of careless talk and thoughtless actions, it seems inevitable that cynicism will follow us most days of our lives. 

If you doubt the need for this address, consider some interesting things Parliament has been preoccupied with in recent times. From the Anti-Homosexuality Act that was presented as the biggest crisis of our times, the Alcohol Consumption Bill, service awards, sanctions, etcetera. Then you know that we are becoming a nation in soul searching.  A State of the Soul address could help. We could decentralise that and have a national district state of soul address. Just like national planning, it would give us a good picture and the real state of our nation. 

Ms Maractho (PhD) is an academic.                                                
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