A few weeks to the annual celebration of the Uganda Martyrs, groupings of believers commence walks to the site of Namugongo from various parts of the country. Seeing faithfuls of all age groups diligently walking along the highways to celebrate the martyrs is one of the most humbling experiences one can face.
Year in Year out, faithfuls voluntarily undertake this pilgrimage without even being paid money to do so. Infact for the Catholic Church, the format is such that any intending pilgrim needs to register at the church by paying enough money for a trip back home from Namugongo. It is believed that over a million people go through that place during the celebrations.
This zeal is the opposite of what many have termed Ugandans to be. The claims that we cannot be patriotic, we cannot gulvanise under a uniform goal, we are self centered among others are totally demystified by this annual pilgrimage.
Seeing the level of cooperation transcending tribal, religious, socio-economic and political divides, it leaves me to believe that we are genuinely one people.
Recently, when I shared with a group of friends about the patriotism classes that are ongoing in secondary schools, one of the members stated, Patriotism is lived and not just taught in classrooms. We had a debate over this and it is only when I witnessed the pilgrims making their way to Namugongo that I realised the truth in his statement.
In today’s Uganda, the term Patriotism has become a catchword by the political uppercrust that go around preaching water while drinking wine. They labor so much to rally the nation around some common causes but fail miserably most times. Why?
They are not believable. Time and again, they repeatedly rape the mental state of Ugandans and hope to do the same for eternity. This is what makes the very people who walk over three hundred kilometers as pilgrims to ask for money to attend political rallies or even government organised trainings and meetings within their locales.
Have those that labour to spread the patriotism gospel done a self assessment to determine their level of patriotism? You ride around with sirens and force cars already clogged on narrow roads to give way as your security threatens any living organism preventing your progression.
To gauge one’s level of patriotism, it is important that we look at it through the lenses of what is regarded as a true patriot. One should possess an adequate number of the following attributes;
- Love for your country: As a true patriot, you have a deep and genuine love for your country. You are dedicated to its well-being and strive for its progress and prosperity beyond mere personal gain.
- Loyalty and allegiance: As a true patriot you are loyal and devoted to your country. You prioritize the collective interests of your nation over personal gain or ideology. Have you been involved in defrauding public entities? Abusing your office? Wrongfully allocating resources?
- Civic responsibility: As a true patriot you recognize your civic responsibilities and actively participate in the democratic process. You engage in activities such as voting, staying informed, and contributing positively to society. Are you the type that calls politics bullshit or prefers to retain a dumb mindset when politics is being discussed? You do not vote?
- Respect for diversity and unity: As true patriot you respect the diversity within your country and embrace the idea that unity can be achieved through the inclusion and acceptance of different tribes, religions, and political perspectives. Are you violent and combatant when it comes to those with alternate political views? Do you execute your duties while looking at other tribes as underdogs?
- Defense and protection: As a true patriot you should be willing to defend and protect your country from internal and external threats. This can manifest through various means, including military service, advocating for national security, or standing up against injustice and inequality. When you see wrong, do you simply look the otherside? Peasants are rendered homeless by thugs coming as investors, you are a lawyer, do you ever bother to defend them pro-bono?
- Promotion of core values: As a true patriot you uphold and promote the core values that the country stands for, such as; freedom, equality, justice, and human rights. They work towards creating a society that embodies these principles.
- Constructive criticism and accountability: As a true patriot you understand that constructive criticism is essential for the growth and improvement of your country. You hold your leaders accountable for their actions and strive to address any shortcomings or injustices. Even without spurring at the higher government level, do you ever bother to check on the productivity of the Local Government leaders in your district? How is the money they receive from the central government put to use? Do the technocrats execute their duties as expected?
- Community engagement: As a true patriot, you actively engage with your local community, contributing to its development and well-being. You volunteer, support local businesses and participate in activities that foster social cohesion and solidarity. Where do you shop your groceries? Do you join your neighborhood when it comes to restoring the state of failed infrastructure like roads? Do you help out in fundraising for causes?
- Education and awareness: As true patriot, you seek to educate yourself about your country’s history, culture, and challenges. You stay informed about current events and are aware of both the strengths and weaknesses of your nation.
- Peace: As a true patriot, you promote peace and understanding, both within your own country and in international relations. Do you always sound war drums when something is not going right? Do you speak ill of the future of your country and its people?
It is time to learn from these believers who annually undertake that pilgrimage and faithfully repeat the action year after year. If the Government ever wants patriotism to take root, it has to start by ensuring that the leadership is exemplary. You need to be known by good works. Amidst all the hard times going on, you cannot decide to spend 1 Million Shillings daily dressing the President when rural health centers lack delivery beds, drugs, basic medical equipment among others.
It is time we reviewed the lenses with which Patriotism is addressed in this country because it has to cease being biased towards appeasing the reigning political dispensation and instead getting formatted according to overarching non politically biased principles. That is when the true goodness and unifying nature of Ugandans shall dawn upon us all.
Business & Technology Consultant