So, are you proud to be Ugandan? By FREDRICK GOLOOBA-MUTEBI | Tuesday, January 3 2012 at 13:58
As Uganda turns 50, we are presented with an immense opportunity to reflect on future with optimism.”
This exhortation to citizens appeared in one of Uganda’s dailies. It followed interviews with a cross-section of Ugandans about what they feel towards their country.
Were they proud to be Ugandans? Some answered in the affirmative.
They are proud to be Ugandans, they said, because “people are hospitable,” “God has blessed us with a beautiful environment,” “Uganda is endowed with natural resources,” “it has rich flora and fauna and the great lakes,” “it is independent of the former colonial powers,” “it is one of the few countries where you can get fresh food that is not genetically modified.” Some, though, dissented, feeling “there is nothing to celebrate.”
Their reasons for not being in celebratory mood included what one might call the failings of the post-colonial period, among them the poor state of the country’s infrastructure, continuing political intolerance, and high levels of poverty.
The concentration by those who claimed to be proud Ugandans on the country’s natural endowments as the reason for their pride and the exclusive focus by those who begged to differ on political and policy failures raises a question worthy of consideration: What should be the basis of one’s attitude towards the country one was born in or that which they have chosen to adopt as their own?
As I pondered this question on a lazy, post -Christmas afternoon, I ambushed a relative, a professor of law teaching outside Uganda. “Are you proud to be Ugandan?” She responded, knee-jerk style: “Yes, I am proud to be Ugandan.” Why? “I don’t know why.
I cannot explain it; I am just proud to be Ugandan.”
Shame towards motherland
After a moment’s reflection, she added: “But I am not proud of the politics.” Not yet done, I popped another question: “If I asked you to name two things that make you unhappy about Uganda, what would they be?” She was quick to reply: “It’s the filth in Kampala; and the disorder. You can see the disorder on the streets. It feels like a jungle with all the boda bodas and matatus.”
I could not resist putting both questions to her husband whose attitude towards Uganda has always been ambivalent. He minced no words in his response. He would be lying if he said he was proud to be Ugandan, he said. “In fact,” he said, “sometimes I feel ashamed to be one.” Two things made him unhappy about the country of his birth.
First, “Uganda has some of the most enterprising, creative and talented people in the world, but it has very little to show for it.”
He contrasted it with South Africa, which, the crime of apartheid aside, was transformed and turned into a continental power by Afrikaners who left Europe as misfits, vagabonds and criminals and their descendants who endured international sanctions and turned isolation into an opportunity to become self-reliant.
Second, he dislikes the selfishness of his compatriots. He particularly abhors politicians who enrich themselves at the expense of the vast majority of their countrymen and women who vote them into power in the first place.
And then he despairs about two types of other Ugandans: Those who despite being constantly and shamelessly exploited, manipulated and short-changed by politicians, keep voting the same people back into office, as well as those who opportunistically support politicians and political organisations in return for pay-offs. All this combined to induce feelings of shame towards his motherland.
Scourge of corruption
I have always been struck by how those who say they are proud to be Ugandans focus on issues that are neither controversial nor debatable and which are generally far removed from the day-to-day issues exercising the minds of ordinary citizens.
For Now, of course, 14 deaths out of the more than 200 women who survived this life-giving event are, relatively speaking, not too many. That is until one recalls that these are just 14 of thousands of such preventable deaths per year.
Over the same Christmas period, thousands of Ugandans died or sustained permanent injuries as a result of motor vehicle accidents, many of which could have been prevented by more vigilant and upright policing and greater accountability enforcement in road building and repair.
Uganda, it has been reported, has some of the most expensive roads per kilometre built and repaired in the world, with some of the roads falling apart as fast as they are built and repaired.
And then there is the scourge of corruption. While boasting the largest number of corruption-busting bodies in the region, Uganda has arguably the highest rates of graft in high places in the Great Lakes region.
And just as the country prepared for the Christmas holidays, Ugandans learnt that their president had explained his go-slow approach to fighting graft within the ranks of the political party he leads in terms of wishing to preserve cohesion among members. Proud to be Ugandan? It is a difficult thought.example, the day before the conversations I had with my two compatriots, one newspaper reported the death of 14 women in childbirth across Uganda on Christmas Day.
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