Message To Museveni: Patriotism Begins At Home
Patriotism is not ordered. It is not what a President can instill; rather, it is what a President should practice so citizens can follow. Look at Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Julius Nyerere of Tanzania. You Sir, are no patriot.
In the past few weeks Uganda’s president Yoweri Museveni has demanded that Ugandans be "patriotic" and even blamed people who oppose his views as "unpatriotic."
Mr. President, I believe you don’t know what patriotism means.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines patriotism as "love for or devotion to one's country" and the Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English defines patriotism as "having or expressing a great love of your country."
Neither definition includes "love" for a president, a king, a queen or the political party that runs the county.
You grew up in Ankole and speak Runyankole. I do not know what patriotism means in the languages that you speak. But I am pretty sure that the meaning is the same in any language under the sun.
Mr. President patriots love their country first and foremost even if they do not love the president of the country. Patriots work hard to save their country from exploitative, corrupt and distrustful leaders. Patriots do not kill fellow citizens, put them in internment camps, and exploit their natural resources including land, forest, environment and mineral resources. Patriots want to see the country safe and sustainable for the generations that follow.
On the other hand, I know who is unpatriotic.
It’s someone who bans political parties for years, as you did, while operating your own. Being unpatriotic means arresting, exiling and jailing opposition leaders like you did in Uganda.
Being unpatriotic means signing secret deals with oil and mineral prospectors to come and mine oil, gold and other minerals like you have done in Hoima and Amuru districts in Uganda. Being unpatriotic means changing the country’s Constitution to suit your need of wanting to rule the country until death comes and whisks you away.
Similarly Mr. President, being unpatriotic means putting hundreds of people in train wagons in Amakura in Teso and suffocating them to death because you suspected them they were planning to oppose you. Being unpatriotic means forcing people in Bucoro in Acholi sub-region to dig a pit in which they were then buried and then burning them alive inside the pit.
Being unpatriotic means ordering Operation North that saw the killing of close to over 100,000 people, loss of livestock, and properties and a permanent destruction of the region.
Being unpatriotic means arresting area Members of Parliament (MP), flogging and jailing them, so they cannot talk about your atrocities in the region.
Mr. President, patriotism does not mean lying to the rest of the world about the truth about Uganda’s political, social and economic situations.
Being patriotic does not mean invading neighboring countries like Rwanda leading to the genocide that occurred there and aiding the death of two presidents when a presidential jet was shot down.
Being patriotic does not mean invading Congo-Zaire, looting their minerals and being found guilty by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and yet not being able to pay for your crimes assessed at $10 billion.
Being patriotic does not mean forcefully taking sons and daughters of Ugandan men and women to go to Congo and come back home with Ebola virus which later kills and decimates thousands of innocent Ugandans – mostly from Acholi region and in Gulu town in particular.
Mr. President, a patriot does not arrest fellow citizens and charge them on trumped-up charges like what you did against FDC opposition party President Kiiza Besigye.
Patriots do not create safe houses where they secretly hide and torture prisoners and those they consider threats to their power. Patriots do not keep those that oppose them in secret jails.
Patriots do not steal state funds collected through taxation or from foreign donors to enrich themselves and their cronies. Patriots do not steal money meant to educate Ugandans, and to develop the country and to treat people living with HIV/AIDS, as you have done, as have your ministers and officials.
Mr. President, patriots do not inflate the number of soldiers and in return pocket the money which is paid to ghost soldiers they created. Patriots do not put their wives and sons to run government Ministries and the country’s presidential security system.
Patriots do not limit promotion to top military and other senior government positions to only those from their ethnic groups. Patriots do not limit opportunities only to those that "love" them or to only those that are related to them, as you have done.
When you talk about resolving the war in the northern part of Uganda, Mr. President, why do you talk of "killing and decimating" the rebels only for more rebel activity to increase?
Patriots do not lie about killing LRA leader Joseph Kony, only to see him very much alive. Mr. President, patriots would not ignore the development of northern Uganda and leave it to rot with no proper roads, schools, hospitals and instead reward them with a decade of life in concentration camps.
My suggestion is that you learn from history.
Patriots, Mr. President, are people like George Washington who fought for and helped found the United States of America and then left office, and retired and gave the mantle to others.
Patriots are people like Uganda’s Dr. Mathew Lukwiya of St. Mary’s Hospital Lacor in Gulu who fought the Ebola virus and died from it, trying to save others.
Patriots are people like Philly Lutaya who stood up, sang and campaigned for HIV/AIDS awareness so other Ugandans could learn from him.
Patriots are the Ugandans who toil, pay their taxes and yet get nothing in return for it. Patriots are those Ugandans you see walking on the sides of the roads, living in dilapidated housing as you drive your bullet-proofed SUVs and fly in your multi-million dollar personal aircraft over Ugandan villages. Patriotism is not enforced, instead, it is alive in every citizen of the country in which they are born and belong to.
Patriotism is not ordered. It is not what a President can instill; rather, it is what a President should practice so citizens can follow. Look at Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Julius Nyerere of Tanzania.
Those were African patriots who never mandated their citizens and followers to be patriotic, but people loved them even up to today because of what they practiced.
If you want Ugandans to listen to you, act responsibly, accountably and above all, patriotically; you need to act exemplary. Otherwise, Ugandans will judge you in the same way that they have judged previous Ugandan leaders.
I love my country Uganda. It does not mean that I have to love the leaders.
You sir, are no patriot.
Black Star News contributing columnist Peter Otika is a Ugandan advocate and a freelance writer living in USA. He may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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