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Of Uganda’s Missing Culture and Vague National Values

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Written by Joe Wacha (Twitter: @joewacha)

In Jinja last week, nearly everyone was talking about or listening to speeches about national values. Ugandan values.
The occasion at Jinja Nile Resort had proprietors and managers of television and radio stations from the regions of Busoga, Bugisu, Teso and Karamoja.

And it was not just the broadcasters talking. No. A government team from Uganda Communications Commission and the Ministry of Information and National Guidance organized the Broadcasters Forum to emphasize the need to disseminate information about national values among other things national.

And as I sat in the audience, in the nicely arranged hall, I kept wondering about the idea of anything and everything national. My mind wandered through mental images of portraits of a smiling bald-headed Yoweri Museveni on office walls, the Uganda flag complete with a graceful Crested Crane, sounds of the national Anthem playing out stanza by stanza and all those things ‘Ugandanly national’ one could think about. Then, it was time to figure out the national values, culture, identity, character, etc.

For instance, what is ‘Ugandanly’ good about a Ugandan? You, me? What is the first thing that springs to somebody’s mind upon mention of the name Uganda? How do others regard us Ugandans? Not as thieves and a lazy lot, I hope – our own president once proudly mentioned during a visit across the border that his country, the one he heads, is full of thieves.

So, while the government team, at the Jinja event went about preaching about the need for broadcasters to propagate Ugandan values, I was running a mental scan of sorts about where exactly one can find these values. In the stores, constitution, bible? Where? Are they taught in nursery schools, Sunday schools or at University?

This dilemma needs not be especially for a country past its independence golden jubilee. This could be made easier the way organizations draft, print, frame and proudly display their values, vision and what else they uphold as part of their identity.

For Uganda, it is perhaps easier to conclude from our country’s motto: For God and My Country. Or does the mention of God in the national anthem mean that He is supposed to be one of our national values? How far the citizens practice that, is another debate.

So, while government ponders about disseminating information about national values, I guess it would avoid putting the cart before the horse by first identifying the values before asking the broadcasters to ‘copy that’ and get down to business.

And of course, while the media is tasked to preach national values, those in leadership should not fail the campaign. For instance, what good is in preaching that Uganda is a God-fearing country, only for those with the keys to the national treasury to keep on bloating their tummies with wads of cash, as the messengers and the audience listen/watch in silence? Enforcement would have to come handy to bolster the dissemination campaign.

Again, from the words of the National Anthem, we, Ugandans, are supposed to be hard-working and united. Maybe we actually work hard and are even united but just do not know. Of course, the sight and euphoria of Ugandans at sporting events or Kiprotich crossing the finishing line at an international race, usually gets the nation singing to a single tune. But again, how far does this go in a country where leaders employ regional divide to entrench themselves?

Uganda Cranes' fans celebrate after a win at Namboole
Uganda Cranes’ fans celebrate after a win at Namboole

For such a great unifying factor, sport does not even feature in the 136-page National Vision 2040.

On a positive note, Vision 2040 acknowledges that Uganda lacks a national culture and promises to tackle the problem through developing policies and programs that will define things such as national values and culture, and make them part of our lives.

Until that day, when we have successfully laid our hands on who we really are, made good use of it, one can only remain optimistic that Vision 2040, especially the aspect on national culture does not suffer the fate of the thousands of policy documents gathering dust and mold in the shelves in government offices.

For God and My County

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