What Do We Make of Heroes and Heroism?


Col ShabanBy Shaban Bantariza

When former British Prime Minister exclaimed that Uganda is “the Pearl of Africa”, one wonders whether he had made an everlasting statement of fact about the greatness of this land called Uganda and whether he himself comprehensively knew the form and content of his declarations.

This land has very many blessings and endowmentsin material, human and spiritual form. No one can claim to write one short piece on a small page of a newspaper or magazine and cover what wonders this Pearl of Africa has presented and continues to present to humanity. The subject of heroism cannot also be summarized in a single article like this one. Every month of June, Uganda is privileged to celebrate this very important occasion commemorating and celebrating the heroic feats of some of our ancestors and predecessors, whoinspire many to walk in their heroic footsteps. To that effect Uganda celebrates one set of religious heroes especially Christians on 3rd June of every year and politicalheroes on 9th June of every same year. And if one went into the fauna and flora exploits, Uganda’s endowments are inexhaustible.

But who or what are these heroes and what makes them so? The religious heroes have been sufficiently defined, described and explained by more competent authorities than me, and I will add my voice to these if necessary, another day. But for now, let me add my voice to the definition and description of the socio-economic and political set of heroes. At some point in our recent history, when the National Resistance Movement Government started to recognize the heroic contributions by the children of our motherland Uganda and awarded them medals, there were some voices that thought and sought to interpret these awards as “rewards to the privilegedfew fighters” especially of the National Resistance Army stock. There were some voices one one would describe as cynic.

Such cynics often want government to do everything, for everybody, every time, at the same time! But as time went by, with liberation war heroes getting awards of medals like”DAMU” for those who got injured at battle, “LUWERO TRIANGLE” For all those officers and men who joined and participated in the war by 26 January 1986, then participants in the war but not under arms, getting “NALUBALE” medals etc. The cynical voices went silent; many more Ugandans, living today or yesterday got recognized and today Ugandans are collectively happy for being recognized for their various amounts and levels of contribution to the socio-economic and political liberation and development of their beloved Pearl of Africa.

While the cynic may have gone silent, new voices, demanding a re-definition of a hero have come up, especially after the government went back into our history, down to our pre-colonial and colonial period, and recognized such Ugandan like KabakaMwanga of Buganda and king Kabalega of the famous Bunyoro-Kitara Empire. Especially Mwanga, whose imperial orders occasioned the martyrdom of the first set of religious heroes, the Uganda Martyrs.KabakaMwanga, while a political hero for teaming up with Kabalega and Chief Awich of Lango to fight against the colonizers in Uganda, Mwanga had all along been demonized and described in very base and primitive terms for “killing” the young Christian converts. But one would ask, if Kabaka Mwanga had not taken decisive action against his Palace pegs,who had turned their loyalty to the missionaries, who were “brothers” to the colonizers that threatened Mwanga’s Kingdom, what political king would Mwanga have been? There was a silver lining in his religiously incorrect action, politically had made a statement. He gave us martyrs, who are now not only our international pride, and heavenly insurance of intercession for grace, but the place of their martyrdom Namugongo is now an international tourist’s site, and the benefits this Pearl of Africa.

But just before I pen off for lack of sufficient space on this page, what is the correct definition of a hero? I can’t claim to be a lone authority, let alone a final one on this subject but to the best of my humble knowledge, ideologically, a hero is a patriot that has believed in a just and popular development cause (not populist) that he or she has gone ahead to defend, struggle for up to, if necessary, paying the ultimate price of his her life for the greater good of his or her compatriots and or humanity. He or she does not necessarily have to die or be dead to be a hero; but if victory of the cause posed danger to his life, he would not flinch or desert the cause. I would like to believe that this is the reason military service world over is recognized as patriotic service, and a service from which heroes are often derived clean cut without a lot of controversy, because in military service, and indeed, the armed forces in general, the ultimate price of one’s life is never lost on every serviceman or woman.

Compatriots, Happy Heroes Day!


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