The Observer (Kampala)

Uganda: Mulwana's Was a Unique Kind of Nationalism

opinion

Whenever death strikes at human life, it is legitimate for society to grieve.

The hand of death cruelly robs people of fellowship with their beloved ones and the joy of relishing the shared times. The death of James Mulwana, one of Uganda's most celebrated local entrepreneurs, welled up tears and sadness across the country. But, the greater grief was occasioned in many people's hearts by the hypocrisy of some of the words uttered or written as eulogies for him.

These sought to ascribe a story and tell the attributes of Uganda's exemplary personage in a manner that he was not. The life of Mulwana throbbed with activity of a self-made person. He lifted himself up by his own straps which provided him a niche of measured success out of the severe limitations of the economic and political conditions of our country.

Despite his humble background, Mulwana carved out a business space for himself, brilliantly demonstrating to the rest of the Ugandans that it is possible to bargain for a new hope to improve the circumstances in the country by skillful navigation. He was always learning from the difficult economic environment to detect any possible opportunity.

Mulwana's name was imbedded in economic ventures and enterprise. He was not a beneficiary of state patronage. He never asked for a piece of the Mabira forest for himself. Nor did he solicit handouts and privileges from state officials. His heart was in addressing even handedness and fairness for Ugandan entrepreneurs. He saw that the official economic doctrine in the country relegated the interests of the local entrepreneurs to favour foreign capital.

It is in this regard that Mulwana particularly stood out as a nationalist. His whole mind was set on how to support the local entrepreneurship as an essential ingredient for our country's well-being and dignity. This vibrant Mulwana in our economic signature is entirely different from some of the loud praises heaped on him since his death. The treacherous words sound hideously like they were the cunning of Shakespearean Brutus at the funeral of Caesar whom he had slain.

Although all seem to acknowledge that Mulwana was indeed a nationalist, this has been twisted to mean that he was so because he was wealthy. Nationalism is crudely equated and reduced to mean the command of a fat wallet. The clever sleight of the hand miraculously transposes any person seen to be rich within Uganda, whether the person is a money-launderer from the USA, a dealer in narcotics from Columbia, or a French lady operating a brothel in Kampala, to be a Ugandan nationalist.

The claim is that their activities generate employment and taxes for the government while the many Ugandans who are steeped in poverty are assumed by their ineffectiveness in the market fabric to be less nationalistic. Uganda teems with illegitimate billionaires who have amassed huge fortunes from stealing public funds. By pronouncing this type of money to be the source of nationalism, they are allowed to dress themselves in respect so as to sit side by side with Mulwana.

Those who thrive from sin enjoy taking to the high table during a holy ceremony. It was probably due to the long foresight of Mulwana that he feared the attention of such pretenders. He aptly made a will forbidding wreaths and the showoff of those who have been betraying this country from desecrating the honour of his name.

This was not just humility. It was the true nationalism of a heart of salute for his countrymen from the deepest of love.

The author is a member of NEC (NRM) representing historicals.

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