The national flag, above all national symbols is a fountain of honour and a source of pride and identification. It has, however, turned out to be one of the most abused symbols of our country. Watuwa Timbiti writes about the dos and don’ts of the flag
After over 60 years of colonial rule, the British bowed to mounting pressure and granted Uganda independence.
Subsequently, Uganda became a free state under self-governance and self-determination, with civil liberties.
As a mark of the country’s sovereignty, national symbols such as the national flag, court of arms, the national anthem, the emblem, among others, were designed.
The commissioner for national guidance, Kakonge Kambarage, says the instruments were considered and passed by Parliament on May 25, 1962.
As such, they were embedded in the Constitution of Uganda — so they are legally binding, he says.
For over 50 years now, these instruments have become symbols of national pride and identification, although the national flag has often stood out more.
Could it be because it is the commonest in the public domain? And, could it be the reason it is the most abused of all the instruments?
Dos and don’ts of the flag
According to the directorate of information and national guidance, producing the flag was initially a preserve of government.
However, Jonah Bakalikwira, the assistant commissioner of national guidance, says due to increased awareness and a growing sense of national pride and patriotism, various individuals make their own flags.
He observes that despite this freedom, there has been abuse, wrong designs and colour formats, due to lack of serious control measures in place.
“The colour format should be black, yellow and red — a complete flag should have this colour pattern two times,” he says.
He adds that the white cyclic disc in the middle, which has the crested crane, should touch the bottom of the middle black and top of the middle red stripe.”
Bakalikwira stresses that the crested crane should face the pole, with its leg folded in a forward movement, meaning the country is moving forward.
Currently, there is no law prohibiting washing of the flag. Actually, hoisting a dirty flag is a shame, he says, adding that most of the current laws were adopted at the time of independence.
“Although the laws are now archaic, they still stand and can be enforced in case of abuse,” he warns.
For instance, it is not permissible to design a dress, shirt or bed sheets in the colours of the flag, although people have often flouted this rule.
“A hoisted flag, for instance, should not be hit by rain. If it is about to rain, it should be lowered,” says Kakonge.
However, he says there are exceptions to this. If it starts raining during a public function, where flags are used as decorations to give the function a national significance, should those flags be removed?
Removing the flags, Kakonge observes, would literally mean the end of the function. It is understandable if they are not removed.
Additionally, combatants during battle hoist flags for inspiration.
“They are not obliged to lower the flag in case of rain. It might send a wrong signal to the enemy — defeat or withdrawal,” Kakonge says.
According to the colonial policies, which are still in use, the flag should be hoisted at 8:00am and lowered at 6:00pm.
“Every other activity during the lowering and hoisting must stop. Silence should be observed following a warning signal through whistling or drumming,” Kakonge explains.
“Everybody is then expected to stand on alert, observing respect, not for the flag, but what it represents; the state,” he adds.
Equally, the same respect should be observed when folding it — the crested crane must be on top.
It should, according to Kakonge, be carried with both hands and the carrier should be protected, emphasising its value. This is strictly observed in military installations.
Where the flag is kept matters. It should be kept in a safe and respectable place.
“It should be kept in the headmaster’s office in the context of a school. It is the highest office there, not in a dormitory or kitchen,” Kakonge advises.
In case of two flags in a place, for instance, a political party flag and the national flag, the Uganda flag should not only be hoisted first, but should stand out prominently, he says.
In the colonial era, according to Kakonge, the Union Jack was not allowed in private places, except in the homes of colonial stooges who included chiefs and governors. As such, even after the adoption of the current national flag, its availability was restricted to these stooges.
“This ought to have been demysitified immediately after independence. The colonial state was no more and there was a revolutionary one,” Kakonge argues, adding that, people should have the flag flying in their homes, provided they follow the rules.”
However, Kakonge observes that this can only be effected with new legislative measures to repeal the restrictive colonial-set laws.
For instance, if the current laws are followed to the letter, boda boda operators would largely be culpable because they abuse it often, especially during events.
“Even Kiprotich would be arrested. He put the flag down in London upon winning the marathon and almost knelt on it,” Kakonge says, observing: “Understandably, one would say the man was overwhelmed with excitement.”
Where is the problem?
Bakalikwira attributes the general collapse of public and individual discipline to a systematic structural distortion.
He says homes, schools, the church and the community, which are supposed to be avenues of character formation, have steadily weakened. Only a few of them now nurture morally healthy persons.
The value system in Uganda, as it stands today, is faulty and there can be no meaningful progress until this is revisited.
Changing people’s mindset through development and promotion of a national value system consisting of discipline, restraint and consciousness of all citizens to do good, should be prioritised.
Laws governing the Uganda national flag
According to the 1962 National Flag and Armorial Ensigns Act, the following laws were promulgated to protect the flag:
Any person who does any act or utters any words or publishes any writing with intent to bring into contempt or ridicule the national flag or armorial ensigns or any representation thereof shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to imprisonment for a period not exceeding two years.
Where a person convicted of an offence under this law is not a citizen of Uganda, the minister may make an order directing that such a person be deported from and remain out of Uganda, either indefinitely or for a time to be specified in the order.
No person shall, without the authority of the minister, use or permit to be used in connection with any business, trade, calling or profession the national flag or the armorial ensigns, or a flag or device so nearly resembling them as to be calculated to deceive, in a manner calculated to lead to the belief that he is duly authorised to use the national flag or armorial ensigns, as the case may be, in that connection.
Any person who contravenes this provision shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding sh1,000 or to imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months or both.
The minister may make regulations such as:
i)Prescribing the occasions upon which, the persons by whom and the manner in which the national flag or the armorial ensigns may be flown or displayed, as the case may be;
ii) Prohibiting, controlling or restricting the use of the national flag or armorial ensigns
iii) Regulating the manner in which applications may be made to him for his authority to use the national flag or armorial ensigns. Prescribing a form of licence by which that authority may be given and fixing fees for such applications and licences.