Tuesday,July 14,2020 16:54 PM

Ugandans to choose national heroes

By Vision Reporter

Added 23rd October 2009 03:00 AM

ALL Ugandans will soon be able to nominate people they believe have made heroic contributions to this nation.
According to the Chancellor of the Presidential awards committee, Amooti Businge, the system is going to be easily accessible to all Ugandan

ALL Ugandans will soon be able to nominate people they believe have made heroic contributions to this nation.
According to the Chancellor of the Presidential awards committee, Amooti Businge, the system is going to be easily accessible to all Ugandan

By Conan Businge

ALL Ugandans will soon be able to nominate people they believe have made heroic contributions to this nation.
According to the Chancellor of the Presidential awards committee, Amooti Businge, the system is going to be easily accessible to all Ugandans here and those abroad.

“Nomination forms will be put at different centres all over the country. Those returning them will be allowed to hand them in anonymously.”

Much as the system of nominating national heroes has been open to all Ugandans, it was not easy to have everyone participating, because it was technically selective.

Businge was reacting to allegations that today’s heroes are basically people who support President Yoweri Museveni’s government.

Sections of the public had complained that there was no standard criteria in selecting national heroes and those who were honoured mostly comprised former NRA bush fighters, collaborators, NRM/A historicals and presidential loyalists.

In an exclusive interview, Businge said it is not surprising that most of the people who are being recognised are from the NRM. “history is written by victors,” he said.

But, he added, care has been taken to reward people, in respect of what they have contributed to the nation, not to regimes. A total of 97 people were declared heroes during Independence Day celebrations at Kololo on October 9.

Businge said 69 civilians are expected to be decorated heroes in a few months time (See list on Page 13). Of these, 18 will be posthumous. They are just a portion of the 2,800 civilians and soldiers who have been selected to receive national medals of honour.

The latest group of civilian heroes, like their predecessors, will be honoured with the Nalubaale Medal, which is awarded to civilians who have contributed towards political development, either through armed struggle or civil disobedience.
Parliament passed the National Honours and Awards Act eight years ago to recognise those people who have sacrificed for the nation.
This led to the formation of a nine-member Presidential Awards Committee responsible for vetting and approving heroes. Since 1987, Uganda has had 22 Heroes’ Day celebrations.

Section 3(1) of the National Honours and Awards Act, 2001 empowers the President to “confer a title of honour on any person and may suspend or revoke the title.”
Section 4 of the same law stipulates that the President shall appoint an eight-person Presidential Awards Committee from “among persons of high moral character and proven integrity.”

The role of the committee is to advise the President in respect of persons upon whom titles of honour may be conferred. Committee members hold office for a five-year period with eligibility for re-appointment.
Currently, the selection committee, which was sworn in on October 7, last year, is made up of Gen. Caleb Akwandwanaho, Gen. Elly Tumwiine, Prof. Mondo Kagonyera, Prof. Lawrence Mukiibi, Amama Mbabazi, Col. Proscovia Nalweyiso, Hajjat Aisha Nalubega, Dr. Jesudas Mwanje and Betty Akech. It is mandated to sit at least once every six months.
The administration and custodianship of Uganda’s National Honours is the responsibility of the chancery, whose key job is to prepare and publish honours’ lists, purchase the necessary insignia, have custody of the insignia, prepare certificates and rolls of honour and to act as an archive for the national honours.

The chancery is headed by a chancellor, who is appointed by the President on the advice of the Public Service Commission. The chancellor’s terms and conditions of service are equal to those of a Permanent Secretary.

The law also establishes two other key officers, namely, the Herald and the Master of Ceremonies. The former is a voluntary officer whose job is to help the chancellor, while the latter has to be a member of the armed forces, whose job is to conduct ceremonies of investiture or honours and awards.

According to the National Honours and Awards Act 2001, the responsibility to award honours belongs to the President and/or his Presidential Awards Committee.

However, the criterion of selecting heroes has a number of setbacks. Currently, it is not easy to have a detailed list of all the country’s heroes.
While there are more than 2,800 people who are about to be named heroes, detailed data on their contributions cannot be accessed.
There are also several other heroes who have been named under different regimes in Uganda. For these, there is no data in the country books of records. The current secretariat of the National Awards Committee still has a long way to go in building data banks on all the nominees and named heroes.

Businge says his office plans to develop a data bank on all the heroes. Today, save for their names, it is hard to know much about them.
“The submission of nominees will soon be more open and more participatory,” Businge adds. “Whoever nominates anyone will have to provide the Awards committee with his or her profile information, in addition to that of the person nominated.”

Businge admits that the current awards Act needs other supporting regulations, to help the committee expand its mandate of operation. It also works under a tiny budget, which can hardly support the expansion of the technical work and staffing. Though the chancery, which is financed off the State House budget, is tongue-tied over its annual financial allocation, Businge concedes that the allocation is indeed small.

But some Ugandans think there are several uncelebrated heroes. History has put them off the shelves as fast as they got there. “There are people with serious contributions to this country like Akorimo, who have been ignored. What of John Akii-Bua? How come they have never been named heroes? When will they ever be crowned?” a senior civil servant in Kampala, who prefers to remain anonymous, inquired.
Rtd. Maj. Kanuti Akorimo is an ex-serviceman who hoisted the Ugandan flag, for the first time on October 9, 1962, when the country got its independence from the British. For over four decades since he quit the army in 1968 at age 37, life has not offered him much. At 78, Akorimo is little known.

The late John Akii-Bua (December 3, 1949 – June 20, 1997) was a Ugandan hurdler and the first Olympic champion from this country. Akii-Bua died a widower, at the age of 47, survived by 11 of his children. He was given a state funeral, but not a national medal.

What are the medals?

There are six medals given to civilians. The civilian medal is called The Grand Master (The Most Excellent Order of the Pearl of Africa). It is the highest honour awarded to Heads of State and Heads of Government.
It is followed by The Excellent Order of the Pearl of Africa, reserved for Heads of States’ spouses, Vice-Presidents and Crown Princes and Princesses.
Other medals to civilians include the Distinguished Order of the Nile for distinguished service in research, economic, social and cultural enterprises; the Distinguished Order of the Crested Crane for other notable service in leadership and the National Independence Medal for struggling for and protecting independence. The Nalubaale Medal, which most civilians have today, is the lowest of all the civilians’ national honours.
Soldiers have The Order of Katonga, the highest Medal awarded to those involved in voluntarily work and get into additional danger beyond the call of duty. It is followed by The Kabalega Star, for conspicuous gallantry, The Masaba Star, The Damu Star, The Luweero Triangle Medal, The Kagera Medal, The Order of Lukaya, and The Kyoga Medal.

Sam Kalega Njuba, NRA bush war
veteran, now member of FDC

The selection of heroes is now just a political gimmick to reward their supporters. Is Matthew Rukikaire or Dr. Besigye on that list? What about Sam Mutabya or the late Mugalu? Those are to me the real heroes. But to reward others, some of whom were just messengers …it really has lost meaning. Why do you continue to drag this war business on 20 years later? I would personally be embarrassed to be named hero now. That would be too little too late. Even the vanquished then are now in top leadership positions now.

Fredrick Jjuuko, Makerere lecturer
The list of heroes who were named recently is definitely partisan. I don’t know how the heroes are selected from that list, but the criteria is clear. Two things; one, it is an NRM affair and two; it identifies heroes only from a military point of view. The concept of heroism is not just military or political. Possibly people from other areas have contributed more to the country than even the fighters. However, as long as we are partisan, we cannot objectively agree on and identify the true heroes of this country. When the UPC was in power, they had their own heroes and they were UPC. Now, the NRM is not doing any better. Until we resolve the democratic question in this country, that is the way it will be.

Chris Opoka Secretary General, Uganda Peoples Congress (UPC)
This is heroism born out of a civil war in which people maimed, killed and destroyed our country. Kabalega fought against the British who were foreigners, which is okay but Kajura [Henry]? How can a fight within a family like Uganda that results into ruin, turn into heroism? For those who lost their loved ones, this brings back bad memories. We should be mourning what war made us do to each other.

Gen. Elly Tumwine, member
heroes’ selection committee

People should look at the statute and see the many different kinds of medals to be awarded. It is only that we started with the Luwero Triangle and the Nalubale Medals. We are yet to get to the others. We are going to compile lists for other medals from across the country. It is just not as easy as it was to pick the others (bush war heroes) who were already well known.


Baguma Isoke, Chairman,
National Forestry Authority Board,
Nalubaale Medal

I was honoured. We did a lot for this nation secretly, during the ‘dark age’ (liberation war), and being honoured openly, was a great moment in my life.
We operated in Hoima and Rwenzori. We were supplying the liberating army with food, money, medication, transport, and intelligence. We had cells which were recruiting more fighters for the rebels in the bush (the NRA), printing and distributing the resistance newspaper to different parts of the country. We would collect food and leave in at the roadside, for the bush fighters to come and pick it. We had a cell in Hoima between 1981 and 1983, working with Lt. Kabagambire, Maj. Shamashama, Maj. Kaka and Maj. Rwamukaaga. Unfortunately Maj. Rwamukaaga was detained after the take over in 1896. Others in our Hoima cell were Harrison Anfaijo and the late Kahwa Pantarewo.

I relocated to Rwenzori in 1983, still doing the same work with one man called Tadewo, a Mwamba. Most of the people I worked with are now dead. As civilians, we coordinated a guerrilla attack on Bundibugyo. Back in Kibaale district, we worked with Nyamurangwa in Karuguuza, and Musa Karyebara. We were linking Kibaale to Kyaka areas.
When I was called to receive my medal, I felt that there was someone who should have been honoured before me; Yosefu Nyamurangwa. I worked under him. He sacrificed a lot for this nation. During the struggle, he was captured by government forces in Mubende and tortured. They broke most of his bones. There are so many people who deserve to be honoured and I hope one day they will be recognised. A man like Yesse gave NRA fighters over 1,000 cows. But on the day I received my medal, he was seated, watching us. The deceased comrades’ families need to be helped, in memory of their effort.

Atwooki Kasirivu, Special
Presidential Advisor on Land
matters and former state minister for lands, Nalubaale Medal

IT was a great honour that I was among the first civilians to be recognised. It shows that out there, some people appreciated the sacrifice we have made for this nation. We collaborated in a number of duties and areas in the liberation struggle. When I got the medal, I realised that my efforts in the liberation struggle were not in vain. It also made some people realise that we are not where we are by coincidence. Some people started looking at me with respect, after knowing I have served my country honourably. But, I know there are people who have not yet been recognised. The process is still on. It is going to be long but at least one day, most people who have sacrificed for this nation will be recognised. However, I sometimes fear that certain people, who did a lot for this nation decades ago, especially before independence, may easily be forgotten.

Matia Kassaija, state minister for internal affairs,
Nalubale Medal

There is a committee and a process through which the heroes are selected. At the end of the day, those who contributed to this country should be rewarded. Whether they contributed through politics, medicine, science or otherwise, they should be rewarded, especially those who helped us [NRM] in our struggle. I got mine in December and I am very happy. Don’t you know what I have done? Don’t you know my history? Ask any NRM historical what this man Kasaija has done. Who are the people who started NRM?

More Heroes’ stories next Saturday

Ugandans to choose national heroes

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