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Honoring Our Unknown Heroes in Unmarked Graves

By Ofwono Opondo

June, 2, 15
This week President Barack Obama awarded two dead US World War 1 army heroes, a black and Jewish who were denied medals because of racial discrimination, the Medal of Honour, the highest military honor there, yet here we think 1986 is too far.
And so it is appropriate that this year’s Heroes Day in Ddwaniro Sub-county, Kiboga district, the epicenter of the NRA battles with the UNLA especially between 1983 and 1984 reflects more on the contributions of all heroes. The theme is “Our Heroes, Building Blocks for a Better Uganda” as acknowledgment of past contributions, and call that each by our small focused efforts can contribute to Uganda’s transformation to the desired levels.
Many especially in the opposition have disappointingly chosen to focus more on what President Yoweri Museveni and NRM haven’t done, and think it is wastage of time, and not on what they can do to progressively move Uganda forward. Ddwaniro as the name suggests, is where big and sustained battles are fought, won or lost, and therefore a chalice. Ddwaniro in Kiboga, was where Omukama Kabalega of Bunyoro and Kabaka Mwanga fought their bitter wars for supremacy and annexation. For Uganda’s recent liberation struggles Ddwaniro was the cradle where NRA opened and expanded its military frontiers into Western Uganda, the reason monuments have been erected in commemoration of the unnamed soldiers who died.
Many of them are unknown fighters buried in unmarked graves whose families still hope and believe their bodies will someday be found, identified and given decent reburials. But if they won’t be identified then at least we owe them a duty to build Uganda so that future generations do not suffer the fate of political negligence.
The Chancery responsible for awards should be made more transparent and accessible, and laws and rules governing medal awards amended to ensure that all of our heroes’ stories are told for Uganda is where it is today because of their small but critical contributions.
We should, while the memories are still fresh, compile and honour the home-guards trained and armed to resist the LRA in Kitgum in 19991, and the first mutilated victims because they defied LRA orders to paralyse Acholi region. Furthermore, the pioneer Resistance Council officials especially in the original Tororo district who were killed in cold blood or endured torture by the dark forces because they supported the new democratic dispensation soon after 1986 should be honoured. The Arrow Boys in Teso, who dealt defeat to the LRA deserve medals too.
This journey would perhaps not have been possible if not for the dependable Captainship of President Yoweri Museveni. Museveni’s steel and flexibility has given Uganda a complete turnaround everyone with the eyes to see and appreciate. Like Museveni continues to say, every corner of Uganda is now full of measurable economic activities from small to large scale commercial production, but which all still require our collective national efforts to improve.   
The composite growth for the whole economy has improved even before all the major bottlenecks are removed as seen by the size of Uganda’s economy which is now above Shillings 63.329 Trillion, or US Dollars 25.3 billion. The economic performance reveals the resilience of Uganda’s economy and the consistent correct policies of the NRM government over the last twenty nine years.
Consequently, the proportion of people living below the poverty line has been declining consistently from above 56% in 1992 to 24.5% in 2009/10; and now to below 19.7%. And Uganda has, therefore, already surpassed the first MDG target of halving the proportion of the population living in extreme poverty by 2015.
Reading the biographies of various historical leaders in Uganda from colonial times, one gets the impression of very modest, yet illustrious peoples, un-comparable to today’s youths especially in politics who seem driven by immediate, selfish, greedy and mercenary psyche.
What motivated Kabalega, Mwanga, Kangave Musaazi, and Edidian Luttamaguzi to resist and sacrifice all they had for the sake of larger benefits for society, when they could have capitulated leaves many wondering about their human spirit, and worked for no pay, at least not immediately.
President Museveni has often narrated publicly very amazing trail of his political journey, what Maj. Ondoga ori Amaza (RIP) called “Museveni’s Long March from Guerrilla to Statesman,” how he built this gigantic Resistance Movement from scratch since his student days in 1967 through the turbulent Idi Amin’s reign of terror and blood. They were mostly underground and in exile in various countries building networks to the present successful political organisation, the NRM.
It amazes how Museveni persuaded and mobilized illiterate peasants to believe in their power to change national events, which in turn persuaded young university elites to leave lucrative prospects and join an unknown journey in the bushes of the Luwero Triangle to wage, the first successful guerilla war fought without a rear base or big external support to capture power, and dismantle a fascist state machinery.
Sadly, among sections of the educated elite today we are slowly losing the critical vision in preference for acts of blackmail, and petty schemes and easy fortunes, sometimes not deserved stealing public resources otherwise meant for all. We should each reflect on our individual obligations to Uganda.