Uganda’s National Anthem – A plea to Ugandans from Meronie Agaba
In recent weeks, Uganda has been alive with talk about the perceived need to ‘jazz-up’ the country’s National Anthem. “Oh Uganda, Land of Beauty” was adopted in 1962 with words and music composed by George Wilberforce Kakoma.
Coincidentally, Meronie Agaba recently sent me her “Love letter to Motherland Uganda” – her interpretation of the National Anthem’s meaning and a plea to Ugandans to reconnect with their common heritage.
Background to Uganda’s National Anthem debate
Tourism Minister Maria Mutagamba announced that Ugandan playwright Alex Mukulu was in charge of a project worth about 180 m Uganda shillings ($75,000). The Minister explained that the objective was not to change the anthem but to portray its message in drama as a tool for promoting Uganda and to help an increasingly-indifferent Ugandan public identify with their mother country.
This project has polarised debate, with many Ugandans totally against any messing around with what they consider a sacred song. According to Uganda’s Observer newspaper “This whole obsession with aesthetics seems to speak to the hankerings of more impressionable youth that prize form over substance. Uganda’s national anthem is not terribly wanting, and the country has more pressing needs on which it could spend Shs 180 m.”
Meronie Agaba: “This tribute is my love letter to motherland Uganda.”
Oh Uganda my motherland
May God uphold thee
As we lay our future into thy hands
Through prayer and repentance, staying on our knees,
With our hands lifted up to the king of kings, God almighty
Committing ourselves, our nation, to you
That you oh God shall give us a Vision
To acknowledge that blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.
For Unity, Freedom, and Liberty we stand
Together as one, committed to serve our Motherland
Embracing diversity of faith, tribe, and culture
United by one code: Our Motherland
On whose words to describe that breasts we feed and shall ever be nourished
Children, men and women of Uganda arise.
Together we stand against all forces of divisionism,
Violence, corruption, complacence and evil influence,
Running toward the goal of freedom, unity and strength
United we stand, divided we fall!
Oh Uganda the land of freedom,
Your children rich and poor, short and tall, small and big
Reaching out to the heights with open hearts, eager minds,
Expending their God-given potential, creativity and innovation,
With enthusiasm, energy and zeal,
Partaking of Uganda’s portion in the land of prosperity
Holding hands with our neighbours, helping them see tomorrow
Building hope in their political endeavours,
Nations emerging out of troubled times, pursuing development
All friends of Uganda arise with us to champion Africa’s cause
Raise Africa’s flag,
Standing elegantly above our challenges
Leaving our history behind, to pursue our destiny
Children of Uganda, happy joyful people, full of life and vigour
Our fertile soils, the sunshine, our bountiful rivers and lakes; ensuring water for life
Yielding harvest in season and out of season
Faithfully feeding the fruits of your womb with rich natural plantain
Flowing with milk and honey, the envy of many
Arise sons and daughters of Uganda, preserve our cherished motherland
Awaken children of Uganda; shake off the dust of our bad history
Take your position as a righteous nation, a darling of God Almighty,
“Gifted by nature” the world’s destination for happiness and tranquillity,
The yellow sunshine everyday everywhere,
From the heat of Africa’s east coast to the freeze of her Atlantic west coast
The Pearl of Africa’s crown, your resting place!
For God and my country!
Interview with Meronie Agaba
The Muzungu: What made you decide to write this poem?
Meronie Agaba: I have a deep passion for my country and humanity at large. If I was a singer I could compose love songs for Uganda!
The spark to write this poem came when the late Kakoma, composer of the Uganda National Anthem, passed on. Others wrote eulogies to him in the newspapers, but I had no access to that audience so I went back to the National Anthem and read it again and again, trying to find out what message he actually wanted to put forward for Ugandans. As I did this, I got a deeper sense and understanding of the anthem and came to appreciate it almost as a living piece of writing since its messages actually portray what Uganda is today. I got my pen and paper and wrote the poem, which I would say came out as a deeper interpretation of the National Anthem.
The Muzungu: What are you hoping to achieve with this poem?
Meronie Agaba: I believe that for any relationship to develop and grow, deliberate efforts have to be taken. I want this poem to be a tool that I and others who believe in it can use to inspire, and develop attitudes of young Ugandans to appreciate their country, their role in upholding its pride, conserving nature and more. I want this poem to be a “Love song that every Ugandan can passionately sing for our Motherland.”
The Muzungu: What would you like people to think about when they read your poem?
Meronie Agaba: “Do not take my Motherland for granted! One time she conceived me, she nurtured me in her womb, I fed on her blood, and behold she delivered me. She was still young, green and energetic; she was fertile. Despite the many children, she fed them all, on the green plantain, the milk and the honey. The lakes and rivers that fed her were still fresh and clean. The tree canopies towered above my head; the scent of nature was still abundant, the soils were not yet sick. The wild fruit was still at large, foraging children returned to their homes satisfied, fed by none other but the plentiful Motherland. Now Mother Land is old and faded, the rivers are drying up, the swamps have become people’s living rooms, the tree canopies are bare stumps and the clean breath of nature is gone.
But I cry for a remedy, I say it’s not all over my children. Let’s amend our relationship, let’s reason together, stop killing your lifeline, I am Mother Land, do not hurt me, do not plot against me, do not strip me naked, respect my God-given Status, I am Mother Land!
When I cry you will cry along with me, when I smile you smile along with me! You are educated yes, I do appreciate that, but get some learning I say; I am your Motherland. Be united; you share a common heritage, Conserve nature and environment; without it you will die,
I am your Motherland, without you I would be a forest, but without me you would be homeless!
I am your Motherland, I am your hope, I am your future: I am Uganda!
Namara Meronie B. Agaba mnagaba gmail dot com is a Business Development Manager based in Kampala. She is married with children. (No doubt Meron has been talking conservation with her husband Patrick, who I worked with at the Uganda Conservation Foundation for nearly 3 years.
Meronie’s love letter to motherland Uganda was first published in the February 2013 edition of “Tarehe Sita Magazine.”
So what do you think of Meronie’s poem Love letter to Motherland Uganda? Please put your comments below.
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