August 12, 2012 will forever be a date remembered by Ugandans all over the world. It was the day that Stephen Kiprotich won the Olympic marathon in London. It was Uganda’s first gold medal in 40 years and only the second for the country in Olympic history.
Kirprotich’s victory couldn’t have come at a better time for Uganda. The last twelve months have seen Uganda in the news frequently, but not in a positive light. Western media tends to celebrate death, destruction, disease, and danger from Africa. The story of a humble athlete from Uganda annihilates that narrative.
Here’s what the world has heard about Uganda in the last twelve months:
There was a bill drafted in Uganda’s Parliament dubbed the “kill the gays” bill. This bill was sponsored by Member of Parliament David Bahati. The legislation was heavily influenced by evangelical communities in the United States. The bill has been a controversial lightning rod for human rights activists around the world.
President Yoweri Museveni, who has ruled Uganda for 26 years, violently cracked down on peaceful public protests by Ugandans participating in the “Walk to Work” campaigns. Ugandan citizens have been clamoring for the government to address issues that affect the majority of people in the country.
In October 2011, President Obama decided to send “advisory” troops to Uganda to combat the Lord’s Resistance Army. The pathetically small rebel group hasn’t been in Uganda for over six years.
In March 2012, Invisible Children launched the viral video “Kony 2012”. Western media loved promoting the misleading information in the video, especially to impressionable youth. Soon after the release of “Kony 2012”, Jason Russell, one of the founders of Invisible Children and the director of “Kony 2012”, suffered a highly public naked meltdown on the streets of San Diego. He has been under medical care and completely dropped out of the limelight that he once cherished.
For over a year, the mysterious nodding disease has ravaged the northern part of Uganda especially devastating children. Recently, an outbreak of the Ebola virus has claimed many lives.
Kiprotich’s Olympic marathon gold medal is a personal victory as well as a symbolic victory for an entire country. This year is the golden anniversary of Uganda’s independence from the United Kingdom in 1962. It’s appropriate that he won a marathon in the city which is the seat of government for the nation that once ruled over Uganda.
The summer Olympics traditionally end with the marathon being the last athletic event. Kiprotich saved the best for last.
Kiprotich’s victory serves as an inspiration to the youthful population of Uganda. At 23 years of age, this was only his fourth marathon race. He received no assistance from the Ugandan government. There are no training facilities in Uganda. This didn’t deter the determined athlete.
The world needs to listen to more authentic Ugandan success stories. Uganda is not defined by foreign controlled narratives. Uganda is not defined by forces with devious agendas. Uganda is not defined by death, destruction, disease, and danger.
The greatest resource that Uganda has to offer is its people. It’s Uganda’s people who serve as athletic, musical, artistic, and professional ambassadors to the world.
Congratulations Stephen Kiprotich. Your victory in London was a golden achievement that will set the stage for Uganda’s next 50 years.
UPDATE: To see the story published in Black Star News, click on the link below.