October 11, 2019

Rwanda To Uganda: We Need To Be Each Other’s Keeper


Justice Minister and Attorney General Johnston Busingye speaks at event marking Uganda’s 57th Independence Anniversary as High Commissioner Oliver Wonekha looks on

As Uganda celebrated its 57th independence anniversary, Rwanda through Justice Minister and Attorney General Johnston Busingye sent conciliatory message of “brotherhood”.

October 9, 1962, is when Uganda’s flag was hoisted and the British one lowered forever – ending Britain’s colonial administration over Uganda.

In Rwanda, celebrations were held at Uganda’s High Commission in Kigali, hosted by envoy Oliver Wonekha.

The choice of Busingye to represent government in itself speaks volumes.

Busingye lived in Uganda, and has emerged as a voice of moderation – often coming out as the channel through which controversial issues are handled when government wants to send reconciliatory message.

In his speech, Busingye referred to Rwanda and Uganda as “sister countries”, despite a bitter dispute since late 2017 in which either side accuses the other of fomenting instability on the other’s territory.

The conflict had been boiling from behind the scenes, and then it blew out into the open on February 28. There is not much to show that the fallout will be over soon.

Busingye is part of a team of four top Rwandan officials who form the Adhoc Implementation Commission of the Angola Memorandum of Understanding between President’s Paul Kagame and Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni. Angola and DR Congo are the mediators.

The team met mid last month in Kigali for the first session, and is scheduled to hold follow up in Kampala next week, if all goes as planned.

“Uganda’s independence anniversary comes just days after Rwanda’s celebration of its own liberation struggle from decades of brutal dictatorship following our country’s independence,” said Busingye, referring to Liberation Day July 4.

“These near concurrent events provide us an opportune moment to look back at our respective histories and remember what we so determinedly fought for: self-determination, dignity, love of country, and unity to name only a few.”

Busingye added that the “values” shared with Uganda “should not be rolled back by any challenge, no matter its strength.”

The Adhoc team agreed to stop “negative propaganda” in mainstream and social media. However, the attacks continue.

“As neighbours with strong commonalities, we should be doing what it takes, to create an environment that facilitates relations anchored on friendship, stability, peace and being each other’s keeper,” said Busingye.

“We are all acutely aware of the benefits of good bilateral and regional cooperation. In addition to nurturing the natural predisposition of our people to connect with each other, predictable and stable relations provide a unique and incomparable platform for rapid development in all areas: trade, tourism, education, industrial development and infrastructure, as we have seen over the years.”

In obscure sites, Uganda’s President Museveni has been subject of a vicious campaign, with one article demeaning his mother with language that cannot be published here. Articles from Ugandan sites have also done same with Kagame.

Without mentioning Museveni or any individual, in a completely different tone Busingye said: “To the people of Uganda, this is your moment to celebrate with the freedom fighters that have beaten the path you are now walking on.”

Here is full speech:

Your Excellency Oliver Wonekha, High Commissioner of the Republic of Uganda;
Excellencies Ambassadors and High Commissioners;
Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
Officials of the Government of Rwanda;
Friends of Rwanda;
Ladies and Gentlemen;

Good evening.

It is my pleasure and honour to speak on this special occasion, when our sister country, the Republic of Uganda, marks its 57th year of independence. This day which symbolizes freedom, unity and patriotism is an important cause for celebration for all Ugandans both at home country and abroad.

Like all nations that fought for self-rule, Uganda had its own trials and tribulations in the struggle to rid itself of colonial rule.

Today, we want to remember that it is because of the immense sacrifices endured by Uganda’s founding fathers on the road to independence, that Ugandan citizens can now entrust their dreams and welfare to national leaders, rather than foreign rulers whose goals have often stood on opposing sides. Your hard-won independence meant envisioning a better future owned by Ugandans and for Ugandans, without the burden of external influence and interference.

Excellencies,

Uganda’s independence anniversary comes just days after Rwanda’s celebration of its own liberation struggle from decades of brutal dictatorship following our country’s independence. These near concurrent events provide us an opportune moment to look back at our respective histories and remember what we so determinedly fought for: self-determination, dignity, love of country, and unity to name only a few.

These values are part and parcel of the makeup of our two sister countries and should contribute to cement our sense of common purpose and brotherhood.

They are values which should not be rolled back by any challenge, no matter its strength.

They are why we must consistently make the conscious choice to build on what has most united us, disabuse ourselves of what might divide us, and shape a future grounded on common interest.

As neighbours with strong commonalities, we should be doing what it takes, to create an environment that facilitates relations anchored on friendship, stability, peace and being each other’s keeper.

As you know, both Rwanda and Uganda are involved in peace and security endeavours on the African continent and beyond through peacekeeping missions. Also our people have at various times in our shared history, stood shoulder to shoulder in liberation struggles that ousted anti people regimes. This history ties us together and creates solemn expectations we ought to live up to.

We are all acutely aware of the benefits of good bilateral and regional cooperation. In addition to nurturing the natural predisposition of our people to connect with each other, predictable and stable relations provide a unique and incomparable platform for rapid development in all areas: trade, tourism, education, industrial development and infrastructure, as we have seen over the years.

This should be the end state that we pursue: a fraternal and peaceful environment that serves as a foundation for successful social, political, cultural and economic progress.

Excellencies,
Dear friends,

As I just mentioned, Independence Day is for Uganda and other countries, an opportunity to reflect on the past, celebrate the present and look forward to what can be accomplished in the future.

To the people of Uganda, this is your moment to celebrate with the freedom fighters that have beaten the path you are now walking on.

It is a moment to embrace who you are as a people, and to celebrate the journey you travelled since reclaiming your right to be and to determine your destiny.

We wish you all the best and we celebrate your 57th independence Anniversary with you.

Once again, Happy Independence Day.

I thank you.

May I now propose a toast to wish the people of Uganda health, wealth and peace on this 57th Independence Anniversary and for all time.


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