The colorful ceremony opened with a brief speech from Uganda’s High Commissioner to Rwanda, Richard Kabonero, who urged the private sector to take a lead and invest in emerging sectors such as oil and gas.
Then in came Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs minister Louise Mushikiwabo who congratulated Ugandans on the 53rd anniversary of their Independence and then threw her usually official demeanor aside to crack jokes.
“On behalf of the President, the people and the government of Rwanda, I take this opportunity to express our heartfelt congratulations to Uganda, and our gratitude that we are brothers and friends,” she said drawing loud applause.
Luckily, it was a night when official speeches did not eat up into party time. Not only were the speeches all generally short and to the point, there were also few speakers; The Ugandan High Commissioner, Richard Kabonero, Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, the Uganda National Social Security Fund (NSSF) Managing Director Richard Byarugaba, and the Managing Director for Knight Frank Rwanda, Judy Rugasira.
On a lighter note, Kabonero then reminded the party goers about the partying spirit of Uganda.
“We have a lot of entertainment and it’s a Friday, and you know as the MC said, we in Uganda know how to party,” he said before the celebrations kicked off in high gear
Guest seating came by way of tables of 8-10 people, the tables were named after Ugandan key geographical and tourist landmarks like lakes, rivers, islands, forests and mountains.
The dress code had been clearly stipulated on the invites simply as “Formal or traditional wear” and indeed, guests did not disappoint, with some ladies turning up draped in the Gomesi, a colorful flowing traditional wear common in the Buganda region while others donned Busuti from Ankole among others.
When it came to the food, however, there was a general feeling that it would also reflect Uganda’s rich culinary heritage, which wasn’t so much the case when the announcement for food was eventually made.
For starters, the guests were treated to Atlantic smoked salmon with avocado, complimented with balsamic vinaigrette. Several soups and salads were also served. The main course came in form of chicken Indian dish tikka masala, tilapia fillet with chardonnay sauce, sliced beef fillet, vegetable moussaka, and many more assortments. In the end, matooke ended up as the only truly Ugandan food on the menu.
Entertainment came by way of the Natumaini Group from Uganda, which offered dance and singing sessions for the opening act and interludes, while Ugandan-Rwandan singer Lillian Mbabazi and her Sundowners Band performed the closing act before the dance floor was declared officially open.
Mbabazi and the band took revelers on a musical journey that extended beyond her own works. She sampled popular songs from such Ugandan hit makers as the duo of Radio and Weasel, Julianna Kanyomozi, and Iryn Namubiru, leaving little room for her own songs.
What wasn’t clear was if she was doing it in the spirit of Independence Day, or if she just saw the need to capture the audience with songs that were more popular than her own.