KIGALI - The people of Rwanda and Uganda share a common, unbreakable bond and heritage that have historically characterised the relations between the two countries.
This was said by Presidents Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni, Sunday, during a state banquet held in honour of the former and his wife, Janet.
At the dinner, the host, President Kagame, said that the peoples of Uganda and Rwanda share a traditional bond that transcends the current borders.
On a bright evening characterised by musical performances by the National Ballet, Presidents Kagame and Museveni took time to reflect on the past – a past that was characterised by conflicts.
Kagame said that Rwanda and Uganda faced the same challenges in the past – bad leaderships and tragic pasts, but that the two countries now share the same story of successful liberation struggles which brought an end to the bad times.
“I think all people are shaped by their own life experiences and have within them the motivation and wisdom to deal with challenging situations, something that allows them to chose fight over flight,”
“They fight not only for their survival but also for a better life. It is also true that by confronting extreme adversity as we did, people draw lessons that help them find solutions to daunting problems,” President Kagame said.
He noted that among those lessons are those that are home grown but, most importantly, there is the ability of good leadership to mobilise people for a good cause that is seen to be right and worthy of commitment and sacrifice, going beyond individuals to become a movement.
It is through this commitment and determination that the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) was able to mobilise many Rwandans and resources until the country was liberated, Kagame recalled.
He observed, however, that the biggest element was the motivation some RPF members got from their participation in Uganda’s struggle.
Kagame said that the vision of Uganda’s struggle, the manner of its conduct and, specifically, the leadership of President Museveni did not only provide solutions to the Ugandan context, but also addressed the broader and often complex challenges that Africa faces, including those that Rwanda had to confront.
“For this, I would like to thank you most sincerely. For those of us who were able to live that life and who were able to participate in that effort, many lessons were learnt and our own struggle was only stronger because of it,” President Kagame said.
“We were not only inspired but also energised and strengthened. You personally provided us with singularly vital support when it mattered most, not just as a leader in our neighbourhood but also as a Pan African who was truly concerned about the plight of fellow brothers and sisters,” Kagame said.
He said that it is from these experiences, bad and good that the citizens of the two countries continue to share a strong bond and it is this close relationship that not only Rwanda and Uganda have to build on but all East African countries, to strive for the better lives of the people.
President Kagame called for the “collective strength” for all EAC countries to benefit from the stronger ties to further their common agendas, for the benefit of all citizens.
On his part, President Museveni congratulated Rwanda for recovering from the devastating effects of the Genocide, to embark on a development path that is so promising.
Museveni recounted how he travelled to Rwanda in 1985, after the National Resistance Army (NRA) had captured Western Uganda, on the invitation of the President Juvenal Habyarimana, observing that the Kigali of today is a whole new world from the Kigali of that time.
“New roads, a lot of new buildings, slum clearing, new factories and a clean city have replaced the Kigali of 1985 which I saw when I came here for the first time. I congratulate you on these efforts,”
“Most importantly I congratulate you on reversing the reactionary ideology of Kayibanda and Habyarimana,” Museveni said, observing that the two were arguing that some sections of Rwandans should stay in exile forever, because the country was small.
“You have showed that, the land shortage notwithstanding, all the Banyarwanda can live in Rwanda if they want to,” he said citing the example of Holland, a small country with a population of 17 million people, yet one of the most prosperous.
“Rwanda under your leadership is moving into that direction,” President Museveni said, adding that the factory and other projects he visited are a right step into that direction.
Museveni who took the guests through the history of the region highlighted the birth and success of liberation struggles in Uganda and Rwanda, recognising the contribution of Rwandese Patriots, including those who died in the Ugandan struggle.
President Museveni saluted President Kagame for restoring the hope and reorganising the struggle upon return from America, when it had suffered a huge blow after the death of Maj. General Fred Rwigema.
He thanked President Kagame for the gesture of 10 cows given to him when he visited his host’s country home in Muhazi.