PRESIDENT Paul Kagame yesterday accepted three of the highest medals accorded to him for his part in Uganda’s liberation struggle, dedicating them to Rwandans and Ugandans who fought tirelessly for freedom.
Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni, decorated President Kagame with the Pearl of Africa medal during the ceremony to mark the 26th anniversary of the National Resistance Movement (NRM).
In a colourful ceremony held in the Eastern District of Kapchorwa, Kagame also received the Kagera and Luwero Triangle medals, in recognition for his contribution to the liberation of Uganda.
Addressing the gathering after the decoration, President Kagame expressed his appreciation for the recognition, noting that he was ‘humbled and honoured’, before dedicating the medals to the citizens of both countries who contributed to the struggle.
“Accept, Mr President, the National Resistance Movement and the people of Uganda, our humble and deepest gratitude for this recognition of our modest contribution to freedom in Uganda”.
“We were availed the opportunity to participate in the liberation of Uganda, and what we gave can never equal what we gained from this country,” President Kagame said in his acceptance speech.
He noted that the awards are testimony to the enduring links, forged by a shared history and common struggle, between, not only the people of Rwanda and Uganda, but other Africans, and what can be achieved when they stand together in solidarity.
“In this regard, allow me to dedicate these medals to all Rwandans and Ugandans who committed their lives, with many of them paying the ultimate price, to fight for the freedom we enjoy today.
“Rwandans and Ugandans may live in two countries, but, in fact, their lives have always been closely intertwined. And these strong ties are demonstrated by how the people of Uganda, led by you, Mr President [Museveni], stood by us when the time came for our own struggle,” President Kagame noted.
He congratulated his Ugandan counterpart, the NRM and the people of Uganda on the historic anniversary of their victory and the tremendous progress they have made over the past years.
The President observed that the two countries have faced and overcome many challenges together, and put right the wrongs and the efforts in place are proof that the two states have the means to establish peace, democracy and good governance for citizens to live much better lives.
“If we were ever to fail, we would only have ourselves to blame, for these public goods will never come from outside.
“Today, the challenge is really about the transformation of our societies. And just as we needed to work together for freedom, so do we have to find more and new energy to drive our countries and move all our people forward,” Kagame stated.
President Kagame said that he remains committed to regional integration, larger markets, greater intra-African trade and adding value to natural resources as it is the only way the region can have a bigger and more relevant voice in global affairs.
“We also share the vision that our continent should use its enormous assets to improve the living standards of our people. Standing together, as this occasion reminds us, is the only way we can achieve this goal,” he added.
On his part, President Yoweri Museveni commended whoever contributed to the Ugandan Liberation struggle, noting that the NRM has lived to its promises of transforming the country into a more prosperous economy as well as improving the socio-economic welfare of its citizens.
He also highlighted the importance of regional integration, observing that the five East African Community countries have since become one.
The celebrations under the theme: “Uganda the Land of Opportunities: NRM’s contribution during the last half of the 50 Years of Uganda’s Independence”, were also attended by the First Lady Mrs. Jeannette Kagame and a delegation of Rwandan Ministers.
President Kagame continues his three-day State Visit to Uganda.