On my own behalf and on behalf of my party, the Rwanda People’s Party (RPP), I would like to extend my heartfelt greetings to the President of the Republic of Uganda, the government of Uganda and the people of Uganda on the 54th Anniversary of the Independence of Uganda.
My party and I have always prayed and hoped for peace, prosperity and a growing role in international affairs, for Uganda. Today, we see a strong nation that is growing and developing and is respected in Africa and beyond. We see a nation that has a global role in maintaining peace and security and a great country with a significant role in the club of the civilised nations. The country has made great progress since independence and it has shown what African nations can achieve.
Let me pause for a moment and look back along the path I have travelled in Uganda. Personally, it brings me immense pride to be part of those historic moments during and after the independence of Uganda in 1962. I feel proud that I was given an opportunity as a Rwandan refugee, living in Kengerere in the district of Masaka, to be a part of the historic celebrations for Uganda’s Independence Day, at Kyanamukaka, County, in Masaka.
I, fondly remember His Majesty, the Late Sir Edward Mutesa, Kabaka (King) of Buganda and the First President Uganda, kind and eloquent words, when he visited Villa Maria Primary school, shortly before he was forced into exile by then his former Prime Minister Dr. Milton Obote.
I was one of the pupils at Villa Maria Primary School at the time of his visit. He was briefed by Mr. Sekitoleko, then the Head Master, about the difficulties faced by Children of Rwanda refugees at Villa Maria Primary School.
The late, Sir Edward Mutesa, showed the great nobility of character when he replied that: “There is no distinction between Ugandans and Rwandan refugees, and no division between Ugandan Children and Children of Rwandan Refugees in my country as they are all equal”
He then immediately ordered that all the children of Rwandan refugees in Villa Maria should be allowed the unhindered access to: “free education, free meal, and free scholastic Materials”. That was a noble action and one that was truly a unique moment of its kind and I feel also honoured and lucky to have witnessed it myself.
Indeed, I still have memories of that historic moment, even though I was a child refugee. At the same times, the 9th of October, also bring feelings of anger and acrimony about those tragic events that masked the infamous independence of my motherland Rwanda. After so many years,
I am unable to comprehend and forget why and how 100,000 innocent Rwandans were killed viciously, as sacrifices for the celebration preparations for what would have been Rwanda’s Independence Day. Luckily, I was able to escape becoming just another statistic in the 1959 massacre. Unfortunately, three of my grandparents did not escape the brutality.
Nevertheless, I did not escape the terrifying experiences and memories of becoming one of the- 300,000 Rwandans that were brutally and cruelly forced to leave our country and denied the right to take part in what would have been the 1961 Rwanda’s Independence celebrations. It is that gruesome tragedy, visited upon our country, which forced us to leave Rwanda before independence, and this resulted in the influx of Rwandan refugees to Uganda and other neighbouring countries, in anguish and weeping, and in search of a safe haven.
Uganda courageously and heroically did not turn its back on us, nor closed its door to many other Rwandan refugees that continued to flow into Uganda like a torrential flood, even after the infamous Rwanda’s independence.
There is no doubt not to believe, that in the post-independence period after 1962, that Uganda has gone through difficulties times to be where it is today. As someone who had the opportunity not only to live in Uganda, but to have played part in her development. I am proud to have had the opportunity to work with successive governments in Kampala and with Ugandans from all walk life.
I had an opportunity to learn many things during the Presidencies of Amin, Lule, Binaisa, Muwanga (the Military Commission), Obote II, and Lutwa, and briefly, from the current government of President Museveni. I also had an ample opportunity to engage in face to face talks with some Ugandan Heads of States, especially the late Binaisa, to whom I owe much, especially his advice and a friendly letter he wrote to me after he went into exile in New York, USA. May his Soul Rest in Peace.
Nevertheless, there is something that I would wish to tell my dear fellow Ugandans. Uganda’s Independence in 1962 was just the beginning when a solid foundation for a free and great Uganda was begun to be built.
Uganda gained her Independence in 1962, but that was just the start of the struggle for emancipation. In other words, there can never be a true political independence without true social and economic independence. Likewise, there shall never be a realisation of social and economic emancipation,
if we choose to continue to be dependent on foreign aid. This is why we Africans or Africa as a continent, are getting things wrong. We tend to have a faith in myths and, to believe in the unbelievable. Henceforth, there is no doubt not to believe that, it is the responsibility of each and every Ugandan to make their country economically free. The construction of the foundation for a strong nation is still on-going and it is a task that every Ugandan should pass on to their children, and their children should pass it on to their sons and daughters. This should be the critical legacy that should be passed on, to future African generations.
Indeed, I am not opposed to western aid, but what I am trying to say, is that simply receiving financial aid has not brought benefits to the people of the Continent as a whole, other than keeping our children breathing for the next day. Africa has constantly remained a stagnant zone of poverty, hunger and starvation, wars, diseases, unemployment and destitution, despite being the primary receipt of aid since our flag independence. Indeed, I can compare our dependence on foreign aid to a patient in a coma, only breathing with a life-support machine. Both financial aid and oxygen support machine enable the victim to live for the next day, but they don’t address the issues that affect the victim in the long-term. That is the fundamental character of financial aid.
Therefore, it is you, Ugandans, who have the ultimate and sole responsibility, for the building Uganda. Not Abangereza (the British) – for they are gone and they will only visit Uganda to see what has been accomplished, as her guests.
I, myself, am therefore, urging you as my brothers and sisters, as a neighbour and fellow African, to take the advantage of the current prevailing peace and tranquillity in Uganda, by striving to enhance your society and economic prosperity and to decisively move away from foreign aid dependence. No one will ever do this for you, except you the great people of Uganda. No amount of foreign aid and assistance will ever shape your destiny; make yourself free and self-reliant from both the hostile claims and pretences of smiling Europeans.
The bright future of Uganda and the fate of your children are in your hands. Indeed, with the prevailing peace and tranquillity in Uganda, nothing can stop Uganda as a nation and a people to reach where you want to go. You have a strong leadership, you are a great nation, and have a great people, and Uganda has an exceptional climate and clean environment. All, are critical assets that are unmatched anywhere in the world.
Once again, I would like to wish a very happy Independence Day to the President of Uganda and to the people of Uganda.
May Almighty God bless the people of Uganda.
John V Karuranga, President
Rwanda People’s Party (RPP)