Address of by President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, to the Parliament of the Republic of Uganda, Kampala, 13 December 2005

Honourable Speaker of Parliament
Your Excellency, the President of the Republic of Uganda, Yoweri Museveni
Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers
Honourable Members of Parliament
Distinguished guests
Ladies and gentlemen

Thank you very much for this opportunity and privilege to address the Parliament of the Republic of Uganda. I am honoured to bring you warm greetings from the government and people of South Africa.

The people of South Africa wish to thank you and through you, the public representatives of the people of Uganda, their brothers and sisters in this country for the sacrifice, solidarity and support given to us during the difficult period of the struggle against apartheid. Although far from the borders of our country, you did not hesitate to act for the eradication of the apartheid crime against humanity.

Indeed, in our time of need you allowed the cadres of our liberation movement the African National Congress and especially our military combatants of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK) to be housed in camps in Uganda. For this, the people of South Africa owe you a debt of gratitude.

In this regard, we are deeply touched by your preparedness to erect a monument in honour of our heroes and heroines who used Uganda as a rear base. I am happy that the South African Ministries of Defence and Public Works are working closely with the government of Uganda to finalise details on this matter.

You supported us in this extraordinary manner because you were clearly inspired by the correct belief that Ugandans could not fully enjoy their freedom knowing that their own brothers and sisters continued to endure oppression, repression and state terrorism simply because of the colour of their skin.

Because of your solidarity and generosity in housing the cadres of our liberation movement and contributing in other ways to our struggle for national emancipation, today we are free and share another trench in the new war against the twin enemies of poverty and underdevelopment.

Indeed, we are not surprised that despite your own pressing challenges, you took the decision to support our liberation struggle because the Ugandans, just like South Africans, come from the people who endured and survived wars, tragedies, divisions, the subterfuge and arrogance of colonialists who used all manner of mechanisations to take over our countries, drain our rich African resources and exploit our labour for their own development.

As if that was not enough, the people of Uganda and South Africa, together with the rest of the African continent, have been subjected to a long season of systematic distortion and destruction of everything African.

When the British formally gazetted Buganda as a British Protectorate on 19 June 1894, it was 242 years after Jan Van Riebeeck claimed part of modern Cape Town in South Africa as a Dutch territory in 1652.

Yet, despite the interval of more than two centuries, the settlers used almost the same methods in conquering the vast tracks of land in our two countries. Through the combination of bogus treaties, fake agreements and brutal wars, the native populations of Uganda and South Africa were robbed of their land, cattle and other livestock.

In this regard, as Honourable Members are aware, Colonel Colville entered into these fake treaties with the Kingdom of Buganda but when the Bunyoro people under their ruler, Kabarega, refused to agree to a similar treaty, they were subjected to a horrendous military campaign. After Kabarega was defeated, the malevolence of colonialism followed the Bunyoro people as famine and disease attacked them and destroyed many of these African heroes.

Two-hundred years before the defeat of the Bunyoro people, the Khoi people of South Africa, in the southern tip of the continent, experienced a more deadly devastation after initially resisting the aggressive wars of the Dutch only to become almost extinct from the curse of diseases brought by the colonists, especially small pox.

(Bunyoro story see 'Forging of an African Nation, P10, GSK Ibingira)

In both our countries the colonialists used the tactics of divide and rule, imprisonment and exile, economic exploitation and political oppression. In different ways, our people were subjected to some horrendous tyranny all the way into the 1980s, Uganda suffering the effects of neo-colonialism and South Africa under a peculiar system of colonialism of a special type.

That the people of this country have overcome the destruction wrought by the dictatorship of Idi Amin that nearly destroyed this country is an achievement of which all Africans should be proud.

Indeed, the fortitude and commitment of both our people to freedom and dignity have prevailed under very trying and difficult conditions. As we meet today, our wounds are still to heal properly; our scars are still to clear. Yet we have a duty in tribute to our forebears and the masses of our people not to procrastinate when we have the possibility to do whatever we can to move forward faster so as to banish forever the pain occasioned by poverty and underdevelopment.

Since the sound of the drums of freedom and independence were heard in many countries more than 40 years back, much of Africa has not known conditions of stable peace. Yet, in the last 15 years or so, we have seen the emergence of a new generation of Africans, who not only speak about change but are prepared to bring it about; who not only preach economic development but are ready to dirty their hands to change the conditions of the people for the better; who not only pray for an end to war and conflict, but ceaselessly struggle for peace and security.

Of course, in this period of the last 15 years we have also experienced the hideous act of genocide in Rwanda; the indecencies of wars; the deaths of our people from curable diseases; famine in the age of plenty.

Accordingly, we need faster ways to accelerate change and implement the programmes of the African Union (AU) and its development programme, New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD). We have to collaborate better to end conflicts and wars, ensure the all-round development of the masses of our people and advance towards the realisation of the goal of African unity.

The commitment of the people of this country to address some of these challenges has been demonstrated by the work you have done on the critical matters of peace, security and stability. This is particularly so with regard to the contribution that Uganda made to ensure that the peoples of Rwanda and Burundi have the possibility, after many years of conflict, civil wars and instability, to live in peace and begin to participate in democratic processes.

Again, through the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD), Uganda, together with other regional partners, has helped to pull Somalia from the abyss of anarchy and lawlessness into the possibility of a better future. Indeed, it is because of the commitment among the Ugandans and the rest of the people of this region, to help bring about peace in Sudan that today Africa has ended decades of war in southern Sudan.

These are the concrete expressions of the commitment of African leaders to find lasting African solutions to Africa's problems. In this regard, we would also like to take this opportunity to pledge our solidarity with you as you continue the struggle to achieve peace in Uganda, obliged to confront such groups as the so-called Lord's Resistance Army.

Honourable speaker

Both Uganda and South Africa have committed themselves through the roadmap provided by the AU and NEPAD to collaborate to achieve greater unity and solidarity for the development of our respective people and our continent.

In this regard, in the past we have entered into a number of agreements on trade, finance, investment, health and agriculture.

Yesterday we signed other important agreements as a further concrete demonstration that the partnership between our countries is driven by the pledge we made as part of Africa's development agenda, to work together to eradicate poverty and place our countries, both individually and collectively, on a path of sustainable development.

One of these agreements is the South Africa-Uganda Joint Permanent Economic Commission (JPEC).

This Commission, which will be chaired by the Ministers of Trade and Industry and directly supervised by the Presidents, will focus on important matters relating to joint action to achieve mutually beneficial economic development, addressing issues such as investment between our two countries, infrastructure development and working out the best possible ways to encourage balanced economic growth and development between us, to promote the goal of a better life for both our peoples.

As we know, in the last two years, South Africa has become one of the biggest foreign direct investors in Uganda, with investments in telecommunication, energy, finance, services, entertainment, leisure and other sectors.

In this context, it is important that as South Africa, we should encourage our companies to invest in this country, thereby helping to use the relative strength of the South African economy to contribute towards the achievement of higher rates of investment, growth and development in this sister country.

Clearly, more investment into Uganda will help many of South African companies to grow, while they also contribute to job creation as well as the further expansion and modernisation of the Ugandan economy. This must also help to correct the large trade imbalance between our countries.

Yesterday we also signed the Agreement on Police Co-operation. This Agreement will ensure further co-operation between our police services, enabling exchange of views and sharing of information on a variety of police matters.

These include matters of human, especially, child trafficking, narcotics, trafficking in illicit goods and of endangered species, collaborating to defeat crime syndicates and working together to deal with terrorism. We will also strengthen our trilateral arrangement, which includes the training of police in southern Sudan, including the capacity building programme in that country so as to help create a stable police force.

Honourable Members

Discussions are continuing on a number of areas in which we have general agreements. We have a Memorandum of Agreement on Diplomatic matters. This is very important because we need more effective co-ordination of our activities and better consultations around many continental and global issues that are critical to the realisation of our common objectives. This will enable us to co-operate better as we respond to important issues on the international agenda.

This will also help us in our engagements in a number of areas including the Great Lakes Region, Sudan and others. We also share the same perspective on the challenge to strengthen the African Union (AU), the need to accelerate the implementation of NEPAD programmes and projects as well as the importance of the urgent reform of the UN.

Both South Africans and Ugandans want stronger bilateral relations. In addition, we share the view that regional economic structures are central to the regeneration of our countries and therefore it is important that these bodies should be strengthened and made more effective and efficient.

Further, we will soon finalise the agreement on sports and recreation so as to facilitate people to people contact and allow more interaction among our sporting people. This will also include exchange programmes enabling us to share the expertise that exists in our countries.

It will also be important continuously to evaluate the efficacy of all these and other programmes so as to know whether our partnership is making a difference in our march towards a better life for both our peoples.

Honourable Members

Frantz Fanon wrote in "On National Culture' that "each generation must out of relative obscurity discover its mission, fulfil it, or betray it."

I think we all agree that the mission of our generation is the renaissance of the African continent as expressed in the Constitutive Act of the African Union as well as the development programme of the AU, the NEPAD.

This mission is to eradicate poverty, ensure development and prosperity for all our people and promote the goal of African unity. This reflects our determination to extricate ourselves and the continent from the malaise of underdevelopment, as well as marginalisation and exclusion in a globalising world.

Our mission must also include the total emancipation of women because we know very well that millions of African women are, as we speak today, still trapped in degrading conditions of poverty and gender discrimination. To many of these women the taste of the fruit of liberty remains a dream deferred. Accordingly, we must all agree that Africa will never be free until all her women are free!

Having discovered the mission of Africa's renewal, we will not betray it, but together we are obliged by circumstances of history to fulfil it. In this regard, the new leadership on our continent and the African masses constitute the army that must eradicate the legacy of centuries of slavery, colonialism and neo-colonialism.

This is very important because we know very well that the terrible systems of slavery and colonialism were not satisfied merely with enslaving and oppressing people. They went to great lengths to ensure the mental enslavement of the native populations, especially here in Africa.

Today we see many of the consequences of these processes, which targeted the soul of the African people, among which are the cultural alienation that makes some believe that colonialism was an important instrument to illuminate our advance out of darkness.

Indeed, the colonialists sought to drive into the heads of many Africans the idea that without their supposedly divine intervention, our lives would still be defined by degradation and barbarism.

Again, Frantz Fanon says in his 'On Culture and Identity' that "…colonialism therefore did not seek to be considered by the native as a gentle, loving mother who protects her child from a hostile environment but rather as a mother who unceasingly restrains her fundamentally perverse offspring from managing to commit suicide and from giving free rein to its evil instincts. The colonial mother protects her child from itself, from its ego and from its physiology, its biology, and its own unhappiness which is its very essence."

In other words, the colonial mother sought to discourage the African masses from rebellion against oppression and dehumanisation, seeking to convince us that to seek our emancipation was to act against our own best interests.

Peter M Gukina writing about the dishonesty of imperialism says "It was these selfish money-grabbers who self-styled themselves as manufacturers and distributors of 'civilisation.' They fed the British press all kinds of distorted stories about the African people in order to convince the British people that they had a God-given duty to free, civilise and elevate Africans - the 'lower' races".

"The worst products of British capitalism and imperialism of the nineteenth century were those who filled their mouths with noble phrases and expressions to give an appearance of a sincere, profound desire to establish good government, promote Christianity and eradicate slavery. They, at the same time, projected the African people, their traditions and institutions as the most primitive, most savage and most cruel and that this justifies their domination in order to extend civilisation to the Dark Continent." (PP17-18, Uganda, A case study in African Political Development.)

In response to this millennium-old racist attitude we need to prioritise the matter of reclaiming our past. We have a duty to engage all sectors of society, especially the intelligentsia and the youth to be at the forefront of this battle of taking back our history, our culture and identity.

Fanon says that "The native intellectual who takes up arms to defend his nation's legitimacy and who wants to bring proofs to bear out that legitimacy, who is willing to strip himself naked to study the history of his body, is obliged to dissect the heart of his people".

"Such an examination is not specifically national. The native intellectual who decides to give battle to colonial lies fights on the field of the whole continent. The past is given back its value. Culture, extracted from the past to be displayed in all its splendour, is not necessarily that of his own country.

Colonialism, which has not bothered to put too fine a point on its efforts, has never ceased to maintain that the Negro is a savage and for the colonist, the Negro was neither an Angolan nor a Nigerian, for he simply spoke of 'the Negro'. For colonialism, this vast continent was the haunt of savages, a country riddled with superstitions and fanaticism, destined for contempt, weighted down by the curse of God, a country of cannibals, in short, the Negro's country."

(P238, African Intellectual Heritage, Molefi K. Asante and Abu S. Abarry, Temple University Press, 1996)

Clearly, a lot of work has been done to reclaim the history of our continent. Today, few will contest the irrefutable fact that Africa is a cradle of humanity. Few will disagree that the ancient civilisation of Egypt was a civilisation of the black people who imparted their superior knowledge to the Greeks, who in turn laid the basis for modern western civilisation.

No longer can anyone sustain an absurd assertion made famous by the German philosopher, Hegel, in his 'Philosophy of History' that "Africa is not a historical continent; it shows neither change nor development and that the black peoples were capable of neither development nor education. As we see them today, so have they always been."

(P12, General History of Africa, Unesco, 1981 and 1990)

All of us, as political leaders, as workers, as businesspeople, youth, women and the intelligentsia have a duty to fight against poverty and underdevelopment as well as ensure that as Africans we define ourselves, not in the image of our former colonisers but in the spirit of our African ancestors, who bequeathed so much to the human race. I am certain that through our determined and collective struggles, we shall overcome.

Once more, I thank you most sincerely for the privilege you have accorded us to address you, the elected representatives of the sister people of Uganda.

Thank you.

Issued by: The Presidency
13 December 2005

 

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