Address by President Nelson Mandela at the 12th anniversary of the National Resistance Movement of Uganda

26 January 1998

Your Excellency President Museveni;
Your Excellencies;
Distinguished guests;
People of Uganda.

It is a great pleasure to join you today in celebrating the anniversary of a movement that led Ugandans in advancing the frontiers of freedom.

It is an honour to stand once again before freedom fighters who did not flinch before the hardships of struggle against dictatorship and undemocratic government.

And it is an inspiration to celebrate with a people for whom the freedom of South Africans was as precious as their own.

As you have shared our quest for freedom and prosperity, so we share yours and we salute you.

South Africans had the opportunity a few weeks ago to participate in a similar anniversary of the African National Congress which, thanks to the staunch support of the Ugandan people, now leads South Africa's first democratically-elected government.

As the ANC celebrated its 86th anniversary I was able, for the first time in a long while, to enjoy that occasion as an ordinary member, while the new leadership took the reigns. It was a moment to look back on the long road we have travelled, and the long journey that lies ahead.

South Africans can take pride in having brought an end to an unjust and heavily armed system of oppression. They have put behind them the divisions and conflict of the past and joined hands to work for the good of all. They are wasting no time in using the opportunity to address the basic needs of the people, so long denied to the majority by apartheid colonialism.

As we face these challenges we are eager to learn from those who have gone before us. We are keen to draw lessons from Uganda's remarkable success in translating its legacy into a record of economic and social achievement.

Today we can affirm that we are indeed on the way towards achieving the yearning of South Africans: that the people shall govern. This cry of Power to the People has echoed throughout the time of Africa's struggle for independence.

And yet we do also know that we in South Africa and in Africa have only begun on this journey; that our hard-won rights and freedom must be entrenched; that they will remain without meaning unless they also bring real and lasting changes in the lives of the people.

We do know that too many of Africa's people still do not enjoy real freedom; that too many are still not able to control their own destinies. Women are not able to make the contributions that they can and wish to make. Millions in Africa are in practical terms dsenfranchised by political systems that do not allow them to choose the leaders they wish, or to exercise the political choices they want.

There are still too many places in our continent where religion is mis-used to deprive people of the freedoms that are their right, too many places where conflict and instability deny them the promise of security and development. Ignorance, illiteracy, poverty, disease still darken and diminish people's lives.

Only when political and economic freedom are in the grasp of every African, can we begin to feel that we have achieved our goal. Only then can we say that Africa's Renaissance is in full flight.

As the baton of Africa's leadership passes to a new generation, the challenges are many and great. But we are confident that Africa will, as she has always done, produce leaders that measure to the demands of their time; leaders who will promote the co-operation and joint action that is needed for the achievement of our goals in an era increasingly defined by the interdependence of nations.

You, Mr President and dear Brother, provided us with an important example through the summit you arranged between the leadership of Sub-Saharan Africa and the World Bank a few day ago, to map out the way into the future for Africa. You have our support and encouragement in this venture.

We appreciate too your contribution to the process of finding solutions to the complex and difficult problems of the Great Lakes region. When we contemplate the tensions and conflict that have blighted the lives of the people in that region and further afield in the Sudan, we must ask ourselves whether, as Africans and members of the Organisation of African Unity, we are doing enough to ensure that narrow interests do not stand in the way of the peaceful resolution of differences.

I feel confident that Uganda's government and her people will continue to make an indispensable contribution to the rebirth of Africa.

Mr President, Friends

May I thank you for inviting me to your celebration, and may I thank you again for the support which you, the people of Uganda, have given to the people of South Africa in their quest for justice and freedom.

I thank you.

Source: Nelson Mandela Foundation