By Henry Mukasa
President Yoweri Museveni has been honoured with the National Order the Republic of Burundi for his efforts towards the pacification of Burundi.
The National Order the Republic is the highest order bestowed upon outstanding individuals for their distinguished contribution to various national socio- economic spheres of national significance.
The Order was presented to the Vice President Edward Ssekandi by President Pierre Nkuruziza during celebrations in the Burundi capital of Bujumbura to mark 50 years of independence from Belgium.
Iconic former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela and current president Jacob Zuma and the late former President of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere were the other leaders who were recognized for their contribution to the Burundi peace process.
Burundi gained its independence from Belgium on July 1, 1962. However, this year’s anniversary was marked on July 2 since July 1 which fell on a Sunday is a public holiday on the Burundian calendar.
The glamorous celebrations that were attended by thousands of Burundians were held at Prince Louis Rwangasore Stadium in Bujumbura.
Other leaders who attended the anniversary celebrations included: Presidents Mwai Kibaki (Kenya),Jakaya Kikwete (Tanzania), Joseph Kabila (Democratic Republic of Congo), Teodoro Obiang (Equatorial Guinea) and Sharif Sheikh Ahmed of the Transitional Federal Government of Somalia.
In his address to thousands during the colourful celebrations attended, President Nkurunziza commended Uganda and President Museveni, in particular, for his efforts in restoring peace and security in Burundi.
He said Burundi's peace mission to Somalia is not aimed at achieving any personal benefit but it is a sacrifice in appreciation for the support Burundi got from countries that contributed to the peace in the country which is now more than ever needed by the people of Somalia.
He also called for faster tracking of the East African Community as one way of ensuring regional stability, security and development.
As one of the goodwill gestures by his Government, President Nkurunziza signed a decree on the golden Jubilee pardoning thousands of prisoners to address prison overcrowding and allow them celebrate Burundi's 50th anniversary of independence.
A statement by the United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton expressed US's commitment to Burundi's political and economic development and eradication of poverty and promotion of economic stability in improving the lives and future of the people of Burundi.
Clinton also commended Burundi's contribution to the African Union Mission in Somalia which she said has helped improve stability in the region and facilitated an environment where political reforms are possible.
Rwanda and Burundi were independent kingdoms annexed by Germany in the late 19th and early 20th century until the First World War, when the area was conquered by forces from the Belgian Congo in 1916.
On July 1, 1962, the colony became independent, but broken up along traditional lines as the independent nations of Rwanda and Burundi but two years later, the two governments became independent states.
Other dignitaries at the Bujumbura fete included: Belgium Prince Philippe and his wife Mathilde, Belgian Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Didier Reynders and Swazi Prime Minister Barnabas Sibusiso Dlamini.