By Raymond Baguma
The Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga has hailed the renewed Uganda-Israel diplomatic relations which had been strained during the 1970s.
This was during a dinner on Sunday organised to commemorate the 66th independence anniversary of Israel and the 20th anniversary of Uganda-Israel diplomatic relations.
The event organised by the friends of Israel association, took place at Serena Hotel in Kampala and was attended by Ugandans and members of the Jewish community living in Uganda.
The Israel Ambassador Gil Haskel said the bilateral relations between the two countries were strained, but later renewed with the signing of an agreement re-establishing diplomatic relations on 26th July 1994. He said that this year, the two countries will be marking 20 years of renewed friendship.
“Thanks for transcending the hiccups that affected our relationship in the 1970s. The Parliament of Uganda will enter into close working relations with the Knesset,” Kadaga said.
Ambassador Haskel said the Israel-Uganda relations can be traced long before Uganda attained independence. “We were here to assist in the first steps of an independent state on experiences of nation building with Uganda unchaining itself from unjust rulers.”
He said that following the re-establishment of relations, Israel has supported Uganda’s development through sharing the Israeli technological know-how.
“Anything developed in Israel in agriculture, health, education or IT or any other field, we don’t keep a secret for ourselves. It’s at the disposal and you need to reach out to use and we make it available,” Haskel said.
He said that the marking of the 66th independence anniversary is a perfect time to reflect on what make Israel unique.
“We are unique in the way we restored sovereignty and capacity of people to defend themselves who had been stateless for nearly 2,000 years.
Our people had been scattered around the world. We are unique in having precious friends – Jews and non-Jews alike, for whom the wellbeing, security and future of our country are so important. The eternal affiliation between Jews and Christians is dear to us and we will do everything and anything in order to maintain it,” he said.
Kadaga said that the two countries could mutually benefit and boost their bilateral ties if they work closely to promote religious tourism. “In Uganda, we have the Uganda martyrs. I encourage Ugandans to go to Israel and Israelis to come to Uganda for religious tourism,” she said.
Bishop Josiah Lwere, the general overseer of the National Fellowship of Born-again Pentecostal Churches said that Ugandans communed with them because they believe in the existence of Israel.
“We believe in your existence in your land. As Christians, when we pray for your success and prosperity we are also blessed,” said Bishop Lwere. The Christians handed a plaque with emblazoned with the flags of both Uganda and Israel.