Ethiopian prime minister, Abiy Ahmed Ali has been honoured with the Most Excellent Order of the Pearl of Africa medal, Uganda’s highest accolade given to a head of state at a special National Heroes Day by president Yoweri Kaguta Museveni.
The award is in recognition of Abiy’s immense contribution to the independence struggle of Africa.
250 other heroes were also awarded medals in appreciation for their contribution to peace and dignity in the country.
Our relationship is built on a strong foundation of understanding and mutual respect not to interfere with each others internal affairs.
The only other African leader to be conferred this honour is Equatorial Guinea president, Teodoro Obiang Mbasogo.
Addressing crowds gathered for the occasion, Dr Abiy Ahmed Ali noted “Our relationship is built on a strong foundation of understanding and mutual respect not to interfere with each others internal affairs.”
Our relationship is build on a strong foundation of understanding and mutual respect not to interfere with each others internal affairs – H.E. Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed Ali#HeroesDayUG #PMLive Updates. pic.twitter.com/lRTF8tmutT— Urban Television (@UrbanTVUganda) June 9, 2018
#Heroesday2018: Africa has attracted attention and it’s this attention that must help Africa develop. We must identify our priorities.— Urban Television (UrbanTVUganda) June 9, 2018
Ethiopian PM Dr. Abiy Ahmed Ali, special guest at #HeroesDayUG celebrations in Kakumiro District has been awarded the Pearl of Africa Grand Master Medal by President— Urban Television (UrbanTVUganda) June 9, 2018
KagutaMuseveni#PMLive Updates pic.twitter.com/Z6ozNYs1Je
Abiy, 41, in April replaced Hailemariam Desalegn as Ethiopia’s prime minister.
The former intelligence officer has undertaken wide ranging measures including replacing the Ethiopia’s army chief and improving relations with Eritrea.
Why Heroes’ Day
In Uganda, Heroes’ Day is celebrated every year on June 9 in memory of those who sacrificed their lives in order to restore peace and security to the country.
National Heroes Day in Uganda was instituted by the Uganda People’s Congress in 2001. The holiday was to recognise people on both sides who fought in the civil war and the date chosen to remember the assassination of Eddidian Babumba Mukiibi Luttamaguzi, a resistance supporter.
In recent years, however, government leaders have used the holiday to recognise those who helped Yoweri Museveni gain power during the Bush War.
Critics argue that the day should honour heroes from all parts of the country who died during Civil Wars between 1962 and 1986. One suggestion for Heroes Day was the doctor who detected the deadly Ebola virus before it spread.
Originally, Heroes Day was to recognize those who travelled long distances, endured humiliation, lost limbs and ended their studies who now lay in unmarked graves throughout Uganda. Amnesty International estimates that more than 300,000 civilians died during guerilla wars which brought the current government into power.
Atrocities were committed on both sides of the war with the Milton Obote regime and the National Resistance Army (NRA) responsible for an equal number of deaths during civil unrest in the country.
Celebrations and Traditions
Heroes Day in Uganda begins with the laying of a wreath at the mass graves of innocent civilians killed during civil wars. The president, who is accompanied by dignitaries and government leaders, lays the wreath before proceeding to another location to address the public.
The government chooses different locations throughout Uganda for the official ceremony and speech each year. The location chosen relates to the contribution of that area to the struggle for liberation in Uganda.
Heroes throughout Uganda are chosen to receive medals on National Heroes Day.
Between 600 and 1,000 medals are given out annually to recognise contributions to the betterment of Uganda.
The ceremony for the medal presentation is chosen based on historical contributions, much like the location chosen for the morning ceremonies on National Heroes Day.