Kampala. President Museveni has asked Christians to emulate the late Julius Nyerere’s persistence through the promotion of peace and unity in the country.
He was addressing thousands of pilgrims that flocked the Uganda Martyrs’ Catholic Shrine in Namugongo during prayers for the beatification of Nyerere, who was the first president of neigbouring Tanzania.
The day is annually celebrated by Tanzania as Nyerere Day.
The pilgrims gathered ahead of Uganda Martyrs Day celebrated every June 3 in memory of the lives of Christian converts killed by former Buganda King, Kabaka Mwanga in the late 1880s.
While speaking at the basilica yesterday, President Museveni said Nyerere preached peace and unity and was a pillar of peace in Africa.
“He preached hard work, he preached against tribalism and religious sectarianism,” he said.
He said Nyerere made numerous sacrifices for the people of Tanzanian and lived a simple life.
“As a witness of Mwalimu Nyerere’s good work here on earth, I found him a fearless man who fought for justice. He was courageous and stood for the oppressed but above all, he was a God-fearing man, who made a great contribution to the liberation of Tanzania, East Africa and Southern Africa from Mozambique to Angola through River Zambezi River to Cape Town,” President Museveni said.
President Museveni said he is an ardent follower of Nyerere and former Ghana president, Kwame Nkuruma because they all preached Pan Africanism.
Mr Museveni said Nyerere played a central role when he helped them defeat former Ugandan leader, Idi Amin. He said Uganda had collapsed under Amin’s regime.
The President, who was received by the Arch-Bishop of Kampala Diocese, Dr Cyprian Lwanga, said during NRM’s leadership, Uganda has witnessed tremendous achievements, key among them being the realisation of security, peace and development.
“I have been reading in the media about pilgrims who trek long distances to come here (Namugongo) to commemorate Uganda Martyrs day. Because of peace in all the parts of the country, pilgrims have been able to walk day and night to Namugongo without any insecurity incidents,” he said.
In his sermon, the main celebrant, Hoima Diocese Bishop Vincent Kirabo, described Nyerere as selfless in his service to Tanzania and Africa.
“Every time before going to office as a head of state, Nyerere would head to church to attend mass where he served as an altar boy and when he retired and Tanzanians wanted to fundraise and build a house for him, he told them to build for him a chapel in his village to pray with local people,” Bishop Kirabo said.
Dr Kizito Lwanga urged the Christians who have walked to Namugongo to rejoice and renew their faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The joyous Tanzanian pilgrims, majority donned in Africa kitenge outfits with scarfs of the Tanzania flags around their heads, and singing Swahili hymns, were asked to emulate Nyerere who united Tanganyika and Zanzibar to form Tanzania.
Ms Eldina Mpandu Nyerere, who represented the Nyerere family, thanked Christians and the government of Uganda for always organising the mass for the beatification of their late father.
Ms Mpandu said she hopes Nyerere will be beatified to become a saint. Nyerere is among those Rome declared as East Africa’s servants of God.