President Yoweri Museveni has said that Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and the Uganda Martyrs are uniting East Africa. Museveni says many pilgrims who trek from different East African countries to Namugongo Shrine to commemorate the Uganda Martyrs Day and Julius Nyerere Day represent a true meeting of the regions ordinary citizen.
President Yoweri Museveni has said that Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and the Uganda Martyrs are uniting East Africa.
Museveni says many pilgrims who trek from different East African countries to Namugongo Shrine to commemorate the Uganda Martyrs Day and Julius Nyerere Day represent a true meeting of the region's ordinary citizen.
Since his death in 1999, there have been calls for Tanzania's founding president to be declared a saint for his contribution to humanity. Indeed, prayers are held at the Namugongo Martyrs Shrine every first day of June for his beautification, one of the stages before one is declared a saint. Nyerere ruled Tanzania from 1961 until his retirement in 1985.
June 1 was declared Nyerere day during a holy mass celebrated at Namugongo in 2009. It was during the mass that the Rev Fr Deogratius Ssonko, the former rector of the Namugongo Parish, proposed that the Day was to pray for the cause of his process of beatification and canonisation. He was seconded by Archbishop Cyprian Kizito Lwanga Kampala Archdiocese.
Today, a private mass was held for Nyerere at Namungongo during a heavy downpour. President Museveni told the congregation that during East Africa summit only big people go but at Namugongo, everyone is welcome. The mass was attended by Nyerere's widow Maria, children and pilgrims from Tanzania.
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Museveni thanked the Nyerere family and the Catholic Church in Tanzania for associating the man he calls his mentor with Uganda and Uganda Martyrs.
Museveni said whereas other leaders declined to support liberation movements in Africa, Nyerere welcomed them with open hands. At one moment, Museveni said he thought about summoning freedom fighters such as Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe and the late Nelson Mandela to Namungongo Shrine but was told that church matters are for the church.
He described himself as a Pan-Africanist, patriot as well as follower of Julius Nyerere and Kwame Nkurumah. Nkrumah led Ghana to independence in 1957 and supported several other countries in their struggle for independence until he was overthrown in 1966. He died in exile in 1972.
Museveni noted that he is happy Nyerere was declared a servant of God and requests for his sainthood have been sent to Rome.
“As a witness of Mwalimu's good works on earth, I can give you examples. Number one; the fearlessness of Mwalimu when he was fighting for justice just like Uganda Martyrs who were young and accepted to die…Mwalimu was very courageous when defending justice at a time when Africa was very weak,” he said.
Archbishop Kizito Lwanga said requests for Julius Nyerere's beautification were sent to Rome. As they wait for the response, he asked Tanzanians for genuine miracles to back the application.
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Dr Lwanga arrived at Namugongo at about 10:30am, more than 20 minutes after Museveni's arrival. The mass was supposed to start at 10am. Namugongo Martyrs Shrine rector, Fr Vincent Lubega, walked out the shrine three time calling Archbishop Lwanga on phone.
June 3rd was declared Uganda Martyrs day in memory of 45 Catholic and Anglican converts who were killed on the orders of Kabaka Mwanga II between 1885 and 1887.
The event attracts millions of pilgrims from Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, South Sudan, Nigeria, and other countries.