Pope Francis last night declared Africa a “land of hope”, urging Uganda to invest in its young population and use the country’s “abundant” natural resources to benefit both current and future generations.
In a brief speech at State House Entebbe, which assembled diplomats, senior government and cultural leaders repeatedly interrupted with cheers and hand-clapping, the pontiff described Uganda as a “great nation”.
He praised the country for opening its doors with compassion to receive refugees and allowing them rebuild their lives in “security and dignity”.
The Pope said Uganda’s national motto, For God and My Country, reminds of the role moral rectitude and a commitment to common good have played and continue to play in the social, economic and political life of the country.
“This reminds us to seek truth, work for justice, reconciliation and respect and protect one another as members of one human family,” he said.
He told the officials, including Opposition leaders, to ensure just distribution of the dividends of Uganda’s God-granted resources.
The Pope said his six-day, three-nation maiden Africa tour was to draw global attention to the continent; its hope, promise, travails and achievements. “
The world looks to Africa as the continent of hope,” he said, and cautioned government officials of the “challenges” of managing the blessings of abundant natural resources to benefit all citizens.
Speaking with excitement about his scheduled meeting with 10,000 youth at Kololo Ceremonial Grounds, the Holy Father extolled the role of young people as the future and hope of the country, and the world, if well-educated and assured of gainful employment. It was a striking message for Uganda grappling with 80 per cent youth unemployment. The elderly, he said, need better care as reservoirs of wisdom and their knowledge and experience, like a compass, should help illuminate decisions-making when confronted with evolving problems.
“It is these small signs that we see the true soul of people,” he said in reference to his call for care and help to the sick, the poor and underprivileged.
The Pope’s meeting followed his one-on-one meeting with co-host President Museveni.
Mr Museveni said former Tanzanian President Julius Nyerere, whose widow was in attendance, was the “greatest African who lived”, citing his lead role in liberation of almost half of African countries from colonialism.