Your Excellency, the President of the Republic of Uganda,
Ugandan and South African Ministries of Defence and Public Works,
Honourable Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Mr KB Mphatsoe Chairperson of MK Military Veterans Association,
Mr Dali Tambo and Mrs Tambo,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today is a very important day in the history of our two countries.
More than 20 years ago, South African freedom fighters lived and trained in Kaweweta, at the generosity and solidarity of the government and people of Uganda.
You offered this sanctuary and base because you believed in freedom and justice and believed that every corner of Africa should be free from oppression.
As my predecessor, former President Mbeki, so aptly remarked during his address to the Parliament of Uganda in December 2005:
"You supported us in this extraordinary manner because you were clearly inspired by the correct belief that Ugandans could not fully enjoy their freedom knowing that their own brothers and sisters continued to endure oppression, repression and state terrorism simply because of the colour of their skin".
For the benefit of those who might not be aware, the original name of the OR Tambo School of Leadership was Dr Hugo Nkabinde Training Centre.
The camp was started as a result of Resolution 435 of the United Nations, designed to pave the way for the independence of Namibia. This resolution required that all foreign forces should leave Angola. Uganda, under President Museveni, was more than willing to accept the cadres of the ANC. The first contingent of 152 MK soldiers arrived in Kaweweta in 1989.
During the period 1989-1994 the population of Kaweweta was to increase to over 3 000, which made it the biggest concentration of MK soldiers in one camp. This made the School at Kaweweta the camp with the highest concentration of personnel of all MK camps.
MK soldiers received enormous support from the Ugandan government, such as transport, logistics, medical care and other facilities. They were regularly visited by senior military and government officials.
Your Excellency I would like to single out the late Major General Fred Rujema, who went beyond the call of duty to be of assistance to MK soldiers here. But most importantly, let me acknowledge President Museveni for being a true friend of the South African people, who always stood on our side during that protracted struggle.
Soldiers who were based in this camp say that President Museveni personally visited the camp in 1993, and joked that: "You have built a town here, this will be my commission for keeping you here!". In your speech on that day Mr President you explained that you chose Kaweweta for MK because it was where you fought the struggle against dictators in Uganda.
Let me also use this opportunity to thank the Government of Uganda for preparing MK soldiers for conventional military service. In 1991, training at the OR Tambo School was changed from guerrilla training to conventional warfare. Some MK cadres were also sent to educational institutions in Uganda such as Makerere University.
To make the cadre?s part of normal life, they were allowed to participate in local sports leagues such as rugby, soccer, cricket and netball.
Former MK soldiers who were based in Uganda say the highlight of their stay was on 27 April 1994.
They recall that on this day, President Museveni personally called the then camp commander, and congratulated them on their victory in the elections. He instructed the MK soldiers to get out of the bush in uniform and march in the streets of Kampala from Pan-African Square to Parliament, where he addressed diplomats and people of Uganda for the first time about the presence of MK soldiers in Uganda.
Mr President, you are a true friend and comrade, we sincerely thank you.
It is significant that the OR Tambo Memorial Hall which is one of the buildings at the facility that has been renovated, was officially opened on 10 March 1993 by that doyen of our struggle, President Oliver Tambo.
The original hall was built in 1990 by MK cadres but they could not complete it because in February 1990, the liberation movements were unbanned, signalling the return home.
The decision to name the School after our hero and icon Oliver Tambo, should not come as a surprise. His work in the field of international relations and diplomacy was exemplary.
In light of his lasting legacy, we have also named the new headquarters of our Department of International Relations and Cooperation after him, which will inspire our diplomats to emulate his prowess in international relations.
Only this past weekend, the Government and people of Namibia awarded him the highest order in their country, the Order of the Eagle.
All of this demonstrates what a remarkable leader President OR Tambo was. We are happy that his son, Mr Dali Tambo has been able to join us to represent the family on this important occasion.
Your Excellency, it is our fervent hope that we have contributed, through this school of leadership for the police and military, in some small way towards bringing about sustained peace, security and stability in the broader region and in Northern Uganda.
Whilst we continue to be concerned that a Final Peace Agreement has not yet been signed, we are relieved that peace and security in Northern Uganda has gradually improved since the signing of the Cessation of Hostilities Agreement in 2006.
In this regard, we wish to pledge solidarity with your Government, and to assure Uganda that South Africa will continue to provide the necessary support to the Juba Peace Talks within the framework of the African Union.
We are of the view that peace for the region is premised on the shared destiny and common interest for the region.
To this end, working through regional structures such as the Southern African Development Community, the African Union and the International Conference on the Great Lakes, South Africa will be ready to work alongside our brothers and sisters in the region for a common brighter future.
We share that common goal of working for peace and stability, it is one of the key factors that bind us together.
Ladies and gentlemen, as we said yesterday, the emotional ties between us forged during the struggle should now bind us as we move towards building stronger economic relations to improve the quality of lives of our peoples.
We must work together to eradicate poverty and place our countries, both individually and collectively, on a path to a sustainable development.
Please allow me to once again convey to you, Your Excellency, the Government and people of Uganda, our sincere gratitude as the people of South Africa.
The OR Tambo Leadership school, as well as the graves of Mkhonto Wesizwe soldiers in this area, will forever remind us of this wonderful country and wonderful people who stood with us during a difficult period in the history of our country.
It is my singular honour to commission the OR Tambo Leadership School today.
I thank you.