After Ethiopia, Eritrea will also be honored for Rwanda liberation

Liberation Day 2009: President Kagame presenting Prime Minister Meles Zenawi with “Uruti” National Liberation Medal and “Umurinzi” Campaign Against Genocide Medal (Photo: PPU)

Kigali: President Kagame moved Sunday to diffuse a possible regional diplomatic fallout with the announcement that Ethiopia’s ache-rival Eritrea will also be honoured for contributing to the liberation of Rwanda, RNA reports.

In speech for Liberation Day July 04, President Kagame said among the many individuals who contributed to the liberation of Rwanda are Heads of States who will be honoured at a latter date when they have time to receive their awards.

“Among them is President Isaias Afewerki of Eritrea,” said Kagame amid applause from the thousands in the Amahoro stadium. “[Last year] we honoured two heads of state including President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.”

He added: “Just like we honoured these two personally present, it is in this regard that we want to honour the contribution of the President of Eritrea such that he can deliver our appreciation to the people of Eritrea.”

During the 2009 Liberation Day, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was awarded by government here with two highest national medals. The first medal, URUTI, was given to Meles in recognition of his contribution in toppling down the former regime and bringing peace, and socio-economic development in Ethiopia.

The other medal, UMURINZI, was awarded to Meles in recognition of Ethiopia’s contribution in deploying peace keepers to help halt the war which culminated into the 1994 Tutsi Genocide.

URUTI is a Rwanda’s Liberation Medal and UMURINZI is Rwanda’s Campaign against Genocide Medal.

The latest announcement by government to award the reclusive Eritrean leader whose country is under UN and regional sanctions, positions Rwanda as neutral partner between Eritrea and Ethiopia, say observers.

When Eritrea, formally a province of Ethiopia, gained its independence in 1993, after a long guerrilla war, parts of the border was never fixed with maps and surveying markers.

The two fought a war over their border from 1998 to 2000 in which more than 80,000 people died. Relations have been tense since and the border remains an issue.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi says his country wants peace, but accuses Eritrea of acting irrationally. Eritrea’s president, Isays Afeworki (in photo), says Ethiopia is continuing the war to humiliate the Eritreans.

At the same occasion today, government honoured Ambassador Haile Menkerios, a former top Eritrean diplomat and currently United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs. Mr. Menkerios was awarded URUTI for his role in helping link RPF rebel representatives to Ethiopian, Eritrea and Ugandan government officials during the rebel war.

In his award acceptance speech, Amb Menkerios described the Juvenal Habyarimana government as “heinous regime” which he accused of massacring Tutsis. He said because of the honour of the award, “I hardly feel worthy to receive” the URUTI award.

President Kagame said later in his address that the awards to Amb Menkerios and others are for their individual contribution to the liberation of Rwanda, but that there have always been periods to honour countries.

In the speech which was largely general – as compared to the recent firry ones he has delivered, President Kagame rallied the country saying liberation was still going on.

“…a lot has been done, a lot more needs to be done,” he said, arguing the country to have a shift in mindset. Liberation starts with the mindset, said the President.

Without making any direct attacks as has been the case in his recent speeches, the President called on the population not to be “blindly misled” by anybody. Liberation is about attaining required value of being Rwandan, he said.

The President also hinted at the August 09 presidential election, urging the population to take part massively.

RNA will detail the names of those awarded today who include a US Congressman, Nigerian, two Italians, New Zealand, Czech Republic and a French author.

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