On July 14th, as the whole of France got lit with dazzling lights to celebrate Bastille Day, celebrations to mark the same day were held at the French ambassador’s residence in Nakasero, Kampala.
A cross-section of diplomats, politicians, members of the civil society and other stakeholders converged to celebrate together with the French Nationals to mark the Annual French National Day.
Also known as la fête nationale française, the day can be traced back to 1789 when an angry mob successfully captured a Parisian fort-turned-prison and released all of the inmates.
The French revolution started with the storming of the Bastille prison. A few weeks later, France adopted the Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen as its constitution.
France was inspired by the American Declaration of Independence that contained the iconic statement: “Men are born free and remain free and equal in rights.”
The declaration ushered in a change of leadership and independence for France, with the creation of a modern French Republic.
It was then on July 14, 1789 when angry French peasants, tired of the absolute power of their king, stormed the Bastille prison east of Paris.
France, at the time, was under the rule of King Louis XVI and his queen, Marie Antoinette. It was an absolute monarchy, meaning that whatever the king and queen wanted, they got.
It did not matter that the French people were starving on the streets, so long as the royal banquet tables were full. The nobles were invited to dine at the royal table or stay at the palace.
The peasants, on the other hand, were starving on the streets. Antoinette is recorded to have shouted: “If they can’t afford bread, let them eat cake.” This was in response to a question of what starving people should eat. Such disregard of the people’s suffering only sparked more anger.
Bastille Day is widely recognized as the marker of France’s independence, and is celebrated every 14th day of July much like Uganda’s Independence Day on October 9th.
On Bastille Day, regardless of which day of the week it falls, offices are closed and there is merrymaking with feasting and over-the-top fireworks.
This year’s celebrations were held under the theme,”1968, a new era for Women.”
Speaking at the event, Stephanie Rivoal, the French Ambassador to Uganda applauded Ugandan women for fighting for equality.
“I would like to express my utmost admiration for the women in the World and especially the women of Uganda. Some marched in Kampala not later than Yesterday for the right to an equal pay, some marched earlier for more respect and protection,” Said Rivoal.
Rivoal encouraged women across the World to be strong in what they do so as to achieve their desired goals.
“You will make your Country stronger; you will make Uganda an even greater nation. Your strength, dignity, resilience, skills, energy, charisma, style and beauty are phenomenal. Believe in yourselves as much as I believe in you. For you, exceptional Ugandan Women, the sky is the limit,”
She also thanked the Ugandan Government for allowing women occupy key positions in areas such as Politics, business, academics and sports.
President Museveni in his statement presented by the Rt. Hon. Prime Minister, Ruhakana Rugunda, congratulated the French embassy for the Bastille Day celebrations.
“We acknowledge the support that France renders to Uganda in most sectors which include oil and gas, infrastructure and many more, France is one of the major partners in helping Uganda fight against gender based violence. France supports 12 districts in Uganda which embrace Women empowerment and is financing for the improvement of power and water sectors in different areas in Uganda, we congratulate you upon this occasion, “reads the statement.
He cited that the relations between Uganda and France are historic, “we will continue to maintain our interactions and strengthen ties for development.”
In his statement, Museveni acknowledged the support Ugandans have for the French National team and wished them luck in the World Cup finals.
It is important to note that, the two countries have over the years enjoyed a cordial relationship in various fields, security taking the largest portion among others.
For many years now, France has been supporting the Ugandan army in attaining basic training, learning the French language as well as mountaineering warfare tactics in strengthening the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) skills capacity, fighting terrorism and many more.