German Ambassador Conze addressing the guest during the German National Day Celebration 2017
Let me extend to you, in the name of all members of the German Embassy, and in my own name, a very warm welcome to the German Residence where we are celebrating 27 years of German unity. Hundreds of helping hands have made this event possible, and the support from both Siemens, and from the Delegation of German Industry and Commerce in Nairobi, is most appreciated.
As many of you have never met me before, I should, for a start, briefly introduce myself. I came to Kampala a short while ago, after many years in other parts of this continent, in the service of Germany, the United Nations, and most recently the European Union. In the last 15 years, I have worked in Kinshasa, Cotonou, Harare and Bamako. You may rightly assume that after such an unnecessarily long journey through Africa’s West, Center and South, it was high time to at last make it to the green hills of the East. To sum it up: yes, I am very happy indeed to be in Uganda for the years to come. My wife is going to join me shortly, and my children very much regret that they are already beyond their school days, and thus limited to the status of occasional visitors to this beautiful country.
Ladies and gentlemen, my task in the coming years will be to maintain and further improve the already excellent relations between Uganda and Germany. I look forward to working with all of you in this noble endeavor.
The happy memory of the fall of the Berlin Wall is still fresh for those of us who are over 50, and the younger generation present here tonight will have studied its history. Hence, I shall refrain from recalling past events tonight as we celebrate German Unity. Equally, I will not enumerate all the extraordinary things Germans and Ugandans are doing together. While skipping these traditional building blocks of a National Day speech, I will instead draw your attention to a particular issue of today, the issue of refugees.
Both Uganda and Germany have accepted to take their share in alleviating the fate of refugees from other countries, of which there are over 60 million worldwide, an unprecedented and most disturbing figure. Accepting and temporarily hosting those who had to leave their home and country, fearing for their life, is an obligation under international law, and an act of humanism. Germany has done so as a rich country, and still we are struggling with the challenge. Uganda, with more modest resources at her disposal, is now hosting 1,4 million refugees, much more than ever before. My government is paying much attention to the extraordinary effort your country is making to accommodate your unfortunate neighbors. For the second time in only two months, a senior German cabinet minister has made his way to Uganda in order to obtain first-hand information about the refugee situation.
This gives me the opportunity and the pleasure to introduce to you our most distinguished German guest tonight, H. E. Dr. Gerd Müller, the German Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development. He will be addressing you in a moment. I am pleased to welcome him to Uganda on his last official trip as a member of the outgoing German government. As you may have heard, Chancellor Merkel is about to start consultations with two other parties in order to form her next government, and none of today’s ministers is assured of returning to his post in the coming weeks. But there is no need to worry. You may take it as a well-established tradition that commitments made by a German minister in the field of foreign and development policy are commitments made by Germany, and will stand beyond changes of government that may occur at any time. I am sure you will forgive me, Minister, if I make this point in slightly more pointed language: the German Foreign Service – and that includes yours truly, is paid for making sure that, when flying across foreign lands, a German duck is never lame.
Before leaving the floor to Minister Müller, and thereafter to our Ugandan guest of honor, Hon. Minister of Information, ICT and Communications Mr. Frank Tumwebaze, I owe you a short explanation of this year’s leitmotif of the Day of German Unity.
Two weeks from now, in Germany and elsewhere, we shall be seeing a lot of attention for Martin Luther, the most famous of the many reformers of the Christian faith. 500 years ago, a powerful reformatory wave swept across the Christian part of the world. It came to divide Germany, Europe, and later many other lands where Christianity had gained ground. Martin Luther, a previously little known monk and preacher man in central Germany, is purported to have published 95 revolutionary theses at the eve of All Saints Day of 1517. Luther was focusing on the greed and low moral standards of the clergy of his time. Further up in this garden, we have modestly rebuilt the Church of the small town of Wittenberg. It was on the door of this church where Luther is said to have nailed his accusation of what we would today call corrupt habits of the church.
Let me be clear: Tonight’s leitmotif has nothing to do with theology or faith, as modern states tend to remain neutral when it comes to people’s religious beliefs. So does Germany, and it’s in our constitution. Tonight we are recalling Martin Luther’s reformation for a political reason: to commemorate one of the major early acts of courage and emancipation in what was about to become modern Europe. 500 years ago, Luther pointed to three essentials:
· First, he meant freedom for the people when he denounced the oppressive decadence of the Roman church of his day.
· Second, he meant dignity when he encouraged his fellow Christians to refuse payment to priests for obtaining absolution from their sins.
· Third, he meant emancipation when he later translated the bible into German, to enable all who could read to study the word of God themselves, without dogmatic guidance from the priests who would only speak Latin during mass, leaving the people in a state of dependency.
Freedom, dignity and emancipation – these, dear guests, are political concepts which we share across the world, and which should determine our quest for good governance. Martin Luther, 500 years ago, was a very modern man indeed.