By Joan Akello
The Embassy of France in Uganda has awarded Betty Atuku Bigombe, the Minister of State for Water with the highest French national distinction, the Legion of Honour, in recognition of her contributions towards peace building and human rights defence, among others.
“I consider this gesture as extremely humbling. Most of my work to date has been to a large extent advancing peace,” said Bigombe at the ceremony held at the French ambassador, H.E Sophie Makame’s residence on Mar. 4.
Makame said Bigombe is one of the foreign nationals to be awarded the Legion of Honour that was established as a national award by Emperor Napoleon I in 1802.
“It is bestowed upon people from all walks of life, both French and foreign nationals, who have made outstanding achievements in various fields: Heads of State and Government, civil society activists, military officers, intellectuals, sports, entertainment,” Makame said.
The decoration of the Legion of Honour is a five doubled-rayed star, surmounted by a crown of oak and laurel. The centre of the star, enamelled with white, is surrounded with the oak and laurel branches and presents, on the obverse, the effigy of the Republic with the inscription: “République française” (FrenchRepublic) and on the reverse side, two tricolours flags with the motto “Honneur et Patrie” (Honour and Country) and the date: “29th floreal Year X”.
The decoration has five different grades: Chevalier (Knight), Officier (Officer), Commandeur (Commander), Grand Officier (Grand Officer) and Grand Croix (Grand Cross).
Makame decorated Bigombe with a Chevalier that is Silver in colour with a 40 mm diameter, attached by a 37 mm wide moiré red ribbon.
Also in attendance was the speaker of parliament Rebecca Kadaga; Chief of Defense Forces of Uganda Gen. Edward Katumba Wamala; Internal affairs minister Gen. Aronda Nyakairima, Kristian Schmidt the EU head of delegation, government officials, Members of Parliament, the diplomatic corps and the civil society.
Kadaga lauded Bigombe as a worthy recipient of the award who is bold and courageous. “I remember seeing photos of a beautifully dressed Betty Bigombe with military fatigue… but the only woman sitting in the forest with Kony and his rebels, her life was in danger. She could have probably been killed.”
She added that Bigombe’s commitment as minister for Northern Uganda then is showing through the activities she carried out in Gulu with the help of the defence forces.
Bigombe dedicated the award to the victims of the war in Northern Uganda Lord Resistance Army, the peace negotiators and commanders of the Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) who worked with her during the civil war.