President Museveni decorated the Aga Khan during the Independence Day celebrations at Bushenyi-Ishaka Grounds in Bushenyi District.
By Alfred Tumushabe
President Yoweri Museveni on Monday awarded His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan IV, the 'Most Excellent Order of Pearl of Africa, The Grandmaster' to recognise his decades of work and contribution to Uganda’s development.
President Museveni decorated the Aga Khan during the Independence Day celebrations at Bushenyi-Ishaka Grounds in Bushenyi District.
The Aga Khan has enormous investments in education, energy, health and hotel and tourism, media among others, in the country.
The Aga Khan, who is the Imam (spiritual leader) of the Ismaili Muslims, arrived in the country on Sunday ahead of today’s 55th Independence anniversary and held a meeting with President Museveni and other senior government officials at State House Entebbe.
Earlier, during a media briefing at the Uganda Media Centre, Presidency Minister, Ms Esther Mbayo hinted on why Uganda was honouring His Highness the Aga Khan.
“He will receive a special honour because of the immense economic contributions he has made to our country and indeed the whole world,” Ms Mbayo said.
Mawlana Hazar Imam presented with Uganda’s highest honour
Earlier today, Mawlana Hazar Imam was conferred with the Most Excellent Order of Pearl of Africa by His Excellency President Yoweri Museveni, as part of Uganda’s 55th Independence Day celebration.
Held in Bushenyi Municipal Grounds, Uganda’s Independence Day consisted of jovial celebrations, various cultural performances and renditions of the Ugandan and East African national anthems. President Museveni welcomed Mawlana Hazar Imam as the guest of honour, and acknowledged the Ismaili community’s contribution to the ongoing development of Uganda.
The Most Excellent Order of Pearl of Africa award is the most esteemed civilian decoration of the Ugandan Honour System, and has been presented to only five other individuals in the history of the country. The distinction was granted to Hazar Imam in recognition of exceptional contributions made by Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN) institutions to the economic and social development of Uganda. AKDN agencies in the region operate in a number of industry sectors including energy, banking, health, tourism, education, and media.
Upon receiving the award, Hazar Imam expressed his gratitude to President Museveni, and noted about the progress of the country “Your national pathway has been exciting and inspiring to watch and all your friends, including of course myself, look to the future of Uganda in hope, in aspiration, for a better quality of life for all the people of Uganda and of this region of Africa.” He went on to outline his wish for the future, “Our institutions have been here for many decades, [and] it is my hope today that they will participate in improving the quality of life of all the people of Eastern Africa as they build for future generations.”
Excerpt from an article of President Yoweri K. Museveni:
During the celebrations, His Highness the Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Spiritual leader (Imam) of the Shia Ismaili Muslims, founder and Chairman of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), was decorated with the most excellent order of the Pearl of Africa medal for his colossal contributions to Uganda’s development and to humanity.
The citation for the award stated that through the Agha Khan Development Network (AKDN), His Highness has made a lasting impact on the lives of thousands of Ugandans by providing access to high-quality education, health, hydroelectric power, media services (NTV, KFM, Daily Monitor, The East African), civil society, financial inclusion and hospitality (Serena Hotels).
The AKDN has a long history in Uganda spanning over 100 years in Uganda and East Africa and its activities in the country range from infrastructure projects including the Bujagali Hydroelectric Power Project, the country's first private hydroelectric power project, to a holistic early childhood education programme that operates in underprivileged communities, and from an advanced nursing studies programme to providing essential pharmaceuticals.
The occasion’s special guest, His Highness the Aga Khan, thanked President Museveni for his invitation and award.
“I am honored to celebrate the occasion of the 55th independence anniversary with you. It was inspiring to watch the National Guard marching. Although my community is small in East Africa, it is my hope that they will participate in improving the lives of Ugandans in all works of life,” he said.
The Most Excellent Order of the Pearl of Africa was on Monday conferred upon the Aga Khan. This was at Uganda’s 55th Independence Day festivities in the Western region of the country, close to the world-famous Queen Elizabeth National Park.
The Order of the Pearl of Africa is the country’s highest possible award and it derives its name from Winston Churchill’s 1908 unforgettable encomium of the land as the loveliest on the continent. Uganda has many nicknames, including our jocularly intimate ‘Matoke Republic’, but the ‘Pearl’ is one of which Ugandans are proudest, regardless of its colonial origins.
Anyway, the Order of the Pearl, instituted in 2005, is a very rarely-awarded honour. The first of its so-far five recipients was, I believe, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, posthumously. It is normally reserved for Heads of State and Government.
This, indeed, is what had me prick my ears when I heard that the Aga Khan was going to be the Guest of Honour at the independence celebrations, and he was to be vested with the Pearl of Africa Order. I could not help wondering if the Aga Khan was a Head of State or government somewhere.
Those more knowledgeable than I will already have noticed my ignorance of these matters. Indeed, my ruminations today are a frank admission of such ignorance and a humble plea for enlightenment from those privileged to have inside knowledge of the Shia Ismaili “Imamat” and its Head, the Aga Khan. My curiosity needs no apology, but I should add that I am sure I am not alone in my unawareness of the essential facts of this significant segment of our world and society.
We may read the daily paper, watch a TV programme, resort to a banking, insurance or other financial service, attend school or receive medical care. Hardly are we aware that most of these times we are benefiting from an Aga Khan enterprise. Even more importantly, few of us in East Africa, especially in the urban areas, ever go through the day without interacting with “subjects” of the Aga Khan, at work, at school or at play.
This already hints at the sovereignty, the virtual ‘Head-of-State’ status, of the Aga Khan. But the story is even more intricate and fascinating, as I found out when I started looking around a little.
I will not attempt to tell it in detail, as I cannot claim to have understood it all, and I do not wish to rashly arouse the controversies that are inherent in most such great stories.
Dr. Vali Jamal’s Reflections on His Highness the Aga Khan receiving Most Excellent Order of the Pearl of Africa
Vali Jamal is BA Cambridge and PhD Stanford, author of the book Uganda Asians, concluded at 2333 pages, 10,000 images, after 10.6 years of work, now expected to be launched mid 2018.
Dr. Vali Jamal's Reflections on His Highness the Aga Khan receiving Most Excellent Order of the Pearl of AfricaLiving in Kampala and following the Independence Day celebrations “live” on TV I think there was an opportunity missed here to capitalize on Uganda’s highest medal conferred on the Imam. Media articles could have been prepared to explain the significance of the medal and care could have been taken to include in the citation certain crucial achievements of His Highness and the Aga Khan family in the 60 years of the present Imamat and three Imamats before then.
The medal – called the Most Excellent Order of the Pearl of Africa, Class 1 – is Uganda’s highest medal reserved for Heads of State. So far it has been given to only five heads of state, including President Nyerere posthumously. So HH Aga Khan is in exalted company. A Class 2 medal also exists for “Princes”. His Excellency President Museveni was clearly in an expansive mood at the conferral and HH Aga Khan’s response showed the same. The medal can only be bestowed on Uganda’s Independence Day, October 9, and His Highness accommodated to that late in the discussions, and by combining a didar, made Uganda the first Iamaili jamat to be granted the Diamond Jubilee didar. Museveni made it a State Visit, with a Guard of Honour at the airport and a platoon of soldiers even on the jamatkhana compound to escort the Imam. Hazar Imam himself was so pleased at all this that he referred to his medal at the didar the next day and said he would return to Uganda soon. Many murids were hearing of the medal for the first time.
At the national level the citation remained firmly rooted to the ground, more or less a shopping list of what the AKDN had invested in Uganda – effectively in the last two decades, with even the pharmaceutical factory mentioned. It was like HHAK was being honoured as a mere investor. No mention was made that this year was chosen for this medal because it was the Aga Khan’s Diamond Jubilee, nor that one ceremony of the Imam’s coronation was done on the Kampala jamatkhana compound, something very emotional for Uganda Ismailis, as it was a last-minute move, enforced by the withdrawal of the permission by the Kabaka’s government to do the coronation on public land as against Buganda custom. The Aga Khan family’s historical ties to Uganda could have been mentioned, in terms of schools and the dispensaries built by Sir Sultan Mohamed Shah Aga Khan III and even further back to HHAK’s grandfather’s grandfather Imam Hassanali Shah Aga Khan I for his guidance to Ismalis to come to East Africa. The “King of Commerce” in Uganda Allidian Visram came under this guidance.
Mention should have been made that to all Uganda Asians, not just Ismailis, and to Uganda government itself, the Aga Khan is part of Uganda’s history as a “hero” at the Uganda expulsion in 1972 for his and his uncle Prince Sadruddin (as UNHCR Head)’s roles in Uganda Asians’ resettlement. Uganda Asians belong in history books because of the expulsion and H H Aga Khan and Prince Sadruddin were part of that saga. Such connections are made in a citation to make it soar. Unfortunately, the reader called us Islamia throughout his speech.
Is it the highest national medal conferred on HHAK by ANY country? I had said so at places but then went to Wiki and found that Ivory Coast, Upper Volta, and Madagascar had conferred their “highest orders” on HHAK at mid-1960s. Are these medals only reserved for Heads of State and HHAK was being recognized as one? The Head of State criterion is important in the comparison. PAKISTAN conferred on HHAK the Nishan-e-Pakistan in 1983. It is only given to Heads of State. In going down the list I find that the first one was conferred on the Shah of Iran in 1959 and later honourees included the Queen of England, President Nixon and Indian Prime Minster Morarlji Desai. Mandela is there. We don’t know about the African awards – who were included – but seeing the Pakistan list we could say that is THE highest honour to HHAK so far.
The Honorary Citizenship of Canada conferred on HHAK, as early as 2005, has the title Honorary Companion of the Order of Canada. It is Canada’s SECOND highest medal, given so far to only six other people, including Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Kii.
Georgia’s Governor Deal presents His Highness the Aga Khan with Proclamation on the occasion of his Diamond Jubilee
“For 60 years, the Aga Khan has demonstrated a longstanding commitment to improving the human condition for the betterment of individuals and the advancement of societies around the world.”
Atlanta, USA, 14 March 2018 - Georgia’s Governor Nathan Deal today presented His Highness the Aga Khan with a State Proclamation recognising his 60 years of dedication and inspiration towards improving human condition around the world. Governor Deal welcomed His Highness to Georgia on the occasion of his Diamond Jubilee – 60th anniversary – as Imam (Spiritual Leader) of the world’s Shia Ismaili Muslim community.
The presentation was made at a meeting held at the Georgia State Capitol attended by Chief of Staff Chris Riley and Abby Turano, Deputy Commissioner for International Relations, Georgia Department of Economic Development. Upon his arrival, His Highness was received by the Honorable Brian Kemp, Secretary of State for the State of Georgia.
The Governor congratulated His Highness for his profound vision and leadership over the past sixty years. They discussed a shared vision of improving the quality of life for all people by promoting early childhood development, planning for the future, and creating opportunities for economic growth. They also discussed areas of partnership around research in vocational education, healthcare and agriculture as well as best practices in student and faculty exchange.
In the context of his hereditary responsibilities, His Highness has been deeply engaged with the development of countries around the world through the work of the Aga Khan Development Network. The Shia Ismaili Muslim community, inspired by His Highness, actively contributes to the wellbeing of all citizens and community service initiatives in Georgia.
His Highness has, over the last six decades, received numerous decorations, honorary degrees, and awards from institutions and nations across the world. Most recently, in 2017, the Aga Khan received four prestigious honors in the United States: the Foreign Policy Association Medal; the President’s Medal by the Architectural League of New York; the Champion for Global Change Award by United Nations Foundation; and the Asia Game Changer Lifetime Achievement Award by the Asia Society.
Religious leaders such as the Aga Khan may be difficult to decipher in Western contexts.
On March 14, the governor of Georgia presented a state proclamation to Prince Shah Karim al-Hussaini, the Aga Khan, the spiritual leader of Shia Imami Ismaili Muslims. The proclamation recognizes the Aga Khan as the 49th hereditary imam, tracing direct lineage to Prophet Muhammad through his daughter Fatima.
There are not many occasions when state entities recognize a religious leader, and a Muslim one at that. It is, therefore, worthwhile to understand the Aga Khan’s work and the interpretation of Islam that he represents.
The proclamation makes reference to the Aga Khan’s “longstanding commitment to improving the human condition” and his work in the global South through the development institution that he founded over 50 years ago, the Aga Khan Development Network. The network operates in more than 30 countries and has a broad scope, which includes education, health care, financial services and cultural and environmental preservation.
At first glance, the Aga Khan appears to be like any other rich philanthropist — another Bill Gates or George Soros perhaps, using his private wealth to venture into previously colonized worlds to rescue its people through service delivery. That, in fact, is one of the ways in which the Aga Khan is popularly viewed in Western contexts: a philanthropist, a social entrepreneur, a do-gooder.
The reduction of the Aga Khan’s work to these trendy idioms, though well-meaning, is misguided. It significantly narrows the scope of his efforts, which he grounds in the faith of Islam. Philanthropy, in the American context, has developed over the course of the 20th century as a way for individuals to deploy their private wealth for the good of the people. Such individuals have also often been able to mold public policy to align with their visions.
However, it is precisely this ability of private actors to influence public policies that makes scholars suspicious of “big” philanthropy. Run by private boards with broad agendas, philanthropies yield extensive political power without public accountability, while relying on public funds and tax breaks for their operation.
Additionally, while some philanthropic endeavors have religious affiliations, increasingly many more are distinctly secular. The emergence of the latter in the West has taken place in a context where religion is presented as a conservative force leading toward intolerance, while notions of tolerance and justice are often linked with secularism — even as scholars have delineated the religious roots of secularism. Religion and religious people, thus, are popularly viewed as being out-of-place in the contemporary moment. Such sentiments make religious leaders such as the Aga Khan difficult to decipher in Western contexts.
The Aga Khan has previously explained:
I am fascinated and somewhat frustrated when representatives of the western world — especially the western media — try to describe the work of our Aga Khan Development Network in fields like education, health, the economy, media, and the building of social infrastructure. Reflecting a certain historical tendency of the West to separate the secular from the religious, they often describe it either as philanthropy or entrepreneurship. What is not understood is that this work is for us a part of our institutional responsibility — it flows from the mandate of the office of Imam to improve the quality of worldly life for the concerned communities.
THE Aga Khan is touring the US as he marks the diamond jubilee of his leadership as the imam of the Shia Ismaili Muslim community.
Last Sunday (1, at a lunch hosted in honour in Houston, Texas governor Greg Abbott paid tribute to the Aga Khan’s leadership and the achievements of his organisation in improving healthcare and education for people in developing countries.
“We have a state motto – and that motto is friendship. This is a friendship that has lasted many years and that we expect will continue many years into the future,” the governor said.
The Aga Khan said: “Civil society is a key resource for development. Everything we do together to invest and enhance the capacity of civil society is a blessing that you give to the populations in those countries.”
A military honour guard and saber salute by the Texas A&M Ross volunteers greeted the Aga Khan upon his arrival in Texas. Secretary of state Rolando Pablos, city of Houston chief of protocol Deanea LeFlore, and Sugar Land mayor Joe Zimmerman welcomed the Aga Khan and the mayor presented him with a Key to the City of Sugar Land.
Last Wednesday (14), Georgia governor Nathan Deal presented the Aga Khan with a state proclamation in recognition of his philanthropic activities.
Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson of Texas recognized Hazar Imam in the US House of Representatives for his efforts in fostering "progress & peace through hope." @RepEBJ is shown here with Council for Central US Pres, Nizar Didarali, at the Ismaili Jamatkhana and Center, Plano.
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