By Fred Kiva
President Yoweri Museveni has underscored the importance of arts and culture in strengthening East African unity for development.
This was contained in his message delivered for him by the Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda at the official opening of the 3rd edition of the Jumuiya ya Afrika Mashariki Utamaduni Festival (JAMAFEST 2017) at Kololo Ceremonial grounds on Sunday evening.
According to the president, through such a festival East Africans are able to appreciate their culture as a unifying factor.
“Culture is key for unity in any institution and through unity we can achieve all our developments,” he noted.
The president added that it is in appreciation of culture's role in uniting people that the NRM government restored cultural institutions in 1993.
The week-long festival is a series of cultural and arts activities to showcase the rich East African traditional cultural heritage.
Among other activities is an exhibition of art and culture products, a fashion show, comedy, music dance and drama, a carnival and a visit to selected cultural heritage sites.
The event which runs up to September 14, brings together about 1,000 participants from the East African Community Member States including Rwanda, Kenya, South Sudan, Tanzania, Burundi and Uganda.
This year's JAMAFEST was held under the theme, “culture and creative industries; an engine for unity and employment creation.”
The Minister for Labour and Social Development, Hajat Janat Mukwaya explained that the idea of JAMAFEST was adopted by the East African Council of Ministers in 2013 as a two-year rotational event. The first festival was held in Rwanda in 2013 and later in Kenya in 2015.
The minister said that culture can offer avenues to address key social issues.
"Culture can offer new approaches to address social problems, with the current unemployment problems, creative industries have become a powerful approach,” Mukwaya said as she explained this year's theme.
Meanwhile some exhibitors at Kololo have spoken out about the event.
A communications officer at the Cross-Cultural Foundation of Uganda, Ahabyona Aliguma said much as the event helps in showcasing the rich East African culture, there’s need to also bring on board cultures of minority ethnicities, which he said were not represented.