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Africa Day

Missions to the UN Join in Africa Day Celebration in New York

More than 600 top dignitaries from the African Union and the United Nations, NGOs, their families and friends gathered for the 48th celebration of Africa Day at the Manhattan Center in New York on May 31, with the innovative theme “Africa and the Diaspora” recognizing the contributions of tens of millions of Africans now living outside their native homeland.

 

 

“Our celebration here in New York is a particularly special one as we also celebrate the Year of People of African Descent,” said His Excellency Ambassador Téte António, Ambassador and Permanent Observer of the African Union mission to the UN. “We have therefore joined our efforts in a very exemplary partnership between the Observer Mission of the African Union to the United Nations, the Group of African Ambassadors Spouses and UPF to draw attention to what at the African Union, we call the ‘Sixth Region’ of Africa, namely the African Diaspora.”

(left) H.E. Mr. Téte António, Ambassador and  Permanent Observer of the African Union to the UN, (right) H.E. Mr. Anatolio Ndong Mba, representing the Chair of the African Union

A comprehensive statement on the wider Africa Day focus of “Accelerating Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development” was given by H.E. Mr. Anatolio Ndong Mba, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Equatorial Guinea to the United Nations and Representative of the Chairman of the African Union.

“It is the greatest wish of the Chairman of the African Union H.E. Mr. Obiang Nguema Mbasogo that Africa as a whole utilizes rationally the enormous natural resources which it has been endowed by God Almighty for the benefit of all the people and that this wealth be shared,” said Ambassador Mba.

The integration and empowerment of Africa’s enormous youth population will be crucial to the future of Africa, he declared. By 2020, 70 percent of the population will be under 20 years old, but one of the main problems facing all African nations is the loss of their best and brightest youth to other continents.

(left) Dr. Taj Hamad, Secretary General, UPF, (right) H.E. Mr. Joseph Deiss, President, United Nations General Assembly

“We look forward to the coming African Union summit, for the adoption of necessary strategies to facilitate the integration of youth in the sustainable development of Africa,” reported Ambassador Mba. “In view of limiting, if not putting an end to the exodus of our youth to the developed countries seeking prosperity, we must fight the current appearance of a divided Africa, and work jointly to achieve common goals.”

“Africa represents a real force,” said H.E. Mr. Joseph Deiss, the President of the UN General Assembly. “My recent visits tell me that Africa is not only reshaping our global agenda, Africa is indeed at the heart of our global agenda, our challenge as well as our hope for a better tomorrow.” The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was also represented at the event by his Chef de Cabinet, Mr. Vijay Nambiar.

A packed house at the Manhattan Center in New York City listens to the message of the African Union.

The Universal Peace Federation was represented by Secretary General Taj Hamad. “We are proud of the deliverables from our partnership with the African Union,” he said. “Based on our MOU signed in Addis Ababa, UPF has introduced groups of donors who traveled to Africa and pledged their support for the eradication of sleeping sickness, and pledged to build one thousand schools throughout Africa.”

Mr. Hamad also reported about UPF’s ongoing educational efforts in Africa, which include character education for youth, service projects, HIV/AIDS programs, and International Leadership Conferences which promote good governance for parliamentarians and other civic and community leaders. UPF chapters throughout the world also celebrated Africa Day with programs focusing on freedom, democracy, human rights, culture, sports, health, and other topics.

“Let Africa develop and shine with the light of knowledge and experience,” he concluded. “It is our privilege and duty to serve, since as our UPF founders often remind us, ‘those who receive the light will indebted to the light. Please give and give, forget that you have given and give again, with the heart of a parent and in the shoes of a servant.’”

(left) H.E. Mr. Raymond Wolfe,  Ambassador of Jamaica. (right) Mrs. Hadiza Maty Guiet Abani Chair, UN African Ambassadors Spouses Group

Mrs. Hadiza Maty Guiet Abani, the wife of the Ambassador of Niger and President of the UN African Ambassadors Spouses Group, recognized and thanked the many volunteers who had helped make the evening a success by preparing food, entertainment, serving as ushers or with registration, and in many other ways.

H.E. Mr. Raymond Wolfe, Ambassador of Jamaica and Chair of the Permanent Memorial Committee to Honor Victims of Slavery, spoke about the importance of the African Diaspora. “We want to draw attention to one of the most impactful—and tragic—aspects of our history, the transatlantic slave trade,” he said. In his appeal for support for the UN memorial, Wolfe said that it would honor the millions who lost their lives to slavery and would be a visible symbol of the world’s resolve that nothing like that should ever happen again.

A feast of food and culture

After all the speeches and ceremonies were concluded, Mrs. Mirriam Omala-Gauvin of the African Union, the emcee for the evening, invited the expectant crowd to enjoy a feast of food and culture. “Africa is known for its diversity,” she said, “and this is definitely true for its cuisine as well!”

The more than sixty dishes included yellow rice, a specialty of Madagascar, rice couscous from Burkina Faso and kofta meat from Sudan, the matapa of Mozambique featuring cassava leaves, brabousko from Niger, fish from Angola, Morocco, and Somalia. Angola, Equatorial Guinea, and Tunisia all provided whole roast lamb. Konafa from Egypt and dozens of other sweet dishes rounded off a splendid banquet.

(left) Emcee Mrs. Mirriam Omala-Gauvin

African Union, UN and UPF representatives with the celebration cake for the 48th Africa Day in New York

Music, song, and dance

Following the meal, the evening was given over to celebration, with performers from five sub-regions of Africa and the Caribbean, representing the Diaspora, warming up the audience for an evening of dance.

From North Africa came the Egyptian Tanoura Sufi dancers, whose swirling skirts told of humanity’s endless quest to find peace with God. In contrast, the amusing Bakisimba Nanksa Muwogola dance from Uganda tells the story of how a king and a country found pleasure and happiness through the fortuitous discovery of banana beer. One by one, the regions of Africa demonstrated their unique cultural and traditional heritage.

The South was well represented by interpretive dance from Mozambique, African drums from South Africa, and the borankana dances from Botswana, sometimes used to heal the sick or celebrate a successful hunt or harvest. West Africa featured Abdoulaye Toure from Niger and Edo Identity from Nigeria, and the Central Region featured a musical and dance medley showcasing the rich and diversified aspect of these peoples.

From the Caribbean came members from the St. Lucia folklore association, who pride themselves as premier ambassadors from the tiny island nation, followed by TaMo, a Jamaican musician whose well-crafted lyrics and distinctive vocal delivery have earned favorable comparison to the great Bob Marley. Finally, the tables were pushed back and the dancing began!

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