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T. António: Statement at the Celebration of Africa Day

Statement at the celebration of Africa Day in New York, June 26, 2013

H.E. Ambassador Téte António

Today’s Africa Day celebration in New York is not “business as usual.” Today is a special day of historic significance — the 50th Anniversary of the Organization of the African Unity, now the African Union. Indeed, it is not a one-day commemoration but a year full of tribute and praise to the memory of the eminent Founders of the Organization of Africa Unity, the visionaries of a united, integrated, and prosperous Africa.

Exactly one month ago, on May 25, 2013, a unique a historic event took place in Addis Ababa attended by Heads of states and governments, the UN Secretary-General, and numerous officials and high-level representatives of international regional organizations.

I am pleased to recall H.E. Nkosozana  Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, paying specific tribute to the African heroes who fought in the struggles against slavery, colonialism, and apartheid and who made the supreme sacrifice in the struggle for the liberation of Africa.

It is needless to stress the magnitude of Africa’s legacies and heritage imparted to us by those who launched the Pan Africanism ideals and values. It is with great pride that I venture to quote one of Africa’s illustrious sons, President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, who in one of his landmark speeches emphasized that “Africa, united, will emerge not as just another world bloc to flaunt its wealth and strength, but as a Great Power whose greatness is indestructible because it is built not on fear, envy, and suspicion, nor won at the expense of others, but founded on hope, trust, friendship and directed to the good of all mankind.”

I am equally honored to recall the great African historian, Cheikh Anta Diop, when he envisioned that “Africa can and will only advance through African integration, which can be realized through the Federal United States of Africa.”

Today, as our ardent prayers are poured out for one of Africa’s greatest heroes, Madiba Nelson Mandela, we are also reminded of his dreams for Africa when he said: “I dream of the realization of the unity of Africa, whereby its leaders combine in their efforts to solve the problems of this continent. I dream of our vast deserts, of our forests, of all our great wildernesses.”

In her address on the occasion of the commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of the African Union, H.E. Nkosozana Dlamini Zuma conveyed the following key messages:

The Founders of the OAU followed in the footsteps of sisters and brothers, stolen and sold from African shores, who through struggles broke the shackles of slavery. They followed in the footsteps of our people from across Africa - North to South, East, West and Central who resisted colonialism and subjugation. They followed the declaration of independence of the first Black Republic of Haiti, more than two hundred years ago. Pan Africanism united and inspired our people across the continent and globe never to accept oppression.

Today, as we debate Pan Africanism, fifty years after the OAU was formed, we have to ask some tough questions about our dream for Africa for the next fifty years and the Pan Africanist values that continue to inspire us.

Many of the themes we are concerned with today also occupied the OAU Founders in 1963:

Firstly, the Founders swore their solidarity when they vowed that all of Africa shall be free, recognizing that they cannot be free when their brothers and sisters were still under the yoke of colonialism and apartheid. They, therefore, in word and deed, through supporting the liberation movements and by advocating in international forums, fought for the total liberation of all Africans. Today, there is an impression that solidarity is a thing of the past. And yet in Somalia, which not so long ago the world gave up as a hopeless cause, it was African sons and daughters who fought and laid down their lives to create peace and keep the peace, placing it onto the road to recovery. This is but one example in our recent history. There is no greater example of solidarity than in the sacrifices of African peacekeepers across the continent, and at some point in the near future we must build a memorial in honor of those who lost their lives from all over the continent. When we, therefore, talk about African solutions to African problems, it is because we know that we can only permanently silence the guns if we act in solidarity and in unity.

Secondly, we have, with some notable exceptions, largely achieved self-determination. However, the self-reliance and economic independence that our Founders spoke of remain elusive, and social inequalities are on the rise. The Pan African commitment to independence and self-reliance remains important today – as we seek to integrate, expand, and modernize our infrastructure, to industrialize, and to develop our human capital and our agriculture.

Thirdly, we must accelerate our integration. “It appears obvious,” one of the Founders said, “that the irresistible pressure of technology must lead to the constitution of economically powerful geographical blocks…we have the choice of participation in the modern world as a solidly constructed group… or standing aside from the main economic stream.” We must therefore act with greater speed and a sense of urgency to create Free Trade Areas and towards an African Common Market, create the five regions as building blocks of the Union, and facilitate the free movement of peoples and goods.

Fourthly, our greatest resource is our people, especially our young population, whose energy, creativity, and courage must drive Africa’s renaissance. Investment in their education and training and more generally in science, technology, research, and innovation therefore remains critical to drive Africa’s modernization and development in all spheres. In this regard, the role of African business, entrepreneurs, and professionals must be strengthened, so that they too contribute to the Pan African vision. Our women must be empowered as a critical ingredient to the continental development.

Let us take forward these key messages as a reaffirmation that we are celebrating an organization today that has stood the test of time. While we can boast of remarkable achievements, we also lament the remaining challenges and hurdles that continue to impede our efforts to reach the goals of an integrated and prosperous Africa.

As we push towards the mark of celebrating another 50 years, let us seize the opportunities of the “African Moment” - Africa that is on the rise – Africa on the move as the next frontier!

Long live African unity!

Long live the African Union!

God bless Africa and God bless us all!

I thank you for your kind attention.