Your Excellency, Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar,
Honorable Ministers and Deputy Ministers,
Senior SA and Nigerian Government Officials,
Ladies and Gentlemen

This is an historic moment in the lives of our people. I have no doubt in my mind that this is the beginning of great thigs for our two countries and indeed for the African continent. The two days of the Inaugural session of the South Africa/Nigeria Joint Commission have been very brief but most fruitful - We have made big strides.

We have set out a very useful framework for the strengthening of relations between our two countries. I truly believe that it is this framework that is going to lay the practical foundation for the realisation of the African Renaissance that we all dream of.

I would like to take this opportunity to commend the senior officials and Ministers who have worked tirelessly to ensure the success of this Inaugural Session.

The framework that has been agreed upon will facilitate and enable the exchange of experiences, expertise and ideas to support and deepen our young democracies and ensure their continued success. It will facilitate particularly, the strengthening of democracy in our respective countries in the area of setting up relevant institutions that guarantee the protection of basic Human Rights for all our citizens and entrench the culture of democratic governance.

It is now clear to all of us that there can be no meaningful economic growth and development while our continent continues to be plagued by conflict. Our two nations, therefore, have a responsibility as members of the Organisation for African Unity, to work hard to restore peace and stability in our continent. The abuse of the basic human rights of all our people cannot be allowed to continue.

Entire communities are destroyed daily, creating thousands of displaced persons and refugees. Starvation and general dehumanisation of our people is the order of the day. Our people are forced to beg, steal or use whatever means possible to survive. Sadly it is the elderly, the women and children who are disproportionately victimised. In our frantic quest for personal power we deny our children the right to be children.

The African Renaissance can only come about when all of us consciously and deliberately take responsibility for our lives and for our actions. We each have to be proactive - we have to take the lead and contribute to the prevention and peaceful resolution of conflicts on our continent. I believe that South Africa and Nigeria have a particular responsibility towards this and towards ensuring that the International Community and the United Nations in particular, continue to invest both human and material resources in Africa in accordance with its mandate.

Your Excellency, colleagues, Ministers and all participants, as we deepen this vital relationship, it is important to note that our two countries belong to two of the more advanced sub-regional communities. They are strategically placed geographically and make up 25% of the African population.

The destinies of our two countries are undoubtedly linked to those of our neighbours in these sub-regional Economic Communities that we belong to -the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

What this implies, therefore is that the development of strong economic and trade links between our two countries and our sub-regional communities can only contribute to the development of a truly African Economic Community as set out in the Abuja Treaty. The processes underway, within the SADC and ECOWAS, are building blocks to this African Economic Community.

It is therefore quite significant that Abuja has been the venue for the Inaugural Joint Commission where we have signed the Agreed Minutes. These minutes commit all of us present today, and our governments, to the intensification of cooperation in areas such as defence and security, science, technology, education and culture, infrastructure ad economic development. We will continue to work hard to ensure that we achieve the ideal of the Abuja Treaty and improve the quality of life for ordinary Africans.

An important aspect of the framework we have agreed upon is that it enables the Vice-President of Nigeria and myself to consult during the Commission on important political issues of our two countries and of the continent. If we are to impact positively on continental and global issues of importance, I believe it is important that while the technical teams continue to meet and work out issues, we at the political level also meet as and when required, and stretegise on how best to advance the African agenda. Our relationship has, of necessity, to be of a strategic nature.

I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt appreciation to the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo for the audience he granted my delegation and me yesterday. I have understood that to be yet another expression of the commitment of his government to the letter and spirit of the Joint Commission and to the consolidation of relations between our two countries.

The meeting gave us the opportunity to exchange ideas on developments in our two countries and to listen to the ideas of His Excellency, who incidentally has had quite a long relationship with the people of South Africa. He reiterated the importance of the success of the infant democracies of South Africa and Nigeria.

There is clearly a new urgency to build democratic, accountable and transparent governments for all the people of Africa and to rejection totally the forceful taking of power through undemocratic means. This requires that our democracies be strengthened and nurtured to serve as an example of what can be achieved if we all work for the common good for all our citizens.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like at this point, to thank my counterpart, His Excellency, the Vice-President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for the warm reception and hospitality my delegation and I have received since our arrival in Abuja. You invited us to feel at home and indeed we have, particularly those of us who, like myself, are from hot and humid towns such as Durban.

In conclusion, Your Excellency, I believe we have achieved what we set out to do. We will continue to interact and consult, whenever the need arises, on political, social, economic, security and cultural issues of mutual interest and concern. The people of South Africa, Nigeria, the continent and the world have very high expectations of us. We dare not fail them. Indeed we cannot afford to fail.

I would like to also use this opportunity to formally invite you to South Africa for the next session of the South Africa / Nigeria Joint Commission next year. Your Excellency, I look forward to receiving you.

I thank you.

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