Toast Remarks to the President Bouteflika of Algeria on the occasion of the State Banquet, 16 October 2001

Your Excellency, President Bouteflika
Your Excellencies
Your Excellencies Ambassadors and High Commissioners
Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is indeed a great pleasure to welcome you, President Bouteflika and your distinguished delegation to South Africa. You have travelled a great distance to be with us in South Africa, for between us exists a journey that spans the length of this continent.

It is a journey that criss-crosses through different terrains, different languages and customs, yet is linked by mountains and rivers, by the African people's need for each other, by humanity's desire to be one.

Clearly, despite the physical distance imposed upon us by geography, the relationship between our two countries is an intimate one, going back many decades to the struggle of the African peoples for national liberation and freedom from colonial rule.

In the darkest days of apartheid rule, Algeria was among the first countries to offer support to our national liberation movement and cadres of the African National Congress benefited through receiving military training and advice from the Algerian government.

Through the solidarity of Algeria, the liberation movements of Southern Africa were beneficiaries of the benevolence of the Algerian people, who believed that the freedom of one country on the continent was inextricable bound to another and that African unity must prevail for peace and prosperity to exist for all the peoples of this continent.

Such a solid conviction that the fate of each one of us is dependent on the destiny of all, I believe, motivated the representatives at the United Nations General Assembly to take a principled position against apartheid.

In particular, we must thank President Bouteflika, at the time as the President of the General Assembly, for an important role he played in the decision to isolate the racist government of South Africa.

Accordingly, the United Nations withdrew the credentials of the apartheid South Africa clearly because they did not represent the people of this country.

This decision was also important because it intensified the fight against the apartheid regime and ensured its isolation from the rest of the world.

Once more, we must express our profound appreciation and gratitude for the contribution that your government and your people made to our own struggle for liberation.

Our meeting today in a liberated South Africa is thanks to our brothers and sisters in Algeria, to the great African family that embraced our cause as their own. The result of this solidarity and struggle which took place over many decades is the strategic partnership that we have today.

We share a common resolve to defeat terrorism whether it occurs in South Africa, Algeria, United States of America or anywhere else. We are also of one mind that the current campaign to bring those responsible for the terrorism that took place of the 11th September this year should not become the campaign against Moslems, Arabs and the people of Afghanistan.

Both our countries are committed to the resolution of the Western Sahara as expressed in the United Nations Security Council's settlement plan. I hope we will once and for all finalise this long outstanding matter.

Again we need to strengthen our co-operation in seeking ways to resolve the problems that are facing our brothers and sisters in the Middle East especially the speedy resolution of the Palestinian problem. This problem has to be brought to an end so that the people of Palestine can enjoy freedom, justice and human rights.

The last decade of the twentieth century that saw our liberation has also seen the renewal of democracy in many parts of Africa, with political freedom attained and democracy entrenching itself through burrowing its roots firmly in our two countries and in the greater landmass that constitutes the African soil.

As we work towards the goal of African renewal, we are mindful that we do so in a world economy characterised by increased globalisation wherein Africa must still claim and assert her rightful place. The Millennium Partnership for the African Recovery Programme/ New African Initiative will bring about the necessary progress. We owe a great deal to the wisdom and insights of President Bouteflika himself in the development of this programme.

The need for an African agenda of development has been recognised by our developments partners. It was recognised by Heads of Government and State at the United Nations Millennium Summit in September last year, has been accepted in recent global gatherings of world leaders and was given further impetus in Brussels last week.

Furthermore, we are transforming the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) into the African Union which will have the necessary structures and powers to ensure that the recovery programme of the continent succeed.

The fact that Algeria is South Africa's largest trading partner in North Africa shows the degree to which there is close co-operation between our two countries. This close partnership we both recognised and concretised through the co-operation Agreement of 22 September 2000 and the holding of the first session of the Binational Commission in Algiers.

In the coming days, our respective delegations will, once more, have the opportunity to further expand and strengthen the ties that bind us, to come to agreement on matters that reflect the strategic political and economic relationship between Algeria and South Africa, in crucial areas such as trade and investment, and in sectors that promote the exchange of knowledge, skills and technology.

In these ways, we shall create bridges where none exists, engage in more meaningful dialogues that promote economic integration and socio-cultural coalescence, so as to arrive at common positions, even as we speak from different vantage points on this vast African continent.

Perhaps it is precisely because we speak from different peaks of the same magnificent landmass that through an holistic approach, together we can attain a unified vision of what Africa should be like and embark on a united effort for the sustained development of our two countries and of the entire continent.

I am confident that through the co-operation that exists between us, through our common cause, we are also in the privileged position of being able to benefit countries other than ourselves, to close the gap between the rich and poor nations of this continent and to make a difference to the lives of millions of people in the developing world.

Your Excellencies,

A new phase in African history has started and we are beginning to see our vision transform itself into a practical programme of action.

May the relations between Algeria and South Africa first forged in dark times now grow from strength to strength and illuminate the road ahead.

May we grow to see the rivers, mountains and plains of Africa as fluid connectors of different nations and states, offering linkages, that become the meeting places of the new African millennium and not serve to keep us apart as they did in the past.

May every road stretching the length of this continent exist not only as a trade route, but also as a possibility for genuine dialogue, the exchange of new ideas and become a vast network of fulfilled dreams.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is therefore with great pleasure that I ask you to rise and drink a toast to His Excellency, President Bouteflika, to the friendship between our peoples and the realisation of our dream of African renewal.

I thank you.

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