Accepting Speech by Minister Dlamini Zuma at the 38th Session of the Organization of African Unity on 4 July 2002

Ministers of Foreign Affairs

Heads of Delegation

Distinguished Ambassadors

Ladies and Gentlemen

At the outset allow me to take this opportunity to express our sincere and profound gratitude to our outgoing Chairman H.E. Mr. Cheikh Tidiane Gadio, the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Senegal for his able and competent stewardship of our meetings during the challenging times in the history of our continent. Your Excellency, you have performed your challenging job admirably.

In paying tribute to you Minister, we would also like to extend our congratulations to the Senegalese National Team for their sterling and splendid performance in the recently concluded World Cup Finals in Korea/Japan. The superb display in the field of play by the Senegal National Team confirms the view that as a continent and people we are as capable as anyone else. Let's hope that this performance by Senegal will extend to success in all of our endeavors as the African continent.

Distinguished Ministers and Heads of Delegation, we are meeting at a critical juncture in the history of our continent. We are poised for the new beginning. Our primary responsibility as the elected representatives of our people is to look at how far we have come and to prepare for the long and arduous road of putting this great continent of Africa to its former glory.

This glory speaks of Africa as the cradle of humanity and constituted the very genesis of her civilization. It tells of the story of the architectural wonders like the pyramids of Egypt, the sculptures of the ancient kingdoms of Ghana and Mali and Benin, like the temples of Ethiopia, and the Zimbabwe ruins as well as the rock paintings of the Kgalagadi of the Namib Desert. These contributions in the mission of the civilization of humanity reaffirms our faith in ourselves and in our continent that, like the proverbial phoenix rising from the ashes, Africa is on the march to a better future.

Our meeting here today to wind down the work of the Organization of African Unity is the confirmation of our dogged determination to the rejuvenation of our continent. The Organization of African Unity was born during the most difficult period in the history of our continent. It had to challenge racism and the ingrained prejudice that led to the dividing of our continent by the European countries. It fought relentlessly and succeeded against the crime against humanity which colonialism and apartheid was and will forever be. It also sought to redress the legacy of slavery that was bequeathed to us by those who only saw us as nothing but pagans and less human than themselves.

Today we are saying a fond farewell to our continental Organization, which has served us so well and now to be replaced by the African Union. The new African Union will assume a bigger role. This will encompass the political, economic and social challenges facing our continent. The African Union will also include other important organs such as the Central Bank, the Monetary Union, and the Court of Justice for the Peoples and Human Rights etc that will deepen and broaden the unity of Africa.

Of importance is the critical and central role to be played by Africans in determining the destiny of their continent through their elected representatives and civil society organizations. In this respect, women must be at the heart of the renaissance of Africa. For women constitute the critical mass in Africa. They cannot be anywhere but occupy the frontline of this process.

Indisputably, this new process we are engaged in will result in the deepening of our unity. Those pessimists and Afro-skeptics who assert that we have just dropped an A from the OAU into the AU clearly misunderstand and misread the mood in our continent. The continent, its leadership and people are indeed committed to dealing with abject, poverty, chronic diseases, underdevelopment and debt as well as the technological backwardness. We are all sufficiently enraged by the conditions that define Africans as objects of charity from the dark and unfathomable continent. And we determined to revolt against these conditions

It is apt to end with the words of that great African son Kwameh Nkrumah who said when he spoke of African unity, " I can see no security for African states unless African leaders like ourselves have realized beyond all doubt that salvation for Africa lies in unity". These words of this African icon were as relevant then as they are today.

We make bold to assert that this 21st Century is an African Century. The African giant is reawakening as Marcus Garvey put it "once it wakes up it will not fall back to sleep". The renewal of Africa belongs to this generation. We dare not; we cannot afford to fail our people, our continent and the generation of Africans leaders before us. Let the peace reign in our continent and only be disturbed by the excitement of our young as they celebrate the success of the Senegalese National Team.


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