ADDRESS AT THE OPENING CEREMONY OF THE
24TH REGULAR MEETING OF THE CARICOM CONFERENCE, Montego
Bay, Jamaica, 2 July 2003
Most Honourable P.J. Patterson, Prime Minister of Jamaica
and Chairperson of CARICOM,
Distinguished Heads of State and Government of CARICOM,
Your Excellencies: Ministers, Ambassadors and High Commissioners,
Delegates and friends:
On behalf of the African Union and your brothers and
sisters in Africa, I would like to thank you most sincerely
for the privilege and opportunity you have given us
to attend this 24th Regular Meeting of CARICOM, as well
as join you as you celebrate the 30th anniversary of
My delegation and I are also honoured and pleased to
bring you the warm greetings and best wishes of the
government and people of South Africa.
Nine years ago, our country, South Africa, was still
governed by a white minority apartheid regime. But by
then we knew that freedom was in sight. We knew that
many centuries of suffering were about to come to an
end. We knew that the cause for which we had fought
together would soon emerge victorious.
In 10 months time, we will celebrate the 10th anniversary
of our liberation from apartheid and white minority
rule. We would be most honoured if you joined us in
celebrating this historic event. I trust that you will
accept this humble invitation, the very first invitation
we issue to anybody in the world.
This is not accidental. You are the first citizens
of the world we humbly invite, because of the central
role you played in the struggle to end the evil system
of apartheid, a system that was an insult to all African
people in Africa and the Diaspora, a crime against all
The victory of 1994 was therefore as much ours as it
was yours. Liberated South Africa is as much your home
as it is ours.
What we will celebrate together, as we mark the 10th
anniversary of that victory, will be the fact that despite
the physical distance between the Caribbean and Africa,
you nevertheless saw it as your duty to stand shoulder
to shoulder with us as we fought for our emancipation.
What we will celebrate together will be the fact of
the unity, solidarity and deep-seated friendship of
the peoples of African descent in Africa, the Caribbean
and elsewhere in the world.
Some of those who did not directly experience the pain
of racial oppression doubted that we would ever emerge
victorious. They thought our enemies were so strong
and we were so weak, that it would take many generations
before we liberated ourselves from tyranny.
Acting together, we proved them wrong. Together we
demonstrated practically that brute force would never
vanquish our determination to be free and fully human,
equal to any other human being in the world.
Necessarily, as we meet here today to celebrate the
30th anniversary of CARICOM, we must ask ourselves the
question - what is the new Order of the Day! What new
challenges confront us together, and what shall we do
about them, together!
Some of the answers to these questions are not difficult
to find. As elected leaders of our peoples, we know
the conditions that define their lives. We know that
millions of our people in Africa and the Caribbean are
poor. We know that the scourge of underdevelopment afflicts
all our countries.
We are perfectly conscious of the fact that we are
subject to a process of globalisation that is contributing
to an ever widening gap between us, the have-nots, and
others elsewhere who are rich, which results in the
further global marginalisation of our countries and
We know that we are exposed to a global order characterised
by a gross imbalance in the distribution of political,
economic, social and military power. This gives some
who are rich and powerful, the prerogative to be the
decision-makers for all humanity. On the other hand,
we who are poor and weak are expected to be nothing
more than supplicants, who must petition the powerful
to be merciful and charitable towards us.
But when we fought for our liberation from colonialism
and apartheid, we never thought that our liberation
would come about as a result of the good heartedness
of those who were our oppressors. Before the independence
of India, the late Sir Winston Churchill made this point
very clear, when he said he was not elected Prime Minister
of the United Kingdom to preside over the dissolution
of the British Empire.
He was right. But perhaps what he did not quite understand
was that the decision to dissolve the British Empire
did not rest with him, but with the millions in Africa,
the Caribbean and Asia who were colonised and racially
Today, the daily actions of those who are rich and
powerful communicate the clear message that they think
that the problems of global poverty and underdevelopment
are problems of the poor, and not theirs. In practice
they tell us that to get out of this condition, we must
pull ourselves up by our boot- straps, oblivious of
the fact that we are without boots and walk barefooted.
Surely, this tells us that as we were our own liberators
from colonialism and apartheid, so must we be our own
liberators from poverty and underdevelopment. The question
we must answer is - what is to be done!
How do we pull ourselves up without bootstraps?
I am certain that we are of one mind that one of the
prerequisites for the victory we seek is our unity,
in the same way that we united to defeat the apartheid
system. As we observe the 30th anniversary of CARICOM,
we celebrate and salute the sustained effort of the
people of the Caribbean to unite to confront their common
challenges together. I am certain that we pledge ourselves
never to waver in the pursuit of this goal, because
we know that we will not achieve victory unless we are
Driven by this same realisation, your brothers and
sisters in Africa took the decision to replace the Organisation
of African Unity with the African Union. In addition,
they made the determination that they must bind themselves
to a common development agenda, and therefore decided
on the New Partnership for Africa's Development, NEPAD.
Distinguished leaders of CARICOM:
As your brothers and sisters across the Atlantic Ocean,
we are aware of, and sincerely appreciate your concerns
about issues of peace, stability, democracy and human
rights in Africa. I would like to assure you that we
too are similarly concerned about these important matters
and are attending to them with the necessary sense of
Only two days ago, on June 30th, President Kabila announced
the formation of a new and inclusive transitional government
of national unity of the Democratic Republic of Congo
that will lead this important African country to democracy.
The leaders of the people of Zimbabwe are engaged in
dialogue to find a solution to that country's political,
economic and social problems.
Burundi is on course, moving towards the day when its
people will exercise their right to elect their own
government, free of military rule. Work is progressing
to constitute a peacekeeping force to end the civil
war in Liberia and neutralise the elements that have
brought instability to large parts of the region of
We will not tell you lies and claim easy victories.
We know that much remains to be done to build the kind
of peaceful, democratic and prosperous Africa that you
rightly want to see. But this I can say that however
difficult the road ahead of us, we will win.
To gain that victory, once more we need your support
and involvement in the common effort. We have to deepen
even further the spirit and practice of cooperation
and solidarity between the Caribbean and Africa, between
CARICOM and the African Union.
Together, we have the task to decide what we should
do to engage one another in a practical way, to use
our intellectual and material resources to confront
the common challenges of poverty and underdevelopment
in Africa and the Caribbean.
Our meeting here today, to celebrate the 30th anniversary
of CARICOM, therefore constitutes a commitment to ourselves
that we will do everything we can, to elaborate the
concrete measures we must implement to unite the peoples
of the Caribbean and Africa in action, for their mutual
emancipation from poverty and underdevelopment. This
includes our cooperation as we strive to define our
place within the international community of nations.
The second Ordinary Assembly of Heads of State and
Government of the African Union will take place in Maputo,
Mozambique in a week's time. One of the agenda items
is to look at the role of the African Diaspora. The
Summit will also discuss the question of the concrete
measures we must implement to unite our peoples in action.
In this regard, we would be very happy to share our
experiences with you, as you prepare to host the 2007
Cricket World Cup. I believe that our common objective
must be that this tournament, hosted by the people of
the Caribbean, must be even better than the one that
Africa hosted earlier this year.
We will leave Montego Bay, Jamaica, the land of Marcus
Garvey and other African heroes and heroines, and depart
from the Caribbean, later today and return to Africa.
With your permission, we will tell your brothers and
sisters across the Atlantic that the leaders and people
of the Caribbean are determined to intensify the struggle,
acting together with the leaders and peoples of Africa,
to ensure that our common dream for the renaissance
of the peoples of African descent is no longer deferred.
Hearty congratulations to CARICOM on its 30th birthday
and many thanks for your attention.