Opening Statement of the President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki,
at the Summit Meeting of the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership: Jakarta,
Indonesia, April 22, 2005.
Your Excellency Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President
of the Republic of Indonesia;
Heads of State and Government,
Your Excellencies Ministers and Ambassadors,
guests, ladies and gentlemen:
The historic gathering in Bandung in 1955
was a product of the victorious struggles waged by those whom the colonisers had
defined as sub-human. If there had been no struggle, Bandung would not have taken
The historic gathering in Bandung in 1955 was a conclave of fighters
for the liberation of those whom an entire epoch in human history had defined
as dependent peoples, who had been condemned to occupy a position of subservience
at the feet of those who had appointed themselves our masters.
gathering in Bandung in 1955 was a celebration of the dawning of liberty for those
that had been oppressed, and a council of war convened to determine what those
who had been oppressed together should together do with the freedom they had won.
historic gathering in Bandung in 1955 met to answer the question of what we meant
when we spoke about the exercise of our right to self-determination.
it answered that question, it said - all Asia shall be free! all Africa shall
It said that regardless of the might of those who had appointed
themselves our superiors, the sovereign peoples of Africa and Asia would evolve
their own political, economic and social systems, and defend their right freely
to determine their destinies.
It said that free Asia and free Africa would
not revisit the denial of human rights on their peoples, whose fundamental rights
had been denied by the system of colonialism and imperialism from which they had
It said that the peoples of Asia and Africa would
rebuild their cultures and identities, refusing to accept that these were primitive
expressions of a barbaric past that had to give way to what was fondly described
as Western civilisation.
When the historic gathering in Bandung in 1955
sought to answer the question what we meant when we spoke about the exercise of
our right to self-determination, it said we will never allow that humanity itself
should be obliterated from the face of the earth through the use of nuclear and
other weapons of mass destruction.
It said there should be war no more,
no wanton wastage of human life by resort to the murderous thunder of the guns,
and therefore that all international disputes should be solved by negotiation,
by mediation and arbitration, by peaceful means.
It said that no longer
should the people of Asia and Africa be condemned for all time to suffer from
the pain and indignity of poverty, deprivation and underdevelopment, which resulted
in these masses being described as the wretched of the earth.
When the historic
gathering in Bandung in 1955 projected the vision we have described, it did not
count on the benevolence of others to bring about this outcome. It was confident
that acting in unity, the peoples of Africa and Asia had the strength to create
the new world order born of their liberation and their ability to be makers of
Expressing this determination, Jawaharlal Nehru sounded the clarion
call when he told his fellow freedom fighters at Bandung - "If we have to
stand alone, we will stand by ourselves whatever happens
and we propose to
face all consequences
I know what my people are. But I know also that if
we rely on others, whatever great powers they might be, if we look to them for
sustenance, then we are weak indeed
The liberation fighters
who met in Bandung in 1955 did not want to look others for sustenance, whatever
great powers they might be, in the same way as they had not looked to others for
sustenance, whatever great powers they might be, as they fought to free their
countries and peoples from the heavy yoke of colonialism and imperialism.
very fact of the historic meeting in Bandung in 1955 made the bold statement that
the liberated peoples of Asia and Africa would stand alone if they had to, and
face the consequences, and that they would not impose on themselves the celebration
of their own weakness by underestimating their own strength, awed by the might
We have gathered in Jakarta and will conclude our work in Bandung,
exactly 50 years after the generation of freedom fighters who brought us our liberation
met in Bandung.
The masses of our people will presume that we took the
decision to revisit Bandung on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of the historic
get-together of 1955 because we are determined to walk in the footsteps of the
great apostles of liberty who defined the objectives that Africa and Asia had
Accordingly, they will be entitled to ask of us whether we made
a serious assessment of the progress we have made to realise the goals set in
Bandung in 1955. They will be right to demand that we tell them what we have decided
to do to achieve such progress if none has been made.
They will be correct
to inquire from us what we have resolved to do to consolidate the unity of the
peoples of Asia and Africa, to use our combined strength to give life to the vision
that emanated from Bandung in 1955.
They will be correct to ask whether
we have not relied too much on sustenance by others, having even sub-consciously
defined ourselves as being too weak to rely on ourselves to bring about a new
world order that would be responsive to the needs and aspirations of the billions
we represent, the same masses who were represented by the freedom fighters who
gathered in Bandung in 1955.
The obvious need for us to respect our obligation
to account to the people will require that we answer all these questions honestly.
We will also have to do this because our decisions will have to give real meaning
to the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership we have convened to establish.
Surely, the objectives we seek to achieve demand of us that we should be
frank and open about the reality we face, estimate our capabilities as accurately
as possible, and set ourselves achievable goals, consistent with the vision spelt
out by the giants who met in Bandung in 1955.
There is no doubt that we
can report to our peoples that we are today stronger than we were 50 years ago,
that we have much better possibilities to achieve the vision of 1955 than the
generation of '55 had.
Today, the peoples of Asia and Africa are free. That
said, we continue to face the serious and urgent challenge to help realise the
aspirations of the people of Palestine and a just and lasting peace in the Middle
Whatever the difficulties, we have succeeded to defend the independence
of our countries and thus entrenched the possibility for us to determine our destiny.
threat of the immolation of humanity through the use of weapons of mass destruction
in a Third World War has receded, even as we continue to face the challenge of
ensuring universal disarmament and the destruction of all weapons of mass destruction.
good number of our countries have made important strides towards building modern
economies capable of incrementally meeting the goal of achieving a better life
for the billions of people we represent. Present among us are representatives
of countries of the South that play an important part in shaping the world economy.
have made significant strides towards giving real meaning to the critical objective
of South-South cooperation, the cooperation visualised by the freedom fighters
who met in Bandung in 1955, which we seek radically to expand through the establishment
of the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership.
We have built some of the
institutional mechanisms we need to enable us to act together to achieve our common
goals. These include the African Union, its development programme NEPAD, ASEAN
Despite all this progress, we continue to face the daunting
challenge to eradicate the poverty and underdevelopment that afflict millions
of our peoples, which coexist side by side with the availability of sufficient
resources in the global economy to make poverty history.
the process of globalisation emphasises the gross imbalance in the global distribution
of power, making it imperative that we use our collective strength urgently to
achieve the restructuring and democratisation of the United Nations and other
When he spoke in Bandung in 1955, Jawaharlal
Nehru said: "I speak with the greatest respect of (the) Great Powers because
they are not only great in military might, but (also) in development, in culture,
in civilisation. But I do submit that greatness sometimes brings quite false values,
President Sukarno said: "Perhaps now more than
at any other moment in the history of the world, society, government and statesmanship
need to be based upon the highest code of morality and ethics. And in political
terms, what is the highest code of morality? It is the subordination of everything
to the well being of mankind. But today we are faced with a situation where the
well being of mankind is not always the primary consideration. Many who are in
places of power think, rather, of controlling the world
can we do? We can do much! We can inject the voice of reason into world affairs.
We can mobilise all the spiritual, all the moral, all the political strength of
Asia and Africa, 1,400,000,000 strong, far more than half the human population
of the world
I am honoured to wish this historic second Asian-African
Conference success, convinced that we have the will to advance the cause pioneered
by some of the greatest sons and daughters of Africa and Asia. We are most grateful
to President Yudhoyono, the government and people of Indonesia who have opened
the hearts and home to all of us, despite the heavy burdens imposed on them by
the recent natural disasters that have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives
and caused incalculable destruction.
Thank you for your attention.
by The Presidency on 22 April 2005