Closing Remarks by President Jacob Zuma of the Republic of South Africa to the 13th Ordinary Session of the African Union Assembly of Heads of State and Government, Sirte, Libya, 3 July 2009
Your Excellency, Brother Leader, Moummar Gaddaffi, current Chairperson of the African Union,
Excellencies Heads of State and Government,
Chairperson of the African Union Commission, H.E Dr Jean Ping,
Deputy Chairperson of the African Union Commission,
Commissioners of the African Union,
Chairpersons of the Organs of the African Union,
It is with great pleasure and honour that I accept the invitation to make the closing remarks before this Assembly.
I'm quite certain that I speak on your behalf in expressing our thanks and appreciation to H.E Brother Leader, Moummar Gaddaffi, for the hospitality and generosity extended to our respective delegations.
We are gathered here because we believe in the fundamental principle on which the Organisation of African Unity and later the African Union were founded – the unity of the African peoples, the unity of the continent.
This is a fundamental principle which binds us all. Even on those issues on which we fundamentally disagree, we should be guided by the principle of unity, and remain true to the founding principles of the OAU and the AU.
As the South African government, we remain steadfast in our commitment to African unity and advancement, guided by the oldest liberation movement in Africa, the African National Congress. We have a long and proud tradition in this regard.
Many of you will remember and will have met the former President of the ANC, His Excellency Oliver Tambo, who always reminded his cadres that the strength of the ANC came from the support it received from the African peoples throughout the continent.
He knew that our freedom would be attained because of such solidarity.
The ANC was granted observer status in the OAU and we were proud to be afforded such status when we were not in government.
Our icon and former President, His Excellency Nelson Mandela, also reminded us of the pivotal role of the African continent in our struggle for freedom.
He opened the way for the ANC in many countries in the continent during the struggle for liberation, and continued in this direction as President of the Republic. You will all recall his sterling role as the mediator in the Burundi peace process.
Both Madiba and President Tambo were part of the processes of the establishment of the OAU, and participated in PAFMECSA which preceded the OAU. President Tambo attended the launch of the OAU, which created an everlasting association.
Former President Thabo Mbeki made the African Renaissance the backbone of his foreign policy, and worked tirelessly to push the African agenda on the world stage.
Working with his colleagues they gave the continent instruments such as the New Partnership for Africa's Development, the African Peer Review Mechanism and others.
These remain key vehicles for African development and progress.
Former President Kgalema Motlanthe, now Deputy President of the Republic, made a notable contribution in conflict resolution, one of the areas we want to continue to invest in, for the sake of future generations.
We see our role as building on the legacy of these leaders, guided as they were by the principles of the ANC, which inform government policy. Internationalism is a crucial feature in the unique character of the ANC, inspired by the spirit and ideals of human solidarity. Our policy is informed by a number of factors.
Firstly, the ANC correctly became part of the progressive forces that fought against colonialism, racism, poverty, patriarchy and other social ills.
Secondly, the founders of the ANC defined the organization as a unifier and as a premier representative of the African people within and beyond the borders of South Africa.
In addition, the international front was one of the key pillars of the struggle that led to the defeat of the apartheid regime in 1994.
We will therefore continue to be very active on the international front, in pursuit of the goal of achieving a just world and a better Africa.
I pledge on behalf of the Government of South Africa and the ANC that we will never betray the cause of African advancement and African unity, and that we will never be found wanting in executing these responsibilities.
Our meeting in Libya under the theme “Investing in Agriculture for Economic growth and sustainable development”, takes us a step further in working towards a better Africa.
It has provided us with the opportunity to have a clearer and deeper understanding of the importance of this sector in our quest to find collective and sustainable solutions to poverty in the continent.
Our deliberations have clearly underlined that investing in the agricultural sector is one of the critical and viable options for stimulating our economies and kick-starting development.
The African peoples expect us to move with speed in the implementation of the outcomes of this august Assembly. The people are expecting us to take them along the path towards the attainment of a better life for all.
We also discussed climate change in this Assembly, a matter that is closely related to the current theme of the Summit. We support that Africa speaks with one voice, particularly on the twin issues of adaptation and mitigation.
In this regard, we call upon our Ministers of Environment to ensure that they remain focused and bold in the negotiations leading to the Summit in Copenhagen.
We also had an opportunity to reflect on the pockets of conflicts in our continent. All of us know that there can be no development without peace.
I must hasten to add that we have every reason to be proud of the enormous gains we have made in the past few years. For through our collective efforts, we have contributed to the silencing of guns thereby creating opportunities for the people of Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d' Ivoire, Burundi and the DRC amongst others to pursue the path of sustainable socio economic reconstruction.
We also take pride in the fact that increasingly, more countries in our continent continue to choose the path of facilitating contestation of the political space peacefully through democratic elections.
The challenge of the day is for all of us to commit to stay the course so that our mother continent can earn its place in the sun.
However, it should be emphasized that there should be no complacency. Many challenges still remain, especially in Darfur, the Sudan, Madagascar, Guinea and Somalia.
We all need to redouble our efforts. Somalia in particular, stands as a painful reminder of what happens when there is no peace.
I wish to salute the courage, loyalty to duty and readiness to sacrifice displayed by the leadership of the Transitional Federal Government. To you my brother, Sheik Sheriff Ahmed, you have heard our expressions of commitment to be on your side.
Our country will celebrate President Mandela's 91st birthday on the 18th of July through an international Nelson Mandela Day campaign.
Madiba dedicated 67 years of his life to the service of humanity. People throughout the world are therefore requested to spend 67 minutes of their time doing something useful for humanity.
This is in recognition of the fact that Madiba worked to promote human rights, freedom, peace, reconciliation and development.
We humbly urge sister countries in the continent to work with us to promote his legacy through participating in the campaign.
Brother Leader and my dear brothers and sisters,
I leave my very first meeting of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union with very warm feelings due to the wonderful reception by all my colleagues.
Working together we must continue to strive for unity and progress, and avoid any moves that will lead to the polarization of our continent. Our people expect that of us.
Let me conclude by committing South Africa to do Africa proud when we host the 2010 FIFA World Cup next year!
I thank you all and wish you well.