25 May 2013

Message by President Jacob Zuma on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Organisation of African Unity / African Union

On 25th May 1963 leaders of 32 African independent states signed the Charter establishing the Organisation for African Unity.

On that historical day, African Leaders met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to give birth to the Organisation of African Unity. Today, precisely fifty years on, we celebrate this historical event of 25 May 1963.

It is well documented that the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the precursor of the African Union (AU), prioritised the decolonisation of Africa as its main objective. In this regard, the OAU established the African Liberation Committee. The people of Africa, within the framework of the OAU Charter, took a conscious and deliberate decision to wage a united struggle against colonialism and apartheid.

Our fellow Africans, in collaboration with revolutionary forces of the world, persistently supported our liberation movements as we fought to end the abhorrent system of apartheid in our country.

It was in the pursuit of African Unity that apartheid in South Africa continued to experience intensified international isolation from the 1960s until its demise in the 1990s. We recall with pride and gratitude, the role of the Frontline States whose leaders and people were at the forefront of this campaign which subsequently led to the formation of the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC), or the Southern African Development Community as we know it today.

It was against this background that the ANC was granted observer status in the OAU attended by the Late Oliver Tambo, one of the gallant sons of our continent and later the President of the ANC. We are grateful of the gesture from the founders of our Union, which proved that we were not alone in our plight and that we were joined side-by-side by our fellow Africans.

As South Africa, we can proudly attest that South Africa, guided by the oldest liberation movement in Africa, the African National Congress (ANC), has a long and a proud tradition of working for African Unity as former President Nelson Mandela and the late ANC President Oliver Tambo played an important role in the process of the establishment of the OAU.

Today we recall that the OAU was founded against the backdrop of promoting the unity and solidarity of African States; to co-ordinate and intensify their co-operation and efforts to achieve a better life for the peoples of Africa; defend their sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence; eradicate all forms of colonialism from Africa; promote international co-operation, giving due regard to the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and co-ordinate and harmonise members’ political, diplomatic, economic, educational, cultural, health, welfare, scientific, technical and defence policies.

Thus, 25 May, celebrated as Africa Day , marks the quest for the unity of the continent and for the political and economic emancipation of its people. Following the defeat of the scourge of apartheid, a fully democratic South Africa was officially admitted as the 53rd Member State of the AU.

The 50thanniversary of the OAU would be distorted without alluding to the Berlin Conference which opened on 15 November 1884 and ended in 1885.

Historical accounts reveal that at the request of Portugal, the then German Chancellor Otto Von Bismarck called-upon on all the European powers, to apportion the African continent amongst them and finally lay to rest the confusions over the colonization and control of the continent.

The Berlin Conference created a platform for the European powers to harmonize their colonial efforts and avert a possible military confrontation among them. The colonizers understood that for their continent to persist and subjugate Africans, they on their part must forge unity.

The OAU therefore created a mechanism for the African intelligentsia and those at the forefront of the struggle against colonialism to coordinate and intensify their cooperation to emancipate the continent from colonial subjugation. The OAU thus provided a sense of purpose for the African people to restore their freedom, dignity and to strive for a better life for all Africans, hence assuming the vehicle that carried the hopes and aspirations of all Africans. African hopes were revived that a day shall dawn, when all vestiges of colonialism will be obliterated from the African soil. It is through the OAU that the need to harmonize members’ political, diplomatic, economic, cultural, health, welfare, scientific, technical and defence policies was conceived and contemplated.

As we mark the 50th Anniversary of the OAU, we must intensify our efforts and our calls for the reform of the governing global order. While we rightfully celebrate the 50th Anniversary, we are cognisant of the challenges we face. The road ahead to attain peace, stability and prosperity on the African Continent for all her peoples is still arduous. This calls on all leaders of the continent to sharpen their resolve and through the African Union, raise our collective voices, and confront the challenges presented by the current global dispensation.

As the Republic of South Africa, we are mindful of these challenges that confront our continent and the AU. The Union will have to confront these in order to realise its mandate and harness the Aro-optimism that it rising in the world. As South Africa on this day we must also dedicate ourselves to unity, kinship and tolerance. We must work hard to eradicate from our society all forms of xenophobia, racism and related intolerances.

Africa’s challenges are not insurmountable and that the African Union, can build on the proud legacy left by the Organisation of African Unity.

We must continue to work together to intensify Africa’s development through the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). The Continent must map its journey through voluntary self-assessment through the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM). It should be recalled that at the turn of the new millennium, Africa’s development agenda has gained momentum which can be sustained in the following way; an assertion by the NEPAD programme that peace, stability and good governance are foremost prerequisites for development has been heeded and subscribed to by a considerable number of African states and is bearing fruits for the continent.

NEPAD has reinforced the culture of economic development orientation on the continent which also emphasizes common African priorities for trade and commercial interaction with the rest of the world. This includes the Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa and the Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative with the prime objectives of ridding the continent of physical infrastructure deficits, and ensuring integration of markets and regions across the continent, and Africa cannot be sidelined any longer, with the continent recently experiencing some of its best periods of economic growth. Amidst the global financial meltdown, Africa registered more than 5% growth rate. These benefits must be consolidated.

The Republic of South Africa wishes to encourage all fellow Member States, the Organs of the African Union and the various Regional Economic Communities to mark this momentous milestone and to continue to work together for the realisation of a prosperous, peaceful and developed Africa, a monumental legacy for future generations.

It is further hoped that as we rededicate ourselves to the task of the African Renaissance, we will spare no efforts to contribute resources to make our Union self-reliant and independent. A free and self-sustaining Africa will be a pipe dream if we remain beholden to external sources.

In moving forward to commemorate another fifty years, we wish for goodness and prosperity for our continent and its People.

We are reminded of this wish through the African Union anthem which we must all sing aloud today: AU ANTHEM

"Let us all unite and celebrate together
The victories won for our liberation
Let us dedicate ourselves to rise together
To defend our liberty and unity
O Sons and Daughters of Africa
Flesh of the Sun and Flesh of the Sky
Let us make Africa the Tree of Life
Let us all unite and sing together
To uphold the bonds that frame our destiny
Let us dedicate ourselves to fight together
For lasting peace and justice on earth
O Sons and Daughters of Africa
Flesh of the Sun and Flesh of the Sky
Let us make Africa the Tree of Life
Let us all unite and toil together
To give the best we have to Africa
The cradle of mankind and fount of culture
Our pride and hope at break of dawn
O Sons and Daughters of Africa
Flesh of the Sun and Flesh of the Sky
Let us make Africa the Tree of Life."

 

 

 

 

 

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2003 Department of Foreign Affairs, Republic of South Africa