|38th Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the OAU, 8 July 2002: Opening Statement by Mr Amara Essy, Secretary-General of the OAU|
Your Excellency, Mr. Thabo Mbeki,
President of the Republic of South Africa,
Your Excellency, Mr. Levy Patrick Mwanawasa,
President of the Republic of Zambia,
Your Excellencies, Heads of State and Government,
Your Excellency, Mr. Kofi Annan,
Secretary General of the United Nations,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are today in Durban to open and close the 38th and last session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African Unity. The Late President Jomo Kenyatta had stated that Africa would be free the day it would convene a Summit meeting of Africa in Durban. Here we are, today on the occasion of the 90th Anniversary of the establishment of the African National Congress.
We can only thank and express gratitude to the South African people who accorded us a wonderful welcome, warm hospitality and offered all the necessary facilities for a meeting in the best possible conditions.
How can we not from this South African land, motherland of one of our most valiant heroes, Nelson Mandela, refer to the historic struggle against obscurantism, the negation of the human person and his most elementary rights?
The intention and determination of the OAU Founding Fathers, to whom we pay great and deserved tribute, the martyrdom and sacrifice of thousands and thousands of Africans led us to the path of freedom and the conquest of a freely moulded destiny. And the African Durban, modern city on the shores of the Indian Ocean, today welcomes us and tells us that never again another mind than the African mind will define Africa, that never again will its children accept slavery, racism or any form of oppression. In Durban, we find our past, our future, our sufferings and our hopes, our defeats and our victories. Indeed, Durban is also the place where we must choose what to do with life.
How many are here and elsewhere across the whole continent who, from their eternal sleep, are keeping watch over our destiny? They are a hundred, they are a thousand, they are one. Apart from emblem figures like Marcus Garvey and William Du Bois, when we mention Kwame Nkrumah, we have summed up in one name the appeal of all our heroes and precursors who, from the embryonic stage of Pan-Africanism to the doors of our present situation, have embodied our thirst for justice and dignity. If you mention one, you have to mention all. To name all of them will mean devoting day and night referring to them and remembering them while they are summoning us to cross resolutely the stages in which they recognize the very sense of their struggle and the endeavour of their existence. Let us respect them, let us recognize them and let us move forward with them. Everyone of us has a sanctuary where the soul of the great and humble ones, who went before us, rests. We salute all of them on the altar of what Africa owes them.
Excellencies, Heads of state and Government,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Organization of African Unity is multifaceted. And you, Excellencies, Heads of State and Government, are the living witnesses, the inheritors and authors of the achievements of our continental Organization.
The struggles waged for the total decolonisation of Africa, the struggle against apartheid, the exaltation of the virtues of unity, solidarity and dignity on the continent are so many efforts crowned with success. Thus, nobody will be able to dissociate the OAU from the struggle for the political liberation of our continent. Who does not remember the support given to the Algerian, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde, Sao Tome and Principe, Angolan, Mozambican, Zimbabwean, Namibian and other patriots and of course South Africans? Who can forget the action of the Liberation Committee of Dar-es-Salaam which, day after day, galvanized the energies and mobilized material resources and diplomatic support to put an end to colonial domination?
It is the Organization of African which affirmed the principle of inviolability of borders inherited from colonialism. In so doing, it limited the number of conflicts which could have broken out.
It is the Organization of African Unity which, for forty years, kept all its Member States, except one, within the same framework of consultation and action.
It is the Organization of African Unity which, in the face of the rising number of conflicts in Africa, established in 1993 the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution.
It is the Organization of African Unity which, along the way, enriched its political agenda with, among other, the Lagos Plan of Action as the master plan for an accelerated socio-economic development of Africa, then the Abuja Treaty.
During the last two decades, the OAU, therefore, gave increased importance to development issues. As a matter of fact, with 34 out of 49 Least Developed Countries, Africa is the paradox of being the most potentially rich Continent and the poorest at the level of its peoples. Faced with challenges compounded by globalization and the AIDS pandemic, our Continent did not give up and it took initiatives hence the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) as a major programme of the African Union about to emerge. Thus the Conference on Security, Stability Development and Cooperation in Africa.
Excellencies, Heads of State and Government,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Organization of African Unity was established in the midst of divergent views which differed more on the modalities than the aim of unity to be attained. Thirty nine years later we are assessing the results. The Organization of African Unity, after failures and successes, is yielding its place to the long announced, long awaited and finally being established African Union.
This culmination or rather this new phase, owes a lot, it must be said, to the personal efforts and total commitment of one man who was completely imbued with the vision of a strong, interdependent and dignified Africa. I am here referring to Colonel Muammer Gaddafi. In spite of everything or may be because of everything, he, together with his colleagues, broke the barriers of agreed restraint and paved ways to extract this African Union from the hearts and institutions of the Member States.
While we are embarking on this new phase, it is the forum and moment, in front of the Heads of State and Government gathered here and in front of the African peoples gathered here to pay deserved and sustained tribute to the successive OAU Current Chairmen and Secretaries General who contributed greatly to this development.
Each one of them, in his own manner and with his own talent brought a building block and his touch to the structure of our continental Organization.
Excellencies Heads of State and Government
Ladies and Gentlemen
This African Union will be launched tomorrow. But what does it mean for the millions of Africans whose future it will shape?
By moving from the Organization of African Unity to the African Union, the expected quality jump must lead us to an Africa of the peoples who claim and take possession of their institutions and their development process.
President Thabo Mbeki,
We are Africans, you understand me. And to borrow your imageries, may I tell you and their Excellencies Heads of state and Government, our invited guests, the South Africa People, the people of Africa of today and tomorrow, a new era will dawn on Africa and for Africa.
This sun will brighten all the cities, villages and hamlets of our Continent. The message is that of hope and the rejection of fatality. This new day which symbolizes the future victorious conquests on all social, economic and political fronts, ushers in also the new pages of the history of our Continent which we are going to write.
Apart from the optimism and exaltation, it is the resolute will of the damned of the earth to grab from fate the control of their destiny in all lucidity, brotherhood and in the comity of nations. Because nobody will do it for us.
Rich in human resources and having extraordinary and considerable potentialities, Africa, through its initiatives and mediation, continues to endeavour to engage itself resolutely in the path of peace, stability, security and good governance.
We are on the road to an Africa standing on its feet, dignified, prosperous, determined to be a credible and respected partner within the international community.
We are on the road to fraternity, solidarity, peace with all the peoples of the world.
We are on the road to guarantee that never again no other non-African will define Africa.