I congratulate the Organisation of African Unity on its 40th Anniversary
and extend a warm welcome to all our distinguished guests who have come
to South Africa to celebrate Africa Day and to rejoice in the birth
of the African Union.
On 25 May 1963, the founders of the Organization of African Unity (OAU)
gathered together in Addis Abba, Ethiopia to establish an Inter-African
organisation in the spirit of unity and solidarity.
In the aftermath of colonialism, African leaders since the 1950s were
inspired by a Pan-Africanist vision of a Union of African States sharing
common aims of multicultural unity, socio-economic and political co-operation
and development, the promotion of human rights, the protection of human
rights and freedoms, the promotion of peace and stability and the removal
of the remaining yokes of colonialism and apartheid on the continent.
Their bold vision spawned many initiatives including the Pan-African
Conference in Manchester (UK) in 1960 and a succession of conferences
in Casablanca, Abidjan, Brazzaville, Yaounde and Lagos which led to
the setting up in January 1962 of a Permanent Secretariat and the acceptance
of a Draft Charter for a Continental Organization.
After extensive deliberations, 31 African states signed the Charter
of the Organization of African Unity on 25 May 1963. The Charter of
the OAU, the political and legal document signed by all 31 Heads of
State, committed their countries to membership of the OAU. In the Preamble
of the Charter, they declared:
"…Inspired by a common determination to promote understanding
among our peoples and co-operation among our states in response to the
aspirations of our peoples for brotherhood and solidarity, in a larger
unity transcending ethnic and national differences…"
The aspirations of those African leaders were premised on socio-economic
development, which they correctly believed was essential for the total
liberation of Africa.
The basic tenets of unity, prosperity and freedom from colonialism as
espoused by those courageous African leaders remain true today as we
transform ourselves into the African Union. In the same Preamble, they
"…Desirous that all African states should henceforth unite
so that the welfare and well-being of their peoples can be assured…"
In the Charter, as approved by those leaders, they committed the Organization
and future generations to the peaceful settlement of disputes, economic
and social development, respect for human rights, the protection of
refugees and to fighting colonialism. For the past forty years the OAU
has successfully waged a struggle against colonialism and ethnic strife
and has promoted multiculturalism.
Today, 25 May 2003, the continent again marks the birth of the OAU.
South Africa, itself a product of the struggle for freedom and unity,
and the current Chair of the African Union, joins hands with the rest
of the continent to salute and honour some of the distinguished leaders
of the continental struggle such as Kwame Nkrumah, Gamel Abdel Nasser,
Haille Selassie, Mmandi Azikiwe, Sekou Toure, Modibo Keita, Kenneth
Kaunda, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, Augostino Neto, Samora Machel, Amilcar
Cabral, Albert Luthuli, Oliver Tambo, Walter Sisulu, Nelson Mandela
and many others.
The OAU has served its time with distinction and we pay tribute to the
founders of the OAU and the vision they pursued with unity. We are humbled
by their loyal support and numerous resolutions that were passed by
the OAU against injustice on the Continent. South Africa is grateful
that the OAU consistently condemned apartheid, since we also celebrate
our freedom today as a result of the persistence and fortitude of the
We also look to the future. The people of Africa and their governments
have resolved and are determined to make this the African century. As
we celebrate the achievements of the OAU, we re-dedicate our efforts
towards this goal and acknowledge the challenges that our Continent
New challenges confront us today, brought about by world-wide phenomena
such as globalisation and shaped by our desire to see a prosperous,
healthy, stable, unified and peaceful continent, fully living up to
its promise and potential. We need to harness and use our meagre resources
at hand especially our natural, cultural and human resources.
We suffer hardships in our Continent, most notably, poverty and conflict.
We need to address these challenges with dedication and commitment,
and recognise that these hardships extend beyond the original, political
mandate of the OAU. For this reason we have transformed the Organization
of African Unity into the African Union in order to deal with the socio-economic
development of the continent in tandem with the need to build political
There are new issues on our agenda today such as democracy, peace and
stability, human security, good economic governance as well as sustainable
development, human rights, health, gender equality, information and
computer technology, integrated regional development, cultural and heritage
preservation and promotion.
In the spirit of the African Renaissance, African leaders have developed
an African Action Plan consisting of over 100 projects as part of the
New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) programme for
the renewal of our Continent. It is only with our collective dedication
and resolve that the NEPAD programme will realise our vision of Africa
free from poverty and underdevelopment.
Our vision of a stable, secure and prosperous Africa depends on viable
and effective partnerships between government, civil society formations
and business as well as bilateral and multilateral partnerships among
the governments of Africa. Crucial in a fiercely-competitive global
economy is our aim of establishing equal partnerships with the most
powerful economies of the world as well as with our friends in the international
community and the African Diaspora.
The international community is eager to see whether we will be able
to live up to the conditions that we have set ourselves in NEPAD and
its African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) in which we have designed measures
to assist states where capacity gaps exist and to set benchmarks of
excellence for a vibrant and progressive Africa. We, in Africa, are
optimistic that a new dawn is breaking and that prosperity, peace and
human security will be a reality rather than a figment of our imagination.
As we celebrate the founding of the OAU and the time that has gone by,
we re-dedicate ourselves to the vision of the founders for unity and
the emancipation of this Continent from disease, poverty and economic
powerlessness. As we do so, we draw strength from those who have gone
Their strength in unity and their dedication will also be our strength
and dedication. I have no doubt that, in this African century, a stable,
prosperous and proud Continent will come to fruition. For this, the
OAU has laid the foundation and the AU has taken up the challenge to
implement and to expand the vision of the founding fathers of the OAU.
May we all across our Continent celebrate Africa Day with pride in the
achievements of the OAU and may we all again be inspired to face the
future with renewed vigour, loyalty and dedication to our Continent.