On the occasion of the commemoration of Africa Day, today 25 May, 2006, I extend my sincere congratulations and warmest greetings to all my African brethren, both on the African continent and in the African Diaspora. It would be recalled that on the 25 May, 1963, the leaders of the then independent Africa, made history and gave significant impetus to the continent's collective but then incomplete struggle for independence, by establishing the Organization of the African Unity. Nearly, four decades followed, in which African states stood united in the framework of the OAU, while making efforts to give depth and meaning to their political independence and striving for the socio-economic development of their peoples. Those efforts yielded positive results, culminating in the establishment of the African Union (AU).

The transformation of the OAU into the African Union was inspired by the desire to accelerate the process of integration and harness it for the purposes of socio-economic development on the continent. The OAU, of blessed memory, focused first, on the agenda of decolonization and subsequently, on the resolution of the myriad of political conflicts that afflicted the continent. Yet the various conflicts had their roots in the crisis of economic development and the rising phenomenon of social inequality, exclusion and bad governance. The new African Union takes cognizance of this linkage and is designed to establish a meaningful balance between the demands of political stability and rapid socio-economic development.

The Strategic Plan of the Commission that was approved by the Assembly in July 2002 situates this challenge within the framework of integration. The plan is informed by epochal changes in the nature of the international system in which African States have to operate. The end of the Cold War in the late 1980s significantly altered the nature of the international landscape for development. It thus became clearer than ever, that our countries could not seek refuge in ideological camps or associational imperatives. Enduring development demands that the continent seek auto-centred development that would embrace multiplier efforts effects in agriculture, trade, boosting of infrastructure, human resources, and technology and scientific development. No African country can do this alone. We have to work together for integration and development, and this realization finds resonance in this year's theme for Africa Day: “Working Together for Integration and Development.”

In practical terms, this implies that we need to change our mindset as Africans at all levels – local, national, regional and continental – and re-direct our energies and efforts towards the mobilization of our resources – human and material – for achieving our lofty objective of building an integrated and developed Africa.

The adoption and implementation of standards in the social sphere, the formulation and execution of common economic policies that set agreed targets and the integration of our infrastructure and our economies in general, are essential elements of this objective. However, these are technical factors. The foundation of our unity must be based on a common vision, common values, common interests and strong commitment associated with these interests. The consolidation of democracy, the rule of law, good governance, respect for constitutionalism and the observance of human rights must be integral aspects of such values and commitments.

These ingredients would nourish a framework for prevention and resolution of conflicts that will enable the creation of a conducive environment, paving the way for our much desired socio-economic development. It is a truism that the foundation for economic development is social and political stability.

Accordingly, our agenda for integration and development continues to focus on the resolution of conflicts, among other things. I am glad to observe that some of these efforts have borne fruit. The completion of the transitional process and holding of elections in Liberia and the Navasha Agreement in Sudanese are both remarkable results. Our efforts and hopes also continue to focus on the amelioration of the situation in Cote D'Ivoire, a successful transition in the DRC, the establishment of a constitutional order in Somalia, and the search for a constructive and definitive solution to the crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan. Only recently, we managed to negotiate a peace agreement that should bring an end to the conflict in Sudan between the government and the major rebel group in the Darfur region. Two rebel groups have not yet signed the agreement but the occasion of this Africa Day Celebration provides an opportunity for these groups to re-assess their position and come into the fold, so that we can work together for integration and development.

Beyond conflicts, there is a need also to begin to strengthen our solidarity and co-operation in the vital areas of trade negotiation and political and economic relations with other regions and blocks of the world. Africans in general tend to bemoan the phenomenon of marginalization and the place of Africa in the global hierarchy. As we observe the rise of Asian giants, particularly, China and India, we must confront the challenge of ensuring that we claim the twenty-first century as ours. We can only do this, if we bequeath to posterity the legacy of Africa's arrival on the global scene as a vibrant, decisive actor. To achieve this, we must dream, together, plan together, work together, achieve together, and enjoy together.

We cannot do this in isolation. We have to interact meaningfully with other actors and regions in the international community.

I, therefore, wish to seize this opportunity to express our deep gratitude to our international partners from the other continents: America, Europe and Asia – for the constant interest and support that they continue to lend to our efforts. Nonetheless, the onus remains on us. No one else except Africa has a stake in securing Africa's future. The continent must forge a united front in setting and maintaining its own agenda, dictated only by its own needs and the imperative of applying homegrown prescriptions that are adapted to its particular conditions. The assistance that we obtain from our international partners can only be additional or supplementary to our own hard work and resources. We are the architects of our own destiny.

On this memorable day therefore, forty-three years since the inception of our first continental organization, the OAU, I call on all Africans to rise as one and march together for integration and development. I assure all and sundry, that if we do our utmost, with commitment and passion within the framework of the African Union, the results will be ultimately rewarding in terms of the outcomes, dignity, respect and the legacy we would share and give to posterity

I salute and congratulate the governments and peoples of our single continent and country, Africa.

May God Bless our Great Country, Mother Africa.

Forward ever the United States of Africa!

I thank you.