I am delighted to be part of this historic Summit which commemorates the 50th Anniversary of the establishment of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). I join other colleagues in conveying appreciation to the government and people of Ethiopia for their hospitality and the African Union Commission for the excellent organization of this unique event.
It is a great honour to also acknowledge the presence at this occasion, of our elder statesman, former President of the Republic of Zambia, H.E. Dr. Kenneth Kaunda, one of the founding fathers of this organization.
What at the time seemed only a vision, was relentlessly pursued, beginning with the Accra Conference of 1958, through Tunis (1960), followed by Cairo (1961) to the Conference in this great city of Addis Ababa on 25th May, 1963 when thirty-two (32) African Heads of State and Government founded the Organization of African Unity (OAU).
As we celebrate the Golden Jubilee of our Organization, we can take justifiable pride in the fact that the objectives the founding fathers set for themselves have largely been achieved. Their foresight and action have translated an ideal into reality.
The theme of this special Summit, Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance, is indeed both profound and apt. It captures the essence of our Union, its ideals, its aims and its aspirations.
Fifty years ago, the socio-political and economic landscape of Africa and the entire world was different from what it is today. Africa was preoccupied with a just struggle to rid itself of the vestiges of colonialism and racial domination. The world was also in the throes of the Cold War which impacted on our struggle. But we persevered and stayed the course.
Fifty years on, Africa is independent. Africa has won its fight against apartheid and racial discrimination. The OAU and its rallying philosophy of Pan Africanism gave impetus to our struggle for our political emancipation and acceptance as full- fledged members of the international community.
While political independence has been won and colonialism, apartheid and minority rule have been defeated, we are yet to overcome the challenges of neo-colonialism, poverty, disease, violent conflicts, environmental degradation, under-development and economic dependency.
We owe it to ourselves and to future generations to ensure that Africa succeeds. We must consolidate our achievements, correct past mistakes and accomplish the new African integration paradigm for political, economic, socio-cultural and scientific development.
Today, we are reflecting on the philosophy of Pan Africanism and African Renaissance at the behest of anyone but of our own accord. We do so because we are conscious of the need to control our own destiny. For too long, Africa has been a victim of external domination, exploitation and manipulation. Africa must rediscover itself.
So, my message today is very simple. Africa must declare an end to the era of self inflicted wars and conflicts. Africa must usher in an era of transformation, peace, stability and sustainable development.
We all know that the wars we fight sap our strength, divert our resources and destroy precious lives and property. We know that these conflicts hold Africa back. We must bring them to an end immediately to give Africa respite and space to develop and realize its potential for greatness.
In this regard, we must first take definite steps and implement all the frameworks aimed at curtailing the proliferation and illicit trade in small arms and light weapons in our continent. These are the weapons of choice in the prosecution of all the deadly conflicts, acts of terrorism, piracy and armed robberies ravaging many parts of our continent. Given their lethality they have been aptly described as the weapons of mass destruction and destabilization in Africa.
Second, with Africa free of all its crises and violent conflicts, we must commit to deepen our democratic governance and rule of law. We must give voice to, and respect the wishes of our people when they express them democratically, freely and openly. Democracy must be allowed to flourish unimpeded in all our countries. We must end the culture of abuse of power and impunity. We must embrace the culture of accountability, equity and justice.
Third, for Pan Africanism to endure and Africa’s Renaissance to occur, a peaceful Africa must draw lessons from its ancient past as the cradle of human civilization. In the last 50 years, the world has attained unprecedented heights in human advancement driven by science and technology. Africa must be part of that movement and experience. Africa should aim to lead humanity again in innovation and advancement.
Africa must not remain in the margins of world affairs. Africa must continue to ask for its due rights and place in the World. Africa’s demand to be represented on the permanent membership of the United Nations Security Council is just. It should never be seen as a privilege. We should, therefore, vigorously press our demand for an urgent reform and expansion of the Council in order to inaugurate more equitable global governance architecture.
The transformation of Africa to a strong, confident, productive and competitive region should not pose challenges of extraordinary nature. Africa is a continent blessed with a versatile human resource base. The continent has huge reserves of diverse untapped natural resources. We must commit ourselves to add value to these resources and use them to transform the lives of our peoples and nations.
We must commit anew, to win our battle against poverty, hunger and disease. Africa can and must take care of its most vulnerable population, especially its youth, its women and its physically challenged. Africa must turn its begging bowls into baskets of prosperity and opportunity. We must give a new face to our people and continent. Our rebirth, our renewal, our renaissance must begin now.
We signaled this intent with the transformation of the Organization of African Union (OAU) to the African Union (AU), a decade ago. We adopted forward-looking and dynamic approaches to Africa’s integration agenda. We devised a new Peace and Security Architecture. We agreed on a new framework to ward off the tendency towards unconstitutional change of government and adopted a Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance among others. We also adopted the New Partnership for Africa’s Economic Development (NEPAD) along with the Africa Peer Review (APR) mechanism to fast-track the continent’s development agenda and enhanced governance process.
Mr. Chairman, as expected, my country, Nigeria, will remain a staunch supporter and promoter of Pan-Africanism and the ideals and objectives, championed by this Union. Our steadfast commitment to the Union arises from our recognition that African unity and solidarity will remain our strength, both as a nation and as a continent.
Nigeria will be in the vanguard of the collective efforts aimed at the realization of this continental dream. Nigeria’s policy of placing Africa at the centre of its external relations is to ensure that, at all times, the challenge of building and sustaining the Africa of our dream, remains a priority.
It is, therefore, my hope that when the Centenary of the OAU shall be marked 50 years from now, it shall be said of us that we provided the right leadership, built on the foundation already laid by the founding fathers, thereby assuring the renaissance of a proud, dynamic and fully integrated Africa.
President Goodluck Jonathan of Nigeria planned to read this statement to his peers of African Heads of State at the just concluded 50th Anniversary celebrations of the African Union in Addis Ababa. His inability to read it, according to his spokesman, resulted from conflicting schedules as he was holding a “side meeting” when he was called up for the address.