May 9, 2008, 6:51 AM
Opening the event, Ethiopian PM Hailemariam Desalegn spoke of “a great leap forward in the pan-African quest for freedom, independence and unity”.
AU head Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma warned that conflicts could be silenced only by “solidarity and unity”.
The celebration featured intellectual debates on the theme: “Pan Africanism and African Renaissance”, followed by a cultural evening in the presence of current and former heads of state of the union, as well as former Secretary Generals of the OAU and former chairpersons of the AU. The United Nations Secretary General was among the guests.
Former President of Zambia, Kenneth Kaunda, who was present at the signing of the OAU Charter in 1963 animated the cultural evening with a message to the new generation, and a song in honour of women that aroused a lot of emotion and determination from the crowd.
Haile Mariam Dessalegn, chairperson of the African Union and prime minister of Ethiopia, stressed the importance of the day, stating that it was an occasion to honour the founders of the continental organization, who created the OAU 50 years ago, with a resolve to pursue the quest for African Unity in earnest, inspired by the ideals of Pan Africanism.
In her commemorative address at the Millennium Hall in Addis Ababa, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, chairperson of the African Union Commission, called on all Africans to galvanise efforts and contribute to the Agenda 2063, so that Africa takes its destiny into its own hands and occupies its rightful place in the world arena.
“We pay tribute to the pioneers of Pan-Africanism, on the continent and in the Diaspora, and to the founders of the OAU for their wisdom and foresight to lay the foundations for the unity and solidarity of Africa”, she noted. These early generations, she said, embodied the Pan African values of selflessness, solidarity and service to the people.
Referring to the oath taken by Amilcar Cabral in 1969, Dr. Dlamini Zuma said, “I swear that I will give my life, all my energy and all my courage, all the capacity that I have… until the day that I die, to the service of my people, of Guinea and Cape Verde... and to the service of the cause of humanity… This is what my work is.”
She reiterated the need to promote the image of Africa.
“We are proud to be African. In this great task, let us think like men and women of action. And act like men and women of thought….We pledge to take our destiny into our own hands, because power resides in hard work, scientific investigations, in intellectual curiosity, in creative greatness and freedom, in the fullest exploration of our human powers, and in the truest independence,” she emphasized.
Underlining her immediate priorities in achieving the Africa 2063 vision, the AUC Chairperson underscored that, “as we start the journey of the next fifty years, we are clear about the task before us: to educate our populace, and ensure healthy bodies and minds; to modernise and expand Africa’s infrastructure and connect our peoples and countries.”
She added that other tasks in front of the AU are, “to grow our agriculture and agro-businesses so that we can feed ourselves and the world; to use our natural resources to industrialise and grow our shared prosperity; to invest in science, technology, research and innovation as enablers of rapid progress; and finally to empower women and youth as the drivers of Africa’s renaissance”.
During the jubilee celebration at the Millennium Hall, several heads of state took the floor to express their vision on Pan Africanism in today’s context and renaissance through the 2063 agenda.
They reiterated their support and encouragement to ensure the implementation of this development project. Music and dance by different artistes representing the cream of the African society crowned the OAU-AU jubilee, which marked the beginning of a year-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the OAU-AU.