Sunday, May 28, 2017

Keep the Flame of Freedom, Unity Alive
 Dr Sydney Sekeramayi
Zimbabwe Sunday Mail

On May 25 each year, we join the rest of Africa in celebrating our freedom, unity and identity as Africans.

On this day in 1963, our founding fathers gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia bound together by a shared vision and common purpose of creating a united, free and prosperous African continent.

Their determination and commitment to the cause of African unity transcended nationality, religion, the artificially imposed boundaries, language and culture. In the words of one of the finest sons of Africa, the late Kwame Nkrumah, “Africa is one continent and one people” and “we are not African because we were born in Africa but because Africa was born in us.”

This was the revolutionary spirit and solidarity that prevailed among our forebears in Addis Ababa in 1963, which was soon to come alive in the hearts and minds of all Africans wherever they were.  It was this same spirit that convinced our founders that if Africa was indeed one, it could not continue “half free and half slave”. In the words of the late President Nkrumah “The Independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the African continent”.

To this end, the Organisation of African Unity was born and charged with the responsibility to liberate our continent from colonial domination and exploitation. The continent at large owes its freedom to the vision, courage and wisdom of our founding fathers who made our fight for freedom and self-determination their fight.

We, in Zimbabwe, are privileged to be led by a statesman and icon of the liberation struggle, President Mugabe, who witnessed in person the formation of the Organisation of African Unity in Addis Ababa in 1963 and who, to this day, continues to inspire our nation and instil pan-Africanist values and ethos in our youths.

We owe a debt of gratitude to these valiant sons of Africa. The only way we can repay them for their sacrifices is for us to keep the flame of freedom and unity alive.

We must, as our founders did, put Africa first in all our endeavours. We must rekindle the spirit of togetherness, unity and solidarity among our people. We cannot afford to be divided. A united Africa will be able to withstand the negative forces of globalisation and neo-imperialism that are prevalent in our contemporary world.

We have come a long way since May 25, 1963. In this long and difficult journey, we continue to draw inspiration from the words of Mwalimu Julius Nyerere who once said: “My generation led Africa to political freedom. The current generation of leaders and peoples of Africa must pick up the flickering torch of African freedom, refuel it with enthusiasm and determination and carry it forward.”

Our Heads of State and Government rose to this challenge in 2002 when they transformed the OAU into the African Union and refocused their efforts to imparting a fresh impetus into the struggle to eradicate poverty, conflict and disease from our continent.

Africa is on the rise. Africa’s new vision for political and economic emancipation, Agenda 2063, and its first 10-Year Implementation Plan is gaining traction everyday across our continent. Zimbabwe is proud to be associated with Agenda 2063, not only because of its clarity of purpose but also because of its national and historic significance.

It holds the key to Africa’s future development and to the achievement of self-sustaining growth. The successful implementation of Agenda 2063 demands that we strengthen our continental institutions if “the Africa we want” is to become a reality.

We need to revamp our working methods in order for the African Union to become more vibrant, efficient, focused and effective. It cannot be business as usual anymore in Addis Ababa.

The African Union Commission needs to be reformed for it to be fit for that purpose. This is why in June 2015, under the Chairmanship of President Mugabe, the African Union Assembly unanimously adopted the historic decision to reform the way we do business at the African Union.

We are happy to note that the reform agenda continues to gain momentum, this time under the wise leadership of President Paul Kagame of Rwanda.  It is our hope that the newly-elected commission will spare no effort to ensure that these reforms are a resounding success so that the African Union can better deliver on its programmes.

Institutional reform alone will not deliver “the Africa we want”. The successful and timely implementation of the African Union blueprint, Agenda 2063, and its first 10-Year Plan demands that we resource our organisation in a sustainable and predictable manner. If we don’t, someone else will.

President Mugabe could not have put it in a better way when in his address to the African Union Assembly in Johannesburg, South Africa in 2015, he said: “Unless and until we can fund our own programmes, the African Union will not be truly our own.”

It was in this context that the African Union Assembly in Johannesburg took the historic decision to progressively increase Member States’ contributions so that in the next five years, the African Union would be able to finance 100 percent of its operational budget, 75 percent of its programme budget and 25 percent of its peacekeeping budget. But the monumental task of delivering on the promises of Agenda 2063 demands that we do much more.

We need to explore and develop new and innovative approaches of funding our Union. During Zimbabwe’s Chairmanship of the African Union, President Mugabe pledged a donation of 300 cattle to the African Union Foundation, then at its infancy. This exercise is nearing completion, with the proceeds from sales of the cattle soon going to be made available to the Foundation.

This humble gesture by the President is an example of what is possible if we apply our minds to the urgent need to find alternative ways to fund the Union.

In our quest to implement Agenda 2063, our women and our youths are our greatest asset. Unlike most parts of the world which are experiencing the phenomenon of an aging population, Africa has the fastest-growing and most youthful population in the world.

According to the African Development Bank, over 40 percent of Africa’s population is under the age of 15 years while 20 percent is between 15 and 24 years. Africa’s future and well-being, including the future of Agenda 2063, therefore, lies in the hands of our youths. But that future can only be certain and be on a firm footing if we, as a continent, take that conscious decision now to make the right investments in our youths.

This is why the Heads of State and Government of the African Union collectively decided to make “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through investing in Youths” the theme for 2017.  We look forward to participating in this important debate which will take place during the forthcoming Summit in July this year.

Peace and security are prerequisites for the success of Agenda 2063.  It is, therefore, imperative that we strengthen Africa’s peace and security architecture by, among other things, providing it with predictable and sustainable resources.

This is critical if we are to succeed in silencing the guns on our continent as envisaged in Agenda 2063 by the Year 2020.  We welcome the establishment of the Africa Peace Fund as a step in the right direction towards self-sufficiency.

We believe that African solutions to Africa’s problems are the guarantors of peace and stability to our continent. It would be remiss on my part to conclude without making reference to Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, that issue that continues to blemish Africa’s otherwise excellent record of achievements.

It is totally unacceptable that 54 years later following the establishment of the Organisation of African Unity, the people of Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic remain under colonial bondage and are still to exercise their inalienable right to self-determination.

Our Union should uphold as sacrosanct the fundamental principles and values of our organisation as embodied in the Constitutive Act of the African Union. We should never condone colonialism irrespective of its origins and no matter who the coloniser may be.

If we do, our founding fathers will surely turn in their graves. As we celebrate this 54th Anniversary of our Union, let us pledge as Africans to redouble our efforts to ensure that the people of Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic exercise their right to self-determination in an unfettered manner in accordance with the relevant AU and UN resolutions on this matter.

Defence Minister Dr Sydney Sekeramayi made these remarks in his capacity as Acting Foreign Affairs Minister at the 54th Africa Day Celebrations in Harare last Thursday.

No comments: