It has been two months since the African Ambassadors Group in Washington DC, including Zambia’s Ambassador Mr. Palan Mulonda celebrated the 50th anniversary of the African Union at the Washington Hilton Hotel along 700 other guests.
At this celebration,the keynote address was made by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Reuben Brigety. Other speakers included His Excellency Serge Mombouli, Ambassador of the Republic of Congo and Chairman, Africa Day 2013 Organizing Committee, His Excellency Abdalla Baali, Ambassador of Algeria and Representative of the Chairman of the African Union and His Excellency Elkanah Odembo, Ambassador of Kenya who made remarks on behalf of the African Ambassadors Group.
Welcoming the guests at this ocassion, Ambassador Serge Mombouli observed that the 50th anniversary celebration marked a historic milestone for people of African descent. He noted that the anniversary was to celebrate Africa’s past, present and future. He also hoped that Africans would continue to work and fulfill the central goals of the visionary leaders who gave birth to African Unity 50 years ago.
Further, Ambassador Mombouli said the African Union’s golden jubillee was being commemorated on the theme “ Pan Africanism and the African Renaissance”, adding that under this theme, Africa was looking at that spirit of pan Africanism that inspires Africans through solidarity, unity of purpose to reflect on the road travelled since 1963.
Thereafter, a message on behalf of Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegan who is also Chairman of the African Union was read by His Excellency Abdallah Baali who is the Ambassador of Algeria.
The message stated that Africa Day marked not only a great leap forward in the Pan Africanist quest for freedom, independence and unity, but also the beginning of collective endeavor for the realizations of Africa’s socio-economic emancipation.
The Chairman of the African Union observed that the major responsibility of the current and future generations of Africans was to create a continent free from poverty and conflict and an Africa whose citizens would enjoy middle-income status.
The Chairman of the Ambassadors’ Group, His Excellency, Elkanah Odembo, Ambassador of Kenya and Chairman of the meanwhile encouraged the United States to consider more long-term and strategic investment in Africa stating that trade between the African countries and the US had been growing rather “slowly”.
He also noted that Africa had undertaken far reaching political and economic reforms and called for more investment on the continent. Ambassador Odembo said the political and economic changes had made Africa a more desirable destination for investment.
Against this background he appealed to the United States to scale up its investment in the 44 or so African countries from a mere US$100 billion equivalent to trade between the USA and South Korea to something much higher.
The African Union was carved out of a previously existing organization that was known as the Organization of African Unity (OAU) established on May 25th in 1963 in Addis Ababa, as a result of the OAU charter signed by representatives of 32 African governments. A further 21 states with the exception of Morroco gradually signed over the years.
The OAU paved the way for the birth of the African Union (AU) in July, 1999 with four summits that were held leading to the official launching of the African Union. The first was the Sirte Extraordinary Session held on 9th November, 1999, followed by the Lome Summit in 2000 that adopted the Constitutive Act of the Union.
The Lusaka Summit of 2001 drew the roadmap for the implementation of the AU and finally the Durban Summit of 2002 that launched the African Union and convened the 1st Assembly of the Heads of States of the African Union.
The vision of the African Union is that of a continent that is integrated, prosperous and peaceful, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena
The keynote speaker Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Dr. Reuben Brigety II said the United States was confident with Africa’s future, particularly with regards to Africa’s political unity, growing economy and expanding opportunities.
He explained that the spread of democracy and good governance was one of the key factors leading to increased economic growth in Africa and that the US was pleased to recognize that six of the ten fastest growing economies in the world were in Africa.
Turning to the African Union, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs observed that one of the most encouraging and exciting African developments in the last decade had been the degree to which the African Union had set pace for unified political standards and conflict resolution on the continent.
The African Union had taken an indispensable role in addressing political crises from Madagascar to Mali, he said. Other successes had been scored in the adoption of the African Union Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, the Africa Peer Review Mechanism and the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding creating a Strategic Partnership between the US and the African Union by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the African Union Chairperson Ms. Dlamini Zuma
The writer is Deputy Chief of Mission at the Embassy of the Republic of Zambia in Washington DC