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Celebration of the 60th Anniversary of OAU/AU

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Picture: Amanuel Sileshi / AFP – Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission

By Moussa Faki Mahamat

On 25 May 1963, the Organisation of African Unity, the OAU, emerged from the baptismal font, here, in Addis Ababa. Sixty years later, in this month of May 2023, as every year, we celebrate the creative genius of the Founding Fathers who, in their PanAfricanist spirit, laid the foundation for an Africa to be built. This venture, to stand the test of time, had to be based on solid shared values, the most fundamental of which was embodied in the collective quest for political freedom, peace and social prosperity, as an essential prerequisite for development.

The African Union which succeeded it, some twenty years ago, hardly deviated from this path. Better still, it made up for the shortcomings noted on the difficult path of Conflict management and resolution, both normatively and operationally. Thus, during the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the OAU in 2013, our leaders, by adopting Agenda 2063, coupled it with an ambitious project, that of “Silencing the Guns by 2020” in order not to leave to the future generations the burden of war and insecurity. This original deadline, for various reasons, has been revised.

As we gather in this hall, with its evocative surname, the Nelson Mandela Hall, many of our Member States are in crisis. They are prey to deadly internal conflicts, fuelled by the unbridled quest for supreme power, with the corollary of significant loss of human life. Beyond their political and social fragmentation, the significant elements of their national heritage are being destroyed and drowned in sometimes bloody pain.

When this tragic picture is compounded by other negative factors, such as the democratic decline through Unconstitutional Changes of Government, with their litany of oppression and gagging of freedoms, insecurity, the spread of terrorism, violent extremism, the uncontrolled circulation of arms, the harmful effects of Climate Change, we have good reasons to place this celebration of the 60th Anniversary of the OAU, in the light of a meditation in solidarity with our brothers and sisters, who are forced to displacement or exile because of conflicts.

In the face of such a combination of circumstances and events that are asymmetrical to the proclaimed will of our leaders to build the Africa we want, there is need for reflection on the way to courageously identify the root causes but above all to endeavour to translate into deeds the pledge made, that of our Leaders to see Africa united.

The 60th Anniversary celebration intersects with other temporal milestones such as the 20th Anniversary of the AU, the launch of the Second Decade of implementation of Agenda 2063 and the mid-term journey of this Commission.

The concomitance of these various events confers a dazzling seal of historicity on this Year 2023 and particularly on this splendid and memorable day of 25 May 2023. It is in this capacity that Africa has mobilised its full cultural diversity, through discursive, human, culinary, artistic and other events within the compound of the Commission. I would, therefore, like to invite all participants to have fun visiting the various exhibition stands that are offered by our Member States.

I know that my remarks sometimes pick on the shadows of the Continent, a side that cannot hide the lights that sparkle on the other side, that of independence and victory against Apartheid, that of significant economic and scientific progress, sports, arts, the growing international role of Africa and so on. I do not belong to the intellectual school of Afro-Pessimism but on the contrary to that of an optimistic but realistic PanAfricanism at the same time.

I know that despite the difficulties of all kinds, Africa remains characterised by its great capacity for resilience. It was able, despite alarmist forecasts, at the time, to hold firm in the face of the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Better still, it seized the opportunity of this misfortune to rethink its Health Strategy, in a concerted action by our Heads of State and Government. Evidence that if Africa wants, it can, whatever the nature and type of adversity it may have to face.

This is what the AU records shows through the results of the evaluation of the implementation of the First Decade of Agenda 2063.

Significant progress has been made in various areas. They could have been greater, had it not been for the exogenous shocks that accentuated the fragilities which our efforts were already working to overcome.

To the shocks linked to the classic factors of fragility, such as excruciating debt service or the fall in the prices of raw materials, have been added the consequences of the intensification of the hegemonic struggle between the big powers. In this international context of confrontation of divergent geopolitical interests, the will of each side threatens to transform Africa into a geostrategic battleground, thereby, recreating a new version of the Cold War that is very detrimental to the effectiveness of multilateralism, on which global peace and security depend.

In this zero-sum game, where the gains of others would translate into losses for Africa, we must resist all forms of instrumentalisation of our Member States, taken individually and collectively, by sharing the strong conviction that our future remains and will depend on the patient and methodical building of our unity. Africa must unite, said Kwame Nkrumah.

The imperative duty that challenges us, today, with insistence, in this international environment marked by identity withdrawals and outbursts of protectionism, is to give real, dynamic content to this unity, if we are determined to build the Africa we want.

On this solemn day, the celebration of which plunges us back into the spirit of the Founding Fathers of the OAU, I would like to amplify their voices, which continue to reverberate, beyond their graves, by making a vibrant appeal to all of us, Africans of the Continent and of the Diaspora, so that the strength of our unity and our long-awaited and expected solidarity operate, henceforth, as indispensable levers for our power and emancipation.

Let us rely on ourselves first. The solidarity of our friends and partners will also come to supplement.

Long live Africa, long live the friendship between peoples!

I thank you for your kind attention.

Speech of HE Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission – Celebration of the 60th Anniversary of OAU/AU on May 25, 2023

This speech is published on the African Union website