On this day, 25th May, Africa Day is commemorated diversely in parts of the continent and the diaspora. I would like to share some personal thoughts about what, I believe must be an important day of reflection and re-commitment in our continent.
It was on the 25th May 1963 that the first continental intergovernmental organization after independence, was created. The Organization of African Unity (OAU); mother of the current African Union (AU) was born by the adoption of its Charter in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia during a meeting hosted by the Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie. The OAU was founded by 32 countries. Later, 23 other states have gradually joined the body over the years. OAU was an unprecedented commitment to the aspiration for the total political liberation of the continent from colonialism as well as the unity and solidarity among its people.
Who Commemorates Africa Day? Only a handful of African countries officially observe Africa Day. These include Zimbabwe, Zambia, Mali, Ghana, Guinea, Lesotho, Mauritania and Namibia. The day is also observed at the African Union headquarter in Addis Ababa. It is also encouraging to see that thousands of citizens are consistently reacting on social media using the hashtag #AfricaDay. Today, the African Union Commission is hosting an event aiming to create, awareness for the public at large on the theme of the year 2018 which is “Winning the Fight against Corruption: A Sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation”. President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, the current Chairperson of the Union, Dr. Abiy Ahmed the Prime Minister of Ethiopia, host nation the Union and the Chairperson of the AU Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat will participate in the event. See the programme here.
Africa Day should not be confused with African Union Day (AU Day) which is commemorated on the 9th September each year, marking the day on which the decision to transform the OAU to the AU was taken by the Assembly of Heads of State in Syrte Libya in 1999. So, AU Day was the 9/9/99 !
The transformation of the OAU to the AU created the hope of a greater unity and solidarity of African countries and among African people. In fact the desire to build a people-oriented and people-centered institution is the main distinguishing feature between the African Union and the Organization of African Unity which was largely state focused.
Beyond the Celebration…: First, it’s important that Africa Day is fully commemorated in all African countries and in the entire diaspora. It should be a day on which we tell African stories to our young generations. Stories of our past glories, stories of a future hope… Africa Day should also be a day of re-commitment to our shared values and our common Agendas, both the Agenda 2063 and the UN Sustainable Development Goals of which we are fully part. Africa Day should be a day of a renewed African solidarity. A day of remembrance of the important part of our continent that is still devastated by all sort of unjustifiable conflicts, a day of determination to fight severe poverty and all kind of inequalities in Africa.
In fact, since its inception, the AU has raised the normative bar for the realization of socio-economic and democratic development ambitions of the continent. But the adoption of norms, treaties, policy frameworks only is not enough to take us to the “Africa We Want” We must realize the promises by effectively implementing them and regularly holding ourselves accountable to them… It time to close the gap between continental promises and the daily reality of most citizens.
Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika! God Bless Africa!