Monday, June 03, 2013

(SUNDAY MAIL SA) Africa celebrate golden jubilee
Sunday, 26 May 2013 00:00
Caesar Zvayi in ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia

President Mugabe joined over 50 heads of state and government and scores of former presidents for the official launch of the African Union’s Golden Jubilee Celebrations at the new AU headquarters here yesterday.

The celebrations, being held under the theme Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance, precede the 21st Ordinary Session of the African Union General Assembly that opens here today and come at a time the relevance of the continental bloc to the challenges confronting the continent is under question.

Most of the current crop of leaders are pale shadows of the luminaries who gathered here 50 years ago.

President Mugabe, who represents the last crop of the leaders of the founding fathers’ ilk, is on record bemoaning the loss of direction in the AU which is why the Golden Jubilee theme, Pan-Africanism and African Rennaissance, has been hailed as a realisation on the part of the leaders that the continental body was in need of rebirth.

The official launch comprised addresses by AU chairman and Ethiopiam Prime Minister Mr Hailemariam Desalegn, AU Commission chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and a select group of panelists, among them African Development Bank president Donald Kaberuka, former Jamaican premier Percival Patterson; gender advocate, writer and academic Dr Amina Mama and Mrs Tendai Wenyika-Gava, the chairperson of the Pan African Youth Union.

Mr Desalegn said the AU’s original Pan-African aspirations remain relevant. He identified five important interventions, among them the development of the agricultural sector, building human and technological capability, building infrastructure, promoting the private sector and nurturing democratic governance and popular participation.

Dr Dlamini-Zuma said the questions Africa faces pertain to self-reliance, economic independence, rising social inequalities, integration through modernised infrastructure and industries.

To achieve these targets in the future and sustainably change the narrative on Africa, Dr Dlamini-Zuma urged Africa to create free trade areas and move towards a common market.

Mrs Wenyika-Gava, who spoke on behalf of the youth, said young people were tired of being touted as the future and wanted to be given charge of their destiny today.

She said most of the African leaders present will not be there in 2063 the time by which they hope the vision they intend to thrash out during the 21st Session will have borne fruit.

The Grand Debate of the official launch centered on four major areas: better utilisation of economic opportunities, the need to have strategies for the future, challenges relating to governance and changing the discourse on Africa, and inclusion.

The outcome of the Grand Debate as well as the recommendations from consultations conducted by the AU Commission with key stakeholders will inform Africa’s Agenda 2063, a framework expected to guide the continent’s political and socio-economic development over the next 50 years.

Various interventions were made by African Heads of State and Government present.

After the launch, the celebrations – which are expected to last a year – reached a crescendo in the vast Millennium Hall that accommodated about 10 000 guests who witnessed several dancing troupes perform musical dramas.

Legendary musicians such as Congolese Rhumba giant Papa Wemba, the Mansa of Mali, Salif Keita, and British-based reggae band Steel Pulse, were pencilled in to perform last night.

Giant screens were set up across Addis Ababa to bring the festivities to the people.

The 21st Ordinary Session of the Africa Union General Assembly opens here today and is expected to be seized with mapping Vision 2063 as well as the peace and security challenges facing the continent
Mali, which recently underwent unconstitutional regime change, is expected to be discussed along with Madagascar which is in an impasse since a 2009 coup as well the DRC whose eastern region has been overrun by rebels that a UN-backed force has failed to contain.


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