Addis Ababa - Africa’s Nthambeleni Gabara 54 countries that are members of the African Union (AU), came under one roof recently to celebrate the 50 years of unity on the continent.
Hundreds attended the anniversary celebrations to mark the foundation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) established 50 years ago. The OAU gave birth to the more contemporary African Union (AU), which was inaugurated in Durban in 2002.
The many milestones in the continental body’s history were celebrated across Africa but Ethiopia was probably a fitting stage for the main golden jubilee. It was here that the OAU was born in 1963, giving hope to many African countries which at the time were still battling with colonialism and apartheid.
Interspersed with short messages of support from a selected list of leaders, including Former Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda, AU Commission Chairperson Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and Ethiopia’s new leader Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, the audience was treated to a programme of African traditional performances and cultural items.
The spectacular show was put together by South Africa’s well know choreographer Somizi Mhlongo.
A 10-minute video paid tribute to the late Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who died last year. Zenawi was described as someone who transformed Ethiopia from a poverty-stricken country to a solid base for the AU and one of the fastest growing economies in the region.
Guests who attended included Heads of State, former presidents, diplomats and foreign representatives. President Jacob Zuma was accompanied by his International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.
On the streets, people waved their flags and painted their cars with African flags, while flags of AU member states were displayed outside hotels and at several public and recreational facilities.
Inside the huge hall where the celebrations were held, those who spoke at the event stressed the need for unity and intensified efforts to render the continent free from poverty, conflict and disease.
Dlamini Zuma said: “We pledge to free our continent from malnutrition, unemployment, poverty and disease. Let us march towards a continent that is at peace with itself.” Encouraged by the ongoing economic growth in the continent over the past few years, many African leaders, including Dlamini-Zuma, believe Africa has the capacity to fund its own continental body.
She called on Africans to be part of the solutions to the continent’s problems.
The celebrations were followed by the AU Heads of State summit which explored ways of making the continent more integrated, prosperous and peaceful over the next 50 years.
A major outcome of the summit was the adoption of the African Immediate Crisis Response Capacity (AICRC), an initiative led by South Africa. On a voluntary basis, member states of the African Union will contribute troops and finance the capacity so as to act independently. So far, South Africa, Uganda and Ethiopia have pledged to implement the decision on the establishment of the capacity. Command and control will be ensured by the AU Peace and Security Council upon request of a Member State for intervention.
“We must be able to resolve conflicts that occur on our continent and deal with them amicably where they occur. The continent has made some strides but for Africa to prosper, we have to solve our current problems. You are Africa’s hope.”
In his message to mark the auspicious occasion, South Africa’s President Zuma reminded leaders that efforts must be intensified to reform the governing global order.
“While we rightfully celebrate the 50th anniversary, we are cognisant of the challenges we face. The road ahead to attain peace, stability and prosperity on the African continent for all her peoples is still arduous.
“This calls on all leaders of the continent to sharpen their resolve and through the African Union, raise our collective voices, and confront the challenges presented by the current global dispensation.”