President Paul Kagame joined the rest of the continent to call for unity amid challenging times as the African continent celebrated the ‘Africa Day’ since the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was established 57 years ago.
In his message, President Kagame said the continent is faced with challenging times as a result of the New Coronavirus outbreak but said unity will see the continent overcome the difficult times.
“As we celebrate Africa Day, these challenging times remind each of us that our collective well-being, prosperity and dignity will only be achieved through unity of purpose,” President Kagame, who is also the Chairperson of the African Union Development Agency (AUDA) -NEPAD Heads of States and Government Committee said.
President Kagame also shared a recorded message which was aired during the ‘Africa Day Benefit Concert At Home’ which was broadcast on Youtube and MTV Base Africa.
“To everyone watching around Africa and the world, I just want to say thank you. Africa Day symbolizes the unity of our past and proud heritage of our continent and of African people wherever they may be,”
“The antidote to this pandemic is caring for one another. Every act of solidarity weakens the virus. You can make the difference by supporting the organizations doing the good work on our continent and around the word. Thank you so much and stay safe,” President Kagame said.
The concert hosted by prominent actor Idris Elba to raise funds to support food and health needs for children and families in Africa affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with the World Food Programme and UNICEF who are supporting COVID-affected communities across Africa.
President Kagame also thanked the African Union Chairperson Cyril Ramaphosa and the Chairperson of the African Union Commission_Moussa Faki Mahamat for their leadership towards the continent achieving the “Africa We Want” status.
In his message, President Ramaphosa, reflected on the principles upon which the OAU, which transformed into the African Union in 2002, was founded, saying that from the beginning it was dedicated to the idea that only through unity could Africa safeguard its independence and unlock its potential.
“Today we pay tribute to our forebears the founders of the OAU whose dream of greater African integration and unity has endured,”
“We also honour the legions of revolutionary leaders of Africa who took up the mantle of pan-Africanism and who fought for the economic and political integration of Africa,” President Ramaphosa said.
He said the founders of OAU left a formidable legacy for the continent and all its peoples and continue to inspire Africans and the generations that will come.
“It was the mission of the founders of the OAU to liberate the continent from the clutches of colonial oppression, to restore Africa’s fortunes and to restore the dignity of every African man, woman and child,”
“We are reminded of the difficulties they had to overcome and the resistance they encountered from foreign powers that had much to gain from exploiting divisions on the continent. Yet they taught us the power of perseverance and sacrifice, of dedication to an ideal, and that an Africa united can overcome even the greatest of challenges,” he said.
The AU Chairperson said that as the continent marked Africa Day, it is under the shadow of the New Coronavirus pandemic, which has swept across the world and left no part of the African continent untouched.
“Thus far almost 96 000 people have been infected with almost 3 000 having lost their lives. This COVID 19 pandemic will have a lasting impact on our ability to meet the aspiration of the African Union’s agenda 2063 of a peaceful, united and prosperous continent,” he said, warning for long term effects.
President Ramaphosa said the virus has exposed the deep inequalities that continue to exist on the African continent and across the world, pointing out that it has shown how far African is from realising her developmental goals.
He however said that the global crisis should enable a new Africa to come to the fore -an Africa of heroic acts of solidarity, cross-border collaboration and sharing of knowledge and resources and an Africa that is united by acommon goal.
He called for a comprehensive, robust economic stimulus package for Africa that includes debt relief and other support measures for the continent’s immediate humanitarian needs and necessary economic recovery. He called for unconditional lifting of sanctions that have been imposed on Zimbabwe and Sudan.
On his part, the AUC Chair Faki said that despite Africa liberated itself from the colonial presence and from apartheid 57 years ago, initiating its political unity, making significant economic, social and cultural progress, flagrant shortcomings and delays remain in place.
“We are constantly plagued, not without anguish, by many questions. Has Africa become the continent of freedom, peace, prosperity, and success that our Founding Fathers dreamt of?”
“Are Africans united, interdependent and thriving? Has Africa gained a place commensurate with its immense potential and legitimate ambition in the international arena?” pondered the Chadian diplomat.
He said the scorecard of the Continent’s half a century of independence and freedom leaves one in doubt.
“In spite of its huge economic potential, and its rich, young and dynamic human capital, most African States have difficulties in ensuring the welfare of their populations,”
“Key sectors such as education, health and security are largely dependent on foreign aid. Communitarianism and tribalism have become more marked due to multiparty systems and democratic principles that have oftentimes been perverted,” Faki said.
He cited challenges, ranging from open crises, caused by terrorism and inter-tribal or inter-religious conflicts to post-electoral crises, which he said constantly beset the progress the continent has made.
“As Chairperson of the African Union Commission, one of whose key commitments is to silence the guns on the Continent, I am deeply touched by the sight of the current events in Libya, one of the founding members of the OAU, and the principal initiator and proponent of the African Union,”
“The tragedy being played out in this country is of profound concern to us all. No-one is blameless in the failure, neither is any segment of the international community, which has a great responsibility in the persistence or even escalation of the conflict,” said.
The AUC Chair however said that there are some glimmers of hope, insofar as there is great determination to overcome the odds, and immense resources to break the cycle of dependency and poverty.
He cited positive developments and new impetus such as the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA) and joint efforts to fight COVID-19 as some of the positives to look up to. He said the continent will continue to put up joint efforts against the virus and ensuring economic recovery.