[25th May 2023]
Our Africa, Our Future
“Africa is today at the midcourse, in transition from the Africa of Yesterday to the Africa of Tomorrow. Even as we stand here, we move from the past into the future. The task on which we have embarked, the making of Africa, will not wait. We must act, to shape and mould the future and leave our imprint on events as they slip past into history.”
Emperor of Ethiopia, 1963
Sixty years ago, on the 25th May 1963, 32 Heads of independent African states met in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia. The new leaders were hosted by Emperor Haile Selassie. Although the main agenda item at the meeting was to rid Africa of colonialism and apartheid, the Heads of State intended to create the first post-independence institution for Africans by Africans. They were inspired by the idea of pan-Africanism. They envisioned an Africa that was free, united and controlled its own destiny.
To bring this vision to life, a charter was drawn up which established the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). The 25th May was then set aside as African Liberation Day to commemorate this momentous occasion. Over the years, the name has changed to Africa Day and the Organisation for African Unity (OAU) has been re-established as the African Union(AU). The mandate has however remained the same – an Africa for Africans, led by Africans.
Our Africa, Our Future
When the 32 Heads of State met for the first time, an Africa free from apartheid and colonialism was a distant dream. Sixty years on, the dream has been achieved. To date, the African Union has 55 sovereign member States which collectively operate under the vision:
“An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena”.
The theme for this year, “Our Africa, Our Future”, echoes the words of Haile Selassie at the inaugural meeting of the organisation. The theme serves to remind all Africans that the continent belongs to Africans. It reminds us all that we have the responsibility and ability to shape the future Africa we want.
Zimbabwe and the African Union
Over the years, Zimbabwe has worn many hats in the African Union. The most notable positions Zimbabwe has held were the Chairmanship of the African Union in 2015 and a seat in the AU Security Council in 2022. Since joining the AU in June 1980, Zimbabwe has been an active member of the organisation.
Zimbabwe is also party to one of the key charters of the AU – the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, also known as the Banjul Charter. This instrument is a symbol of the continent’s commitment to the rights of its peoples whilst advancing the dream of a unified and developed Africa. Zimbabwe is also party to other charters under the AU which deal with specific group rights, charters such as the Maputo Protocol, which addresses the rights of African women, the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, which speaks to the rights of children, and many others. Of significance at this time of approaching elections, Zimbabwe has [belatedly] acceded to the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. [These instruments can be found on the Veritas website www.veritaszim.net ]
Through participation and ratification of regional instruments, Zimbabwe has demonstrated commitment to the African Union and its ideals. Such commitment however needs to be translated into practice. This will require political will. Although Zimbabwe has gained independence, its people have been victims of many events that are contrary to the ideals the AU. These events range from violent elections to economic crises to unjust treatment of targeted groups to the unlawful assignment of communal lands and riches to foreigners – all of which are addressed in various AU charters and conventions.
As we commemorate the 60th year of the AU, let us not forget our role in the African family. Let us remember that a successful Zimbabwe contributes to the overall success of the continent.
This is our Africa and we must make our future. The founding members of the OAU had a dream to see Africa free, and we must hold to that ideal.
But when will we achieve the Africa of tomorrow that Haile Selassie spoke of?