Today is Africa Day, the annual commemoration of the 1963 founding of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which is now known as the Africa Union (AU), [established on 26 May 2001]. The OAU was established on 25 May 1963 in Addis Ababa, when 32 countries signed the OAU Charter and 22 states have since joined the continental bloc. 53 years after the founding of the OAU, what are your thoughts on the progress made, how important is the day to you?
On this special day, the continent celebrates African Unity and the attainment of independence from the yoke of colonial powers.
While political freedom from colonial powers and the right to self determination has been achieved (with the exception of the Western Sahara), the continent still faces a host of challenges, which require concerted effort, and sustainable approaches.
The prevailing challenges include combating health issues, poverty, economic freedom, improving the quality of education, mediating in civil wars, ecological issues, fighting climate change and hunger amongst others.
As Africans across the continent and in the diaspora celebrate and commemorate the day, we take a look of quotes from various African leaders, which capture the importance of Africa Day and African Unity.
1. “We must unite now or perish… We must recognise that our economic independence resides in our African union and requires the same concentration upon the political achievement.” – First President and Prime Minister of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah in his address at the founding of the OAU, Addis Ababa, 1963.
2. “Unite we must. Without necessarily sacrificing our sovereignties, we can forge a political union based on defence, foreign affairs and diplomacy, and a common citizenship, an African currency, a monetary zone and a central bank. We must unite in order to achieve the full liberation of our continent.” – Kwame Nkrumah.
3. “Yet all stock exchanges in the world are pre-occupied with Africa’s gold, diamonds, uranium, platinum, copper and iron ore. We have been too busy nursing our separate states to understand fully the basic need of our union, rooted in common purpose, common planning and common endeavour”. – Kwame Nkrumah.
4. “We spoke and acted as if, given the opportunity for self-government, we would quickly create utopias. Instead injustice, even tyranny, is rampant”. – Julius ‘Mwalimu’ Nyerere, first President of Tanzania, as quoted in David Lamb’s The Africans, New York, 1985.
5. “The evolution of humanity says that Africa reaffirms that she is continuing her rise from the ashes. Whatever the setbacks of the moment, nothing can stop us now! Whatever the difficulties, Africa shall be at peace!” – Thabo Mbeki former President of South Africa, “I Am an African” speech delivered on 8 May 1996.
“Africa needs back its economy, its politics, its culture, its languages and all its patriotic writers”. Ngugi wa Thiong’o.
6. “I am an African. I owe my being to the hills and the valleys, the mountains and the glades, the rivers, the deserts, the trees, the flowers, the seas and the ever-changing seasons that define the face of our native land”. – Thabo Mbeki, “I Am an African” speech delivered on 8 May 1996.
7. “We know that Africa is neither French, nor British, nor American, nor Russian, that it is African. We know the objects of the West. Yesterday they divided us on the level of a tribe, clan and village…They want to create antagonistic blocs, satellites…” – Patrice Émery Lumumba, speech at the All-African Conference in Leopoldville, August 25, 1960.
8. “These divisions, which the colonial powers have always exploited the better to dominate us, have played an important role — and are still playing that role — in the suicide of Africa”. – Patrice Lumumba, African Unity and National Independence speech, March, 1959.
9. “Always bear in mind that the people are not fighting for ideas, for the things in anyone’s head. They are fighting to win material benefits, to live better and in peace, to see their lives go forward, to guarantee the future of their children…” – Amilcar Cabral, Revolution in Guinea, written 1965.
10. “Africa’s story has been written by others; we need to own our problems and solutions and write our story”. President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, 2013.