The 23rd Ordinary Session of the AU Executive Council opens in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Videos)

Photo: African Union Headquarters Building in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

May 22, 2013

[ Meles Zenawi would have been very proud to attend and host this great AU session. ]

The 23rd ordinary session of the Executive Council of the African Union opened today at the African Union Conference Hall. The meeting was attended by Foreign Ministers and heads of delegations of member states as well as the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Dr Dlamini Zuma, the head of the UN Economic Commission for Africa, Dr Carlos Lopez, representatives of African Union organs, AU partners and institutions and other high level dignitaries.

Dr. Zuma congratulated the Executive Council on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the OAU/AU, emphasizing that it was time for Africa to reclaim the debates about Pan Africanism throughout Africa and the Diaspora in the context of the peace and security of the continent, the search for self reliance, gender equality and socio-economic development. She noted that people saw Pan Africanism as a lodestar, a guide to action and the foundations for Africa’s Renaissance. Reflecting on the trajectory of Africa over the past fifty years, Dr. Zuma said “thirty tears ago China was poorer than Malawi”; now in 2013, African countries constitute the majority of the ten fastest growing economies in the world, and “we are growing at 5% on average over the past decade.” This positive trajectory must now be translated in to industrialization with equitable economic growth and gender equality to provide for human development.

Dr. Zuma noted that Africa had arable land, long coastlines and positive demographics to bring prosperity. The 50th anniversary proclamation and the Agenda 63, which will be approved in January 2014, should put in place a sustainable solution to a united and prosperous Africa.

The proclamation, she said, will benefit from the Council’s deliberations and help us chart comprehensive African solutions for Africa. Under-Secretary General Lopez also underlined the important role of Pan Africanism as a key concept in promoting African unity and as a force for colonialism and apartheid. He noted that it was not a coincidence that the emphasis now placed on structural transformation had produced “an Africa that is growing more self confident and playing a greater role on the global scene.”

He identified some key strategic factors that still needed to be addressed for the full renaissance of Africa including the issues of conflict, better governance, reduction of illicit money flows, the need to change perceptions and take control of the narrative as well as deal with industrialization and the environment.

Dr Tedros, Chairperson of the Executive Council, said that over the next two days the Executive Council would be talking under the umbrella of Pan Africanism. It was, he said, with the greatest pride African states could meet to celebrate this 50th anniversary after the removal of the continent’s shackles. We can, he added draw deep satisfaction from the history and the foundations of African Unity through the vehicle of the OAU. He noted that it had not been an easy fifty years, and soul-searching questions needed to be asked as to where things had gone wrong. “Why had the dreams of 1963 failed?” We need, he said, to have frank discussions to discover what internal issues contributed to our failures. Equally, he emphasized, a lot has been achieved: the ARPM has helped, conflicts have subsided, and many countries have striven to attain democratic transformations, extended their peace and security and deepened their good governance.

Dr. Tedros proposed a ministerial retreat, at the city of Bahr Dar in Ethiopia’s Amhara Regional State, to consider the draft proclamation to provide a message for posterity. He thanked those institutions which had played a role in the formation of the post-2015 development agenda, and noted the need to consider the modalities for the committee proposed by the AU Chairperson, Hailemariam Desalegn.

The Week of Celebration: the 50th Golden Anniversary of the OAU/AU and the 21st AU Summit

May 22, 2013

The activities of this week of celebration will culminate at the Millennium Hall anniversary celebrations on the evening of Saturday (May 25th), following the 50th OAU/AU Anniversary Summit earlier in the day, and the African Youth Forum over the previous three days, Wednesday to Friday (May 22nd -24th).

The week celebrates the 50th anniversary of the OAU/AU and in addition to the Heads of State and Government from Africa another 20 world leaders are expected in Addis Ababa for the celebrations, including the leaders of Brazil, Cuba, Jamaica, Haiti, Republic of Ireland, Russia, and Sweden as well as top level delegations from China, India, State of Palestine, Brunei, New Zealand, Islamic Republic of Iran, Indonesia and others. Other invited guests include UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the heads of UNDP, the World Bank, the African Development Bank and the EU Commission.

Two former UN Secretaries-General, Boutros Boutros Ghali, and Kofi Annan and former Deputy Secretary-General, Asha-Rose Migiro are expected to attend as well as all former OAU Secretaries-General and AU Commission Chairpersons. Other guests include representatives of the African Regional Economic Communities, the South African Development Community, IGAD, EAC/COMESA, CENSAD/ECCAS, ECOWAS and AMU. The list of invitees focuses on personalities who contributed to Pan-Africanism, the African Renaissance and to Africa’s Liberation Struggle.

Numerous events, conferences and exhibitions are being held this week in Addis Ababa as part of the Anniversary Celebrations. They include: the African Rock Art Exhibition and Colloquium (May 22nd-24th); African and Diaspora Traditional and Contemporary Art and Photography (May 24-30th); Africa Trade Exhibition (May 21st-27th); Pan-African Business Conference (May 24th); a Youth Parade (May 24th); Symposiums on Women and Child Rights in Africa (May 24th, and on the 50th Anniversary and the Development of Right in Africa and the Role of the AUC in Peace Development (May 26th).

The normal work of the AU Summit is also taking place this week: the 26th session of the AU Permanent Representatives Committee (May 19-21st); the 23rd Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the African Union on Wednesday and Thursday (May 22nd-23rd); and the 21st Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union on Sunday and Monday (May 26-27th). Other related meetings during the week include the Meeting of the Ad Hoc Ministerial Meeting on the Scale of Assessment (May 22nd); the Meeting of the Committee of Ten on UN Reforms (May23rd); and working breakfasts for NEPAD’s Heads of State and Government (May 25th) and the ARPM (May 26th).


Tribute to the late Ethiopian PM Meles Zenawi at African Union 50th Anniversary

African Union Celebrates 50th Year Anniversary

By Kirubel Tadesse
May. 22, 2013

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — African nations this week mark the 50th year since the founding of a continentwide organization that spearheaded efforts to liberate Africa from colonial masters. Now leaders want to map out the next 50 years of political and economic integration.

Konjit Sinegiorgis was a young diplomat tasked with distributing documents to the assembled heads of state when the founding congress of the Organization of African Unity was held in May 1963. Sinegiorgis said the OAU “brilliantly” accomplished its primary task.

“Its primary mandate was to liberate Africa from the shackles of colonialism and apartheid. I think in that regard it has done brilliantly,” said Konjit, now Ethiopia’s ambassador to the African Union, the successor to the OAU.

The weeklong 50-year celebrations culminate Saturday in the Ethiopian capital where African leaders will be joined by foreign dignitaries including United States Secretary of State John Kerry. African leaders will also consider Agenda 2063, a blueprint they say will bring socio-economic and political transformation to the continent.

Kerry, who recently expressed concerns over China’s growing influence in Africa, is expected to be joined by Chinese President Xi Jinping’s special representative, Vice Premier Wang Yang, at the celebrations in the AU headquarters, a building whose $200 million constriction costs were paid by Beijing.

The 53-member African Union, which began in 2002, has been trying to emerge as a force for stability on a continent regularly troubled by violence, conflicts and coups.

One key achievement of the OAU and AU “has been to set standards and norms that we are now using at the continental level,” said Erastus Mwencha, deputy chair of the AU. “We are now talking of having norms such as a protocol on governance, on elections and so forth.”

As the AU strives to make peaceful transfers of power across Africa the norm, it often …

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African Union rewrote Pan-African history, African-American historians say

The African Union’s disassociation of Emperor Haile Selassie I from Organization of African Unity and Pan-African history, is akin to disassociating Dr. Martin Luther King from the Civil Rights Movement, some African-American historians say.

His Majest is questioned about his thoughts on racism and the Organization of African Unity.

Chicago, IL, March 28, 2013 – On the eve of the inauguration of the African Union’s (AU) 50th Anniversary Celebrations in Addis Ababa on March 21, 2013, Ethiopian President Girma sent a letter to the Ethiopian Prime Minister recommending that “a statue must be erected to commemorate the Emperor who was the first leader of Africa– I think he deserves a statue.”

President Girma’s letter was clearly referring to the AU and the Ethiopian government’s continued failure to recognize Emperor Haile Selassie I’s contributions to the OAU and has prompted numerous Support President Girma’s: Recognize Emperor Haile Selassie Contribution to the OAU] on the internet.

President Girma’s letter went viral over the internet and received the attention of international scholars and historians who found his actions “refreshing” and “a welcomed change from the previous Ethiopian administration who had denied Emperor Haile Selassie I his rightful place in the history of the Pan African Movement and the OAU, for years.

The issue first began last year when the Ethiopian government and the AU inaugurated its newly constructed Headquarters in Addis Ababa with the erection of a statue, front-center, dedicated to Ghanaian President Kwame Nkrumah for his contributions to African Unity while Ethiopian King of Kings, Emperor Haile Selassie I’s contributions to African Unity along with His significant role as the single unifying force behind the establishment of the OAU; and his title as “The first leader of Africa”, was embarrassingly ignored.

This unforgivable slight of Emperor Haile Selassie I in his own country inspired international debates that spilled onto the floor of the Ethiopian parliament, where former Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who was also President of AU, at that time, and was extremely critical of Emperor Haile Selassie I, and was said to have downplayed the request to acknowledge Emperor Haile Selassie’s accomplishments.

For those who are unaware, Emperor Haile Selassie’s contributions to the OAU are well documented: It was Emperor Haile Selassie I, not President Nkrumah, who called and hosted the May 25, 1963 Conference of African Heads of State in Addis Ababa; and it was His Majesty’s electrifying speech that inspired two conflicting political groups (Casablanca and Monrovia) to lay aside their differences, come together, and establish an organization that would unite all of Africa, which they did

“The commentators of 1963 speak, in discussing Africa, of the Monrovia States, the Brazzaville Group, the Casablanca Powers and many more. Let us put an end to these terms. What we require is a single African organization through which Africa’s single voice may be heard, within which Africa’s problems may be studies and resolved.” Emperor Haile Selassie I, May 25, 1963

At the end of the speech, all 32 African leaders and founding fathers of the OAU were invigorated andas a result, they elected Emperor Haile Selassie I the first President of the OAU; and unanimously voted Emperor Haile Selassie I the “Father of African Unity”.

Eric Nickerson, former Mayor of Dixmoor, Illinois and member of the Queen of Sheba Research Foundation noted, “just as no one can deny Dr. Nkrumah’s role in the Pan-African Movement, no one should deny Emperor Haile Selassie I’s pivotal role in the establishment of the OAU, and those who continue to do so make the spirit of pan-African unity nothing more than an aberration.”

On Friday, May 24, 2013, letters of encouragement from members of the Queen of Sheba Research Foundation were hand-delivered to the President and Prime Minister of Ethiopia, care of the Ethiopian Embassy in Washington DC; the letters praised President Girma’s position on the issue and encouraged the Ethiopian government to separate politics from history by correcting previous historical oversights, errors, and omissions and grant Emperor Haile Selassie I His rightful place in the history of the OAU/AU.

African-American historians believe that at the end of the day, the Ethiopian government would demonstrate to the world community that the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia supports the truth of history even when it may not always identify with it.


Fifty years ago This week

May 27, 2013

Exactly 50 years ago this week, Addis Abeba had witnessed a meeting of its kind that was unusual to its history. Close to 2,000 delegates, accompanying 30 heads of state from what were then independent African nations, descended on a city reborn as a political capital of the continent.

Half a century later, history appears to have repeating itself at least in its form. Last week, as it was then, Addis Abeba and its administrators put enormous pressure on Chinese contractors to speed up the completion of the thoroughfare that is Africa Avenue, otherwise known by residents as Bole Road.

The pressure then was on the Italian architect Arturo Mezzedimi, who built the Africa Hall on Menelik II Avenue on a neck breaking time. For there was no banquet in any hotel that could accommodate 2,000 guests, Emperor Hailesellasie had ordered another Italian builder, Mario Buschi, a man who came to Ethiopia during the Italian occupation and had taken the Aksum Obelisk to Rome, which reinstated to Ethiopia few years ago, to restore the Adarash of Menelik up in Arat Kilo, within three months. (Please Continue on page 14)

Buchi, who also built the Ethiopian Parliament on Lorenzo Te’azaz Road within five months, was in fact the only person left inside the Africa Hall when heads of state dispute whether to form the United States of Africa, or leave the utopian project for time and instead form an organization that works for unity, according to Emperor Hailesellasie’s foremost biographer, Angelo Del Boca.

Boca, a young historian at the time known for his stand against Italian Fascism, was here in Addis Abeba when the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was formed on May 22, 1963. The following is his account of event then, published in his book on Emperor Hailesellasie titled, The Negus:

“For the occasion Addis Abeba put on a new face. While an army of whitewashers touched up the buildings along the main thoroughfares, another army of carpenters and laborers threw up palisades to conceal the most poverty-stricken quarters.

“On the afternoon of 22 May 1963, just a few hours before the inauguration of the summit conference of Addis Abeba, I went to Menilek’s Aderash to see where may old friend Buschi had once again succeeded in meeting this new challenge. He’d made it just in the nick of time. The 900 light bulbs illuminating the hall had just arrived by jet from Milan; the army of gardeners, who had somehow conjured an English lawn into being all around the Aderash, were still hard at work. While Buschi explained the various steps of the project, the Emperor made his entrance into the hall, followed by a numerous group of dignitaries, officers, and bodyguards, he was wearing one of his charcoal grey double-breasted suits, with a white handkerchief in the breast pocket. Smiling, he came straight toward us, extended his hand, and completed ‘con tanta perizia’ (with such expertise).

“This was the first time that we had heard Hayla-Sellase speak in our language, and it surprised us all the more because, with foreigners, he customarily spoke French, a language that he had mastered to an impressive degree. With this unusual act, which for a perfectionist like him also entailed a certain amount of risk, he simply wished to express his deep satisfaction and to do so in the language that was dearest to us. While he spoke, I noticed that the Emperor’s beard was speckled with grey and that the patch of discoloration under his left eye had spread and darkened. Hayla-Sellase was 71 years old. His physical decline had begun; but his mind was far from deteriorating, as Jean Lacouture, who was covering the summit conference of Addis Abeba for Le Monde, pointed out:

‘The astonishing intelligence that emanates from this unique individual, the mischievous sensibility that glitters in his golden gaze, clearly hint at a genuine political lucidity.’

“The following day, in the grand auditorium of the Africa Hall, the Emperor fully displayed his mastery of the situation, outshining every other African head of state. Attentive, tireless, and remarkably quick to send brief notes to this or that delegate, he presided over the conference with a fascinating deft authority. In his opening remarks to the summit conference, which he described as “without parallels in history,” the Emperor had delivered one of the most significant speeches of his lifelong carrier as a statement; a moderate speech, but ambitious in terms of its substance:

‘We are meeting here today to lay the basis for African unity. Let us, here and now, agree upon the basic instrument which will constitute the foundation for the future growth in peace and harmony and oneness of this continent [. . .]. This Conference cannot close without having created a single African Charter. We cannot leave here without having created a single African organization possessed of the attributes We have described. If we fail in this, we will have shirked our responsibility to Africa and to the peoples we lead.’

“Certainly, over the course of the summit conference even more daring proposals than his would be heard: the Ghanaian leader Kwame Nkrumah, for instance, passionately and vigorously defended his call for the immediate establishment of a single inter-African government and accompanied his speech with heavy pounding of fists on the conference table:

‘Why must we continue to be the manual laborers of the industrial world, if our continent is the richest land on earth? For centuries Africa has been a milk cow for everyone except us. This must stop! All Africa demands real and immediate unity. If we fail to achieve that unity, our people will condemn us and we will slip into the same abyss that has engulfed Latin America.’

“In the end, Nkrumah would remain in isolation with his utopian project and not even Sekou Toure or Gamal Abdel Nasser would come to his aid. The majority of the heads of state agreed on the need for continental unity, but without setting goals that were either too ambitious or too close in time, and without calling for the establishment of organizations that were either too demanding or too rigid. Above all, they recognized that Africa could not yet think of ceasing all cooperation with the former colonial powers, as much as they might still demand absolute respect for their own national sovereignty.

“Thus, Hayla-Sellase’s approach, which called for a gradual approach and realistic objective, had carried the day. The success of the conference was due to a considerable extent to his suggestions, his calls for prudence and moderation: ‘Let us renounce the futility of vendettas and reprisals,’ he exhorted his audience. ‘Let us rid ourselves of the feelings of hatred that can only undermine our souls and poison our hearts.’

“The last session, which would bring into being the charter of the OAU, was held behind closed doors. Journalists and the general public were sent away, and in the large conference room of the Africa Hall there were now only the 30 African heads of state, with only one eyewitness: the man who had constructed the building, the architect Arturo Mezzedimi, who was there to make sure that all of the building’s equipment continued to run properly.

“He reports that when the charter of the OAU was approved, the heads of state got to their feet and began applauding Hayla-Sellase, the mastermind behind the summit conference:

‘They went on clapping their hands for 10 minutes. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I’d never seen anything like it. The Emperor, who was also on his feet, enjoyed his triumph but, as always, he maintained complete control. He held his body rigidly, and not a muscle moved in his face.’

“The summit conference of Addis Ababa concluded with banquet hosted by Hayla-Sellase in Menilek’s Aderash. This farewell dinner, too, devised in all its slightest details by the Emperor, also proved to be a minor but authentic masterpiece. In the hall that once hosted the lavish and barbaric banquets of Menilek, there now sat, in dinner jackets, formal dress uniforms, or evening gowns, 2,000 guests, including 30 heads of state, a 100 or so cabinet ministers, a 1,000 delegates, 600 representatives of Ethiopia’s crème de la crème, and 200 observers and journalist.

“Hundreds of green and-gold liveried waiters moved silently and confidently among the tables, which were set with silver place settings and candelabra. The waiters poured French wines. Dishes of international cuisine were alternated with Ethiopian specialties. Black caviar from the Caspian Sea was served by the spoonful, as was foie grass of the Landes.

“In the background, the Imperial Bodyguard Band alternated old Ethiopian marches with waltzes by Strauss and Lehar.

“Around 11 o’clock that night Miriam Makeba made her appearance, in a long, slinky white gown. Suddenly all noise in the banqueting hall came to a halt. Makeba bowed slightly before the Emperor and his guests and began singing a spiritual. All eyes were on her: not only was she a gorgeous woman, not only was hers one of the most beautiful voices that Africa ever produced. She was also a survivor of persecution; a woman who had fled from South Africa’s universe of concentration camps and apartheid. Miriam Makeba was a living witness to the wrongs that Africa had long suffered and she therefore appeared as if transfigured before the eyes of the 2,000 representatives of a free Africa.

“This was the Africa of protest, of heart-breaking songs, of lullabies broken by sobs and tears. This was ‘Mother Africa,’ who knew how to weep, but also how to console. And therefore the emotion that she sparked in the hearts of those present was a mixture of religious veneration and erotic desire, a blend of pity and admiration. The Imperial Bodyguard Band fell silent. Now the only instruments accompanying Miriam Makeba’s voice were the chords of a guitar, a balaphon, and a viola.

“The dinner was by now coming to its end. The waiters were serving vanilla ice cream and champagne. There followed a series of toasts, bows, handshakes, and applauses. The African Nations Anthem was played, ‘at a very moderate and solemn tone.’ Hayla-Sellase spoke briefly in Amharic to thank his guests and to emphasize, once again, the historic significance of the conference.

“After the waiters had served coffee and after-dinner liqueurs, the 30 heads of state were the first to leave the room, in Indian file. The first in line was the athletic Colonel Gamal Abdel Nasser, holding the Emperor’s hand, while the last to leave was the President of Somalia, Aden Abdullah Osman, somewhat sad and humiliated at having been considered the conference’s party-pooper, because of his territorial claims against Ethiopia.

“With the summit meeting of Addis Ababa, Hayla-Sellase attained the high point of his political career. Not only had he recovered and enhanced his prestige, but he bestrode the African political scene as ‘the great wise man,’ the ‘patriarch of Africa,’ in contrast with other rising stars, such as Nasser, Nkrumah, and Sekou Toure, who were younger and more audacious, but also more reckless.

“In the weeks that followed he was suggested as a likely recipient for the Nobel peace Prize: he was invited to solve the thorniest controversies; and he was given the great honor of establishing in Addis Ababa the permanent headquarters of the OAU.”

Source: Addis Fortune


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