H. E. Amb. Harrison Olwatonyin Solaja,
Head of the African Union Liaison Office in Liberia;
H.E. Amb. Babatunde Olanrenwaju Adjisomo,
Special Representative of the President of the ECOWAS Commission;
The Doyen & Members of the Diplomatic and Consular Corps;
Hon. Commany B. Wesseh, Senator of Rivergee County;
Dr. Joseph Mills Jones, Executive Governor of the Central Bank of Liberia and other officials of Government present;
Members of the Fourth Estate;
Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen:
Today as we celebrate yet another Africa Day, we have a new opportunity to reflect on the context of the protracted African Liberation struggle and the men and women who shared sweat, blood and tears in laying the foundations and conceiving the strategies that made decolonization and the unification of Africa possible. We also have a new opportunity to pay homage to the memories of our forebears the likes of Osagefo Kwame Nkrumah, Emperor Haile Salassie, Nnamdi Azikiwe, Gamal Abdel Nasser, Sekou Toure, William V.S. Tubman, among others who ignited the engines of Pan-Africanism through their organization of conferences including the Saniquellie Conference of 1959 in Liberia and the Addis Conference of 1963, in Ethiopia where the OAU now the AU was founded.
But more importantly, we have a new opportunity to now look at our Continent more than half a century after liberation and ask ourselves what Africa do we want?
Do we want an Africa that is more integrated, peaceful and secure; an Africa where development is people driven and the potentials of its women and children can be unleashed? Do we want to see an Africa of capable, inclusive and accountable states and institutions at all levels and in all spheres; an Africa where Regional Economic Communities serve as building blocks for continental unity; an Africa where citizens hold themselves and their governments and institutions accountable for results as is laid out in the Agenda 2063? Or do we want an Africa where war and political violence is the order of the day, where poverty and weak institutions and disunity reign? What Africa do we want!
For us in Liberia, this year’s Africa Day has a special significance because the AU, acting through the African Union Support to the Ebola Outbreak in West Africa (ASEOWA ), successfully helped to liberate us from Ebola. We are victorious today because our continental body in pure African solidarity said that it would not stand and watch us fight alone; and so brothers and sisters with support from across the continent came to help us in our struggle against Ebola. Our ultimate delight and victory over Ebola comes from the comfort we find in knowing that Africa can stand up for Africa.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Africa is making some incontrovertible progress, albeit with challenges. I say so because unlike the1970s and 1980s when it was inconceivable for an incumbent African President to lose an election to an opposition contender, today incumbents are not only losing elections to oppositions but they are also humbly and graciously acknowledging their defeat and respectfully congratulating their political competitors. The just ended elections in Nigeria is a milestone case that does not only elevate the extraordinary leadership qualities of H.E. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan but also deepens the democratic credentials of Africa.
Africa is also making progress in political and social inclusiveness with respect to women empowerment. Instead of remaining deeply grounded in what many conceived as a male chauvinistic Africa, where for example, only men and boys had the right to speak during family meetings, women are now making progress and are not taking on greater leadership roles on the Continent. And for the first time in the history of our continental body, the African Union now has its first woman President. Liberia became a pace-setter for women empowerment when in 2005 we elected Africa’s first democratically elected female President in the person of the Mrs. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. And for the first time in the history of our continental body, the African Union Commission now has its first woman Chairperson in the person of H. E. Dr. Nkozasana Dlamini Zuma. The emphasis on women empowerment is further evidenced by this year’s AU Summit theme:”Year of Women Empowerment and Development toward Africa’s Agenda 2063″. Women are also doing very well in business and contribute very significantly to the growth and development of their countries.
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I must hasten to add that despite the fact that the continent is making progress in addressing its many challenges, some developments and issues give us cause for concern including the xenophobic or afro-phobic attacks by Africans against fellow Africans in South Africa that occurred a few weeks ago; the disintegration of Libya and newly independent South Sudan, the Boko Haram and the Al Shabab onslaughts in Nigeria and Kenya respectively; the political rumpus in Burundi caused by President Nkurunziza dogged determination to stand for a third term; the troubling trend of African migrants dying by the hundreds in the Mediterranean sea in their quest to reach Europe for a greener pastures. What is even more troubling is that as the death toll increases the attempts to cross the Mediterranean for Europe increase as well. But the migrant situation in the Mediterranean speaks volumes about the state of peace and security, and sustainable employment opportunities in some parts of our continent.
That is why the entire Africa must go to work to address the embarrassing migrant situation in the Mediterranean.
But to address the migrant situation like many other challenges that bedevil the continent, we must go deep down to the root causes of the actual problems. Apart from poverty and diseases, many people on the continent still live in fear of armed conflict; and because of unemployment, many young people on the continent remain vulnerable to unwholesome and deviant enticements. Many more people on the continent still think that their voices are not considered in the decision making processes in their countries.
Therefore, as we aspire to transform the continent through the AU’s Agenda 2063, we must ensure peace and security, provide youth employment, protect and promote the rights of our women. We must also build strong institutions that will not only be respecters of men but respecters of laws; we must ensure development and technological advancement. We must do all of the above and much more if we must protect the legacy of freedom from colonization that our forebears left us.
As I recede to my seat, I express my thanks and appreciation to you, Amb. Solaja, for making me your Guest of Honor at this year’s Africa Day celebration in Liberia. On behalf of President Sirleaf and the Government and people of Liberia, I extend warmest felicitations to Chairperson Zuma as well as all Africans from Cape to Cairo and from Dakar to Nairobi. Long live the AU! Long Live the Continent and People of Africa!!!