Facts about AU as we mark its Golden Jubilee


25-May-2013

President Michel congratulates President Rene upon the symbolic lighting of the flame on Monday. On the right is the AU flag which was unfurled by Timothe Sinon

A number of speakers highlighted the importance of this organisation to Seychelles, and today we have here published highlights of what the AU – originally called the Organisation of African Unity – is all about.

President Michel will this weekend represent us at the AU’s 50th anniversary celebrations in Addis Ababa.

The AU’s motto is: ‘A United and Strong Africa’ and its anthem, which the National Choir sang at the Monday ceremony, is: ‘Let us all unite and celebrate together’.

There are 54 member states of the AU, which was launched (as the OAU) on May 25, 1963.

The AU was established on May 26, 2001 in Addis Ababa and launched on July 9, 2002 in South Africa to replace the OAU.

The most important decisions of the AU are made by the Assembly of the African Union, a semi-annual meeting of the heads of state and government of its member states. The AU's secretariat, the African Union Commission, is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Another view of the AU headquarters complex

The main aims of the AU are to:

1. Achieve greater unity and solidarity between the African countries and the people of Africa;
2. Defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of its member states;
3. Accelerate the political and socio-economic integration of the continent;
4. Promote and defend African common positions on issues of interest to the continent and its peoples;
5. Encourage international cooperation, taking due account of the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
6. Promote peace, security, and stability on the continent;
7. Promote democratic principles and institutions, popular participation and good governance;
8. Promote and protect human and peoples' rights in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and other relevant human rights instruments;
9. Establish the necessary conditions which enable the continent to play its rightful role in the global economy and in international negotiations;
10. Promote sustainable development at the economic, social and cultural levels as well as the integration of African economies;
11. Promote cooperation in all fields of human activity, to raise the living standards of African peoples;
12. Coordinate and harmonise the policies between the existing and future regional economic communities for the gradual attainment of the objectives of the Union;
13. Advance the development of the continent by promoting research in all fields, in particular in science and technology;
14. Work with relevant international partners in the eradication of preventable diseases and the promotion of good health on the continent.

Composition

The African Union is made up of both political and administrative bodies. The highest decision-making organ is the Assembly of the African Union, made up of all the heads of state or government of member states of the AU. The Assembly is chaired by Hailemariam Desalegn, Prime Minisiter of Ethiopia, elected at the 20th ordinary meeting of the Assembly in January 2013.

The AU also has a representative body, the Pan African Parliament, which consists of 265 members elected by the national parliaments of the AU member states. Its president is Bethel Nnaemeka Amadi.

Other political institutions of the AU include

• The executive council, made up of foreign ministers, which prepares decisions for the Assembly;

• The Permanent Representatives Committee, made up of the ambassadors to Addis Ababa of AU member states; and

• The Economic, Social, and Cultural Council (Ecosocc), a civil society consultative body.

The AU Commission, the secretariat to the political structures, is chaired by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma of South Africa.
On July 15, 2012, Mrs Dlamini-Zuma won a tightly contested vote to become the first female head of the African Union Commission, replacing Jean Ping of Gabon.

 
China funded headquarters complex

The China-funded complex is solar powered

The African Union's new headquarters complex is in Addis Ababa.
It was inaugurated on January 28, 2012 during the 18th AU summit.

The complex was built by China State Construction Engineering Corporation as a gift from the Chinese government, and accommodates, among other facilities, a 2,500-seat plenary hall and a 20-storey office tower. The tower is 99.9 metres high to signify the date September 9, 1999, when the Organisation of African Unity voted to become the African Union.

Other AU structures are hosted by different member states:
The African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights is based in Banjul, the Gambia; and the New Partnership for Africa's Development (Nepad) and African Peer Review Mechanism’s secretariats and the Pan-African Parliament are in Midrand, South Africa.

The AU covers the entire continent except Îles Éparses, Réunion, Mayotte, Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, Madeira, Canary Islands, Spanish North Africa and Morocco.

Tribute to AU founders

In his address at the Monday ceremony, Foreign Affairs Minister Jean-Paul Adam saluted all those Seychellois who contributed to Seychelles’ independence and to the ideal of the African Union, in particular President Rene who bears witness to the role that Seychelles has played in creating the Union, and the late Guy Sinon, a former Foreign Affairs Minister of the Republic of Seychelles, who, alongside President Rene, is recognised as 'a proud father of the liberation movements of Africa, and a proud father of the African Union.'

He quoted the opening words of the original OAU Charter adopted on May 25, 1963 saying that the organisation was:
“Convinced that it is the inalienable right of all people to control their own destiny and conscious of the fact that freedom, equality, justice and dignity are essential objectives for the achievement of the legitimate aspirations of the African peoples.”

He said these words resonated across the African continent, and across the world, as a new symbol of hope and opportunity for the peoples of Africa.
“In 1964, in charting Seychelles’ own path to independence, President France Albert Rene put people-centred development and the dignity of the Seychellois people at the heart of his vision.  Independence was not an end in itself but was a means by which all Seychellois could strive to offer the best future for their children, and their children’s children,” he said.

“On June 29, 1976, when Seychelles acceded to independence, we also became the 49th state to become members of the OAU.

“We are proud to come together today to start the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of this organisation, ahead of its anniversary summit on May 26 in Addis Ababa.

“We start these celebrations, by remembering where we have come from.

He said the flame Mr Rene lit on Monday reminds us of the hopes and dreams that inspired us in 1963.  Many of those dreams are now a reality and we see this reality in the opportunities available to the young people of today.”

Looking ahead

Mr Adam said over the next 50 years, many of Africa’s opportunities will be defined by how we harness the development potential of the ocean.

“This is why the ‘blue economy’ concept is so important for us, and for Africa as a whole.  The majority of world trade is by sea. The majority of the world’s oil is transported by sea.  There is no food security without a sustainable ocean,” he said.

“The majority of new mineral resources will not be found on land but in the sea.  The blue economy is our future- and it is Africa’s future.

“Seychelles also believes that no African country will succeed unless it can empower its young people.  This is why President Michel has created the University of Seychelles.  This is why we have our Young Leaders Programme.  And this is why also we seek to connect our young people beyond our own borders – starting with our Indian Ocean region.”

Nadine Jack – who is in the third cohort of the Seychelles Young Leaders Programme -- said the 50th anniversary of African unity should be a celebration of “a new dawn, as a new beginning for  collective actions and forging the way forward for the future”.

Ms Jack explaining what the symbols on the AU emblem mean

She said that we should be hopeful and optimistic that Africa has been given a second wind to fill its sails as it steers towards its destination of peace, democracy, development and unity  for all the children of Africa.

"It is time to awaken the sleeping lion and through this torch of peace, let us commit to joining with all of Africa for the realisation of Africa's Renaissance,” she said.

She explained the emblem of the African Union consists of a gold ribbon bearing small interlocking red rings, from which palm leaves shoot up around an outer gold circle and an The AU embleminner green circle, within which is a gold representation of Africa.

“The red interlinked rings stand for African solidarity and the blood shed for the liberation of Africa; sadly today blood is still being shed by civil wars, and Africa needs to step up its drive to foster peace, security, and stability on the continent;

“The palm leaves signify peace, and for Seychelles, this is particularly significant for we, a palm covered African country, are particularly active in promoting the concept of peace in the region and on the continent;

“The gold represents Africa's wealth and bright future; Africa is still very wealthy but we need to work together as one to ensure the even distribution of that wealth among our African brothers and sisters, raising the standards of living and economic wellbeing of our peoples;

“The green stands for African hopes and aspirations, the hopes and aspirations of the founding fathers of the OAU which I believe continue to live on in our African hearts and minds. Indeed, today’s lighting of the torch is symbolic of the re-igniting of the commitment to continue promoting the ideals of Solidarity and Unity among all African States;
 
“Finally, the silhouette of Africa which is drawn without internal borders symbolises African unity. This being the prize we as Africans continue to strive for,” she said.

Ms Jack said the flame brings a new ray of hope for her generation and the generations to come.

Compiled by G.T.

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