ADDIS ABABA, May 21 2013 (FBC) The 21st African Union (AU) summit takes place coinciding with the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) now AU in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, under the theme "Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance."
The African Union (AU) on Sunday kicked off the 21st AU Summit with the 26th Ordinary Session of the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) on May 19-20, which is to be followed by the 23rd ordinary session of the Executive Council after a day break.
Ordinary sessions of AU summit are usually held twice a year, one in January and the other in July, and this summit has come in May earlier than that of the July just to get it coincide with the celebration of the Golden Jubilee of the pan-African organization to be marked on Africa Day, May 25, the time when the then OAU was established in 1963.
The 21st AU Summit has been scheduled to take place on May 19-27, 2013 together with other parallel events and activities here in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, where the Headquarters of the 54-member organization is situated. The summit and the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of the OAU/AU are expected to attract some other leaders outside the continent.
The AU has been undertaking various activities in connection of the mark of the Golden. Speaking at the opening of the PRC meeting on Sunday, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson of AU Commission, called for the general acceptance and understanding about the rise of Africa over the last five decades in terms of economic growth, public investment, infrastructure and regional integration as well as improvement in democracy and governance, peace and stability and some human development indicators among others.
Later same day, the Chairperson briefed the media on the level of preparedness ahead of the celebrations of the Golden Jubileeof the Organization. She said, "The most important thing is that the AU has decided to involve and engage its citizens in order to reflect on where we have come from and where we are heading to." "The celebrations are about galvanizing and energizing the populations not only at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa but throughout the continent where people will be discussing and shaping the future of Africa.
The result of the discussions and debates will then inform Agenda 2063," she added. Speaking to the same press conference, Erastus Mwencha, Deputy Chairperson of AU Commission and also Chairperson of the Organizing Committee for the Golden Jubilee, said that the celebrations are an opportunity to reflect on the journey travelled thus far and to map out the future.
He said that the Youth Forum scheduled for May 24th, also constitutes an opportunity for inter-generational exchange where young people will interact with current leaders and some of those who founded the OAU like former Presidents Kenneth Kaunda and Sam Nujoma.
Responding to a question on the achievements and the failures of the OAU, Konjit Sinegiorgis, Permanent Representative of Ethiopia to AU, who also serviced the historic first conference of African independent states in May 1963 when the OAU was formed, said, "The OAU discharged its mandate to liberate Africa from the shackles of colonialism, imperialism and apartheid. Hence we cannot talk about failures. The OAU-AU is still work in progress."
Dlamini-Zuma on her part said, "Today's challenges relate to development and economic growth, and that encouragingly, Africa has been on the rise for the last 10 years, with six of the fastest growing economies being on the continent."
As key achievements, the Chairperson of the AU Commission highlighted that the OAU-AU set some standards and norms including the Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and the AU Convention on the Assistance and Protection of Internally Displaced Persons, to name just a few.
Aisha Abdullahi, AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, was speaking to the press on Monday on the topic, "From OAU to AU: Decolonization, Democratization and Development."
The Commissioner stated that with persistence and determination of our leaders the fight for decolonization and liberation was achieved with the collapse of Apartheid in South Africa in the early 1990s.
With the end of decolonization, it becomes necessary for the organization to re-invent itself to meet current challenges, she said.
"As the AU goes forward, it becomes paramount that it continues to prioritize key areas that will enhance the growth of the continent as a contender with other continents," said the Commissioner.
"Some of the key issues that engage the continent's attention include, human rights with particular emphasis on the enforcement of all human rights instruments adopted so far at the national level; human security by focusing on improving the totality of individual security by tackling emerging threats such as climate change, human trafficking, arms smuggling, cyber security, piracy and other such threats; and peace and security through the ending of the scourge of war which continues to take its toll on the human resources of Africa and reduces the quality of life of many African citizens in war torn parts of the continent," stated the Commissioner.
"As the OAU/AU celebrates its 50th anniversary, the focus should be on promoting peace and stability through integration, greater unity, democratization and sustainable development. This would lead to a peaceful, prosperous and united Africa driven by its own citizens," she said.
According to AU, the celebrations will culminate on May 25, Africa Day, in a Grand Debate on Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa. There will also be festivities at the Millennium Hall in Addis Ababa, which will be open to the public. All the celebrations are meant to be owned by the people of Africa and those in the Diaspora.