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25 May, Africa day "we should, we can, we must, and we will unite!"

By Paul T. Shipale
These words are attributed to the famous African-American singer Steve Wonder, when on 12 July 2006; he joined the Second Conference of intellectuals from Africa and the Diaspora (CIAD II) under the auspice of the African Union (AU) that took place in Salvador, Bahia in Brazil from July 12-14, 2006 under the theme "The Diaspora and the African Renaissance," following the first CIAD held in Dakar, Senegal in October 2004. I endeavor to bring you the news on this initiative.

The women's presence and words paid homage to the quintessential role of women in the for mation and preservation of African communities throughout the world while the words of Steve Wonder rang loud and clear and sounded as a slogan that encompassed the spirit of the conference due to their simplicity and depth, including when he urged the elders to pass on the torch and to act as mentors to the youth and encourage them to be involved in our history.

In view of Africa Day's next week, we need to understand how the African Union originally arrived at their decision in 2003 to recognize the African Diaspora as the Sixth Region of Africa, how they have evolved since then and the designation of the Republic of South Africa to champion the organizing of the African Diaspora on behalf of the African Union.

We will recall that the 16th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 31 January 2011 adopted Decision 354 (XVI) which included a Roadmap for the Implementation of the Diaspora Initiative in the build up to the Global Diaspora Summit. The Roadmap stipulated the need for a Technical Experts meeting (TCEM) on the African Diaspora in the second half of February 2011. The Technical Experts meeting was held in Pretoria, South Africa from 21-22 February 2011.

The meeting was attended by about 100 participants comprising a mix of delegates and technical experts from Diaspora communities in Europe, the Caribbean, South and North America and the Middle East and Gulf regions as well as officials from CARICOM, the World Bank, Member States of the African Union and representatives of the African civil society covering the five main regions of the continent and the Diaspora. It also included representatives of the South African Government, particularly the Departments of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) as well as the AUC.

The meeting had four main objectives which included, among others, to examine, review and update the Ministerial Outcome Documents prepared in 2007, and to identify priority areas of intervention for action to implement the draft plan of action contained in the Ministerial Outcome Document of 2007. Finally, the meeting sought to develop proposals for "bankable projects" in the thematic areas of political, economic and social cooperation that can be translated into concrete or programmatic deliverables through appropriate and effective implementation plans or framework of action.

The opening session included five main presentations which started with a brief welcome note by Ambassador Rakwena, followed by a short address by Ambassador Kudjoe, the Deputy Director- General of the Department, who stood in for Dr. Ayanda Ntsabula, the Director-General of DIRCO while the third presentation was done by the Director of CIDO, AU Commission, Dr. Jinmi Adisa, on behalf of the Chairperson of the Commission, His Excellency, Mr. Jean Ping. The fourth presentation was done by Ambassador Dudley, who is widely acclaimed as the doyen in the Pan- African Movement and was based on the chronicles of the African Diaspora serving as a major contribution on the genealogy of the African Diaspora Movement and its various phases from the precolonial through the colonial to the post-colonial and contemporary periods. The presentation was instructive particularly as the ninetyfour year old veteran Ambassador Dudley, also underlined the lessons learnt and accumulated through the process and emphasized that they should be condensed and enveloped within a progressive vision that would determine and establish the roadmap for the future.

The final presentation was the keynote address by the Deputy Minister, Department of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa, Mr. Marius Fransman. His presentation went beyond the contextual premise of the preceding ones to focus on substantive issues and set the tone for the Experts Meeting. The Minister traced the origins of the meeting to the 1st Extra-Ordinary Summit of the Assembly of the Union held in January 2003 in Addis Ababa, which adopted the Protocol on Amendment to the Constitutive Act of the Union. Then the AU built upon this premise by adopting a definition of the Diaspora that would enable its participation in the affairs of the Union.

The Minister, thus urged participants to look beyond procedural and definitional issues to focus on how the Diaspora Initiative would be translated to ensure structured and full integration of Diaspora actors and communities in structures and processes of the AU and its Member States. Simultaneously, the discussions should also focus on how the African Diaspora would assist and contribute effectively to the development of national economic strategies and the integration and development efforts of the African continent as a whole. He urged the Experts Meeting to tease out programmatic issues that would enable a framework of action through which Africa can assist the well-being of its Diaspora and in which the African Diaspora can play an effective and sustainable role in the economic advancement of Africa and enhance the pursuit of regional political and economic development of Member States of the Union and accelerate and consolidate the integration and development agenda of the Africans.

Based on the outcomes of Discussions by Breakaway Thematic Groups on Political, Economic and Social Cooperation which identified some priority areas of intervention, the meeting put forward specific lines of action or recommendation that will serve as implementation tools.

On Political Cooperation the meeting recommended that the AU should formulate a plan of action that would facilitate the necessary signatures that are required to operationalize the Protocol of Amendment to the Constitutive Act by the end of the year 2012 in which the Global Diaspora Summit will take place; Increasing emphasis should be given to the establishment and consolidation of regional Diaspora networks. Effective political measures should be taken to facilitate effective community relationship between continental Africans and its Diaspora. These would include the facilitation of movement of students and professionals of the African Diaspora to and within the African continent through improved visa arrangements and consideration of the implementation of a Schengentype visa on the African continent based on agreement and collaboration among AU Member States;

The AU should revive and strengthen the OAU initiative on Reparations as contained in the Abuja Declaration on Reparations that was championed by the Group of Eminent Persons. Within this context, the AU should campaign for the implementation of all reparations oriented resolutions contained in the UN Durban Declaration and Programme of Action of 2011 and the Review conference of 2005.

On Economic Cooperation, the meeting recommended, among other, that an economic partnership arrangement should be established and fostered between the AU and CARICOM. All the States involved therein should promulgate preferential procurement policies that would enable the inter-linkage of African and Diaspora organizations to support Africa's development and integration agendas; Financial Instruments focusing on remittances and Investments should be established to facilitate the mobilization of capital that would strengthen links between Africa and the Diaspora; The AU should adopt and promote the "Development Market Place for the African Diaspora Model" (DMADA) as a framework for innovation and entrepreneurship that would facilitate development. The AU should develop sector-specific data base to facilitate knowledge transfer and skills mobilization.

On Social Cooperation the meeting recommended that for the purpose of creating information accessibility and guidance the African Union should develop information hubs throughout Africa and the Diaspora regions with coordinated participation of relevant centres of Diaspora organizations such as the Diaspora African Forum; in addition, Ministries of Education of Member States of the Union and Diaspora government and communities all over the world should carry out an inventory of established African-centred educational institutions and use them to determine and recommend a common educational platform for Africans that would promote universal access to education.

It was at the 17th Ordinary Session meeting of Heads of State and Government of the African Union that took place in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea in July last year, that the African Union took a significant and dramatic step by deciding to convene the Global African Diaspora Summit on African Day, on May 25, 2012, when it will be hosting the largest gathering of Africans in the Diaspora, scheduled to take place in Johannesburg, South Africa. This is a gathering with the required attendance of the 54 African Heads of State, Presidents including former Heads of State and Government and Prime Ministers from the 16 Caribbean countries, as well as Presidents from Latin America, a sizable population of Afro-descendants and thousands of civil society leaders from the African Diaspora The question that begs for an answer here is; how far have we gone as a nation and the continent in implementing some of the recommendations contained in that report and how really ready are we to unite, including with the Diaspora, and speak with one voice when some are bend on promoting tribalism, ethnicity and regionalism including discriminating against others based on the colour of their skin, their language and places of origin?

We must be educated beyond our parochial interest in order to understand others and continue to promote National Reconciliation as well as maintain peace and stability in our country and reject the vices of tribalism, ethnicity, racism and regionalism as President Pohamba and our Founding Father Dr Sam Nujoma always urge the Nation. We should unite, no matter how much the Afro Pessimists and detractors in our midst want to reduce our cause to trivial, empty posturing, absurdly out of place, shallow, misinformed, and intellectually shoddy discourse of ethnic and tribal rivalry meant to sidetrack us from the real issues of the unity of the African people at home and in the Diaspora.

I felt bad to read what my fellow Pan African brother Kilanji Bangarah, who has been living in Namibia for the past 4 years, wrote about us. He said "Continental Afrikans sold us into slavery 500 years ago and if they get the chance again, they will most certainly resell us. Firstly despite the fact that we engineered their freedom and independence, now they are in power and the first people they forget is us and those that fought side by side with them such as our Cuban comrades".

I am an ardent advocate for African unity and culture. I was moulded in the cauldron of Pan- Africanism in Cuba, France and in the island of St- Lucia in the West Indies, home to many Pan-African brothers such as Marcus Garvey, George Padmore, Walter Rodney, Frantz Fanon and many others and always spoke well about my brothers from the Diaspora and Cuba.

Our founding President and President Pohamba were the first to condemn the foreign aggression in Libya and always spoke against the inhuman blockade imposed against the Cuban people. Our country maintains cordial and friendly relations with Cuba and always looks forward to the further development and consolidation of our bilateral relations with all African countries in the economic, scientific, technical and cultural fields. In these actions, our Government representatives are always guarded by our foreign policy, which is anchored on the principle of resolving international disputes by peaceful means. Against this background, Namibia will pursue its foreign policy by encouraging consensus through multilateralism. We will continue to play our role at Forums such as the United Nations, the African Union, the Commonwealth, the Non-Aligned Movement, SADC and the Southern African Customs Union (SACU) including the Global Diaspora Summit and other forums. Many other Pan African brothers and I will always advocate for African Unity. Indeed, we should, we can, we must, and we will unite! Disclaimer:

The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of my employer and this newspaper but solely reflect my personal views as a citizen.


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