Liberia has officially launched activities marking the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Organization of African Unity/African Union (OAU/AU) with the lighting of the AU Anniversary Touch.
Foreign Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan performed the ceremony on behalf of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Monday, May 13, 2013 in the C. Cecil Dennis Auditorium of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Capitol Hill. The event saw members of the diplomatic corps and officials of multi-national organizations, public officials and some student representatives in attendance who gathered to witness Liberia’s version of the observance of the Golden Jubilee of the OAU that was founded in 1963. The OAU was later renamed into the AU in 2002.
Minister Ngafuan used the occasion to disclose the Government’s lined-up activities to commemorate the event: “While the celebrations are ongoing in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, there will be series of activities on the home front. The Government has organized several events including, but not limited to sports, intellectual debates, public information campaigns and an official indoor program on May 25th, 2013, which is traditionally observed as African Liberation Day”.
The planned activities are in line with the AU’s Assembly’s message that as part of the Golden Jubilee Observance, Member states including Liberia and other regional economic communities are encouraged to organize various events in close coordination with the AU Commission in order to enhance the awareness of a new generation of Africans about the ideas of Pan Africanism and African Renaissance which coincidentally is the theme for this year 2013.
The Foreign Minister also stated that it is in line with this that President Sirleaf will shortly issue the necessary proclamation in this premise termed in Liberia as ‘African Liberation’
Prior to lighting the torch, Foreign Minister Ngafuan briefly reflected on the journey that led to the historic formation of the Union. He narrated that in July 1959, Liberia, Ghana and Guinea represented by their respective leaders, met in Sanniquellie, Nimba County and discussed the question of African liberation and unity at which time Liberia’s President William V.S. Tubman played host to that historic trilateral meeting.
“At that meeting, the three Heads of State and Government discussed the formation of a continental organization that would collectively address and deal with issues affecting the continent, a continent still predominantly manacled by the agonizing chains of colonialism”, the Foreign Minister said.
Minister Ngafuan said the road to May 25, 1963 was indeed tortuous and meandering, but it was on that day that the founding fathers and mothers, “inspired by a common determination to promote understanding among our peoples and cooperation among our states in response to the aspirations of our peoples for brother-hood and solidarity, in a larger unity transcending ethnic and national differences” finally resolved to form an continent-wide body with the aim to, among other things, “promote the unity and solidarity of the African States; defend their sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence; eradicate all forms of colonialism from Africa, and promote international cooperation.
“We can all look back with pride and elation that despite multitudinous challenges, the continent and people of Africa have achieved significant progress through this continental organization”, he noted.
Other speakers of the night also continued with their recognition of Liberia’s crucial role played in the formation of the continental body.
Harrison Oluwatoyin Solaja, Head and Liaison of the AU in Liberia, remarked: “As we commemorate the observance of the 50th years of existence of the organization with the lighting of the Anniversary Torch today, we wish to pay tributes to our founding fathers who through their visions and commitments to Pan-Africanism virtues and ideas contributed to the total liberation of Africa from the vices of colonialism and Apartheid and provided a unique framework for Africa’s collective actions which is glaring to note that in achieving these objectives and visions, Liberia played a crucial role under President Tubman who was one of the three founding fathers.”
The AU Liaison quoted the Chairperson of the Union, Dr. Zuma as saying that the lighting of the torch as well as its subsequent handover symbolizes the collective desire to reverse Africa’s current stories of despair into real stories of opportunities and potentials.
In her welcome remarks, the Deputy Foreign Minister for Administration, Una Kumba Thompson, said the commemoration of achievements in observance of the 50th Anniversary OAU/AU lands one at recounting the immeasurable and profound contributions Liberia has made to the African continent prior to the birth of the OAU in 1963 and the paradigm shift to the AU in 2002.
She stated: “It seems Africa is gradually transcending…..from rampant dictatorship and the like. We are on the trajectory of peace, development and justice for all and women are beginning to play a more meaningful role in determining the destiny of the African people”.
Lofa County Representative, Eugene Fallah Kparkar who is the Head of the Liberian Delegation to the AU Parliament and West Africa Representative to the Leadership of the Parliament however noted that African leaders are still physically challenged and therefore called on the Union to directly help improve the continent’s challenges of poverty, among others.
Urging African leaders to stand together to move forward, the Lofa County Representative added: “We believe we can stand together to solve the problems of transportations, roads, infrastructures and others. Yes, it is often said that Africa is still lurking far behind but I believe that with the determination of Africa Union as we celebrate this 50th Anniversary, we can rekindle, resolve believing that as an African continent we can develop.”
A symbolic Anniversary Torch, like the one lighted during Monday’s event in Monrovia, was handed to African Member States in preparation of the event on April 8, 2013, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia at the Headquarters of the Union.