A colorful program marking the official observance of ‘African Liberation Day’ has taken place with the keynote speaker hailing the success of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the African Union (AU).
African Liberation Day’ is Liberia’s way of celebrating the formation of the OAU which was later renamed the AU.
A Presidential Proclamation declaring Saturday, May 25, 2013 was issued which stated that Liberia joins other Member States of the African Union to celebrate its 50th Anniversary on May 25, 2013 following an adopted decision by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union at its session held in January 2011.
President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, in her Proclamation of ‘African Liberation Day’ called upon the Citizenry, Ministries and Agencies of Government as well as institutions of learning to cooperate with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in organizing appropriate programs befitting the observance of the occasion.
This year’s observance was held at the Paynesville City Hall outside Monrovia with several public officials and members of the Diplomatic Corps as well as students in attendance.
Dr. Augustine Konneh who spoke on the topic “The Historical Overview Of Liberia’s Role In The Formation Of OAU: An All Embracing African Regional Organization” first provided a historical evolution of the OAU in 1963 that eventually led to the AU’s formation in 2002.
Dr. Konneh who is the Director-General of the Foreign Service Institute at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in his historical explanation of the OAU’s formation said the organization was born out of the striving of leaders of the new nations of Africa for regional cooperation.
A Foreign Ministry release says Dr. Konneh explained that after the independence of some of these nations, they sought to create organizations along the line of their colonial relations, leading to Anglophone and Francophone countries that created a measure of regional consciousness.
After narrating Liberia’s direct role by recalling the famous 1959 Sanniquellie Conference that involved Presidents William VS Tubman, Ahmed Sekou Traore and Dr. Kwame Kkrumah of Liberia, Guinea and Ghana respectively, the keynote speaker went on to describe Liberia’s combined role with Ethiopia as significant.
“Liberia played a significant role in advancing the rights and interests of African people that were under colonial rule”, he added, citing an instance in which Liberia and Ethiopia took South Africa’s Apartheid to the International Court.
The historian also stated that Liberia was a strong advocate for African countries that were under Portuguese rule.
Dr. Konneh listed the OAU’s success story as helping to settle boundary disputes and most importantly, its effort was to rid South Africa of Apartheid and other forms of colonialisms from the continent of Africa.
In terms of the OAU’s shortfall, the keynote speaker listed conflict resolution and policy implementation with regards to agriculture and education and high unemployment among a few which prompted a few African leaders’ call for a revisit.
“So as a result, some African leaders began to call for a union of African states. Among those advocating for this were the late Colonel Moumar Gaddafi [of Libya] and former South African President Thabo Mbeki”, he lectured his audience.
In terms of the difference between the OAU and the AU, Dr. Konneh clarified that the AU is simply an enlargement of the OAU in terms of structure and implementation such as the AU’s call for interference in keeping peace and security opposed to the OAU’s previous policy.
He said the AU’s success in the past ten years is remarkable, listing some achievements of the AU as enhancing democracy through the monitoring of elections and the African Peer Review Mechanism that ensures that those who are seceding become economically viable.
“And not only that; we have seen the AU adopting the New Partnership Development (NEPAD). So we can say in ten years with regards to the transformation, the AU has done some things”, he said.
He however urged the Union to not only make announcements but move to accomplishing them:
“It is my belief that the African Union has to in-cooperate all peoples of Africa so that the African Union can have support of the grassroots as a constituency.”
For his part, the AU’s Liaison Officer in Liberia, Mr. Toyin Solaja added that the AU’s future aim is to make all member states middle-income countries by 2063.
“We need to hold together as Africans and promote the interest of member states”, the AU officer stated.
This year’s event is being held under the theme: “Pan Africanism and African Renaissance.”
An Official Lighting of the AU Torch by Foreign Minister Augustine Kpehe Ngafuan on May 13, 2012, a Lecture Series on May 20, 2013 and an inter-university debate on May 23, 2013 as well as radio talk shows on the AU and Liberia’s role on various radio stations preceded Saturday’s event.