|Speech By H.E. President Joaquim Chissano at the opening of The AU Assembly, Maputo, 10 July 2003
King Mswati III;
Outgoing President of the African Union;
Heads of State and Government;
Secretary General of the United Nations;
Interim Chairperson of the African Union Commission;
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I extend to you a warm welcome you to the Republic of Mozambique, the motherland of Eduardo Mondlane and Samora Machel. It is our sincere hope that you will feel at home. The Mozambican People extends its warm welcome with profound emotion.
This Assembly takes place a year after we witnessed the launch of the African Union, in Durban, South Africa. Since then, significant progress has been achieved in the consolidation of our Organisation. These achievements have translated our collective resolve to turn it into a performing, credible and viable organisation in each of the Member Sates, in our Continent and in the international fora.
In this context, it is a great pleased for me to salute H.E. Thabo Mbeki, the President of South Africa and Chairperson of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union, by the dynamic and wise manner in which he conducted the affairs of our Organisation.
In the course of the last 12 months, under the helm of President Mbeki, the African Union attained more international visibility and was committed to seeking peaceful and sustainable solutions to situations that are a threat to peace, stability and democracy in Member States.
I would also like to pay tribute to H.E. Amara Essy, the Interim Chairperson of the Commission, and to the staff of the Commission for the work their work in these last years, particularly, during the critical phase of transition from the OAU to the African Union. Through his commitment and dedication, and assistance from Member States, they were able to pave the way for the new Organisation. This noble commitment has contributed enormously to the process of translating the project of a more ambitious organisation into reality and to adapt it to Africa and the world’s present situation.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
In hosting, in our national territory, the Second Ordinary Session of the Assembly we wanted to pay tribute to the pioneers of the liberation process of our Continent.
This is a humble way of expressing our appreciation and gratitude to the Organisation of the African Unity for the outstanding role it has played in the struggle for our independence. Indeed, Mozambican shed their blood for the emancipation of the country, but this achievement was made possible thanks to the support afforded by the Continent.
I would like to bring to mind the OAU Committee for the Coordination of Africa’s Liberation Struggle, an initiative by OAU founding fathers, which Ben Bella, then President of Algeria, called a “Blood Bank” to which all Africans should contribute. How can we forget the countries that hosted external or provisional headquarters of the Liberation Movements, particularly, those countries that were closer to the line of fire such as Tanzania, Guinea Conakry, Senegal and Zambia, whose peoples played a crucial role and often suffered attacks from the enemy, which resulted in the loss of people’s lives and property.
How can we forget the liberation centres that housed important representations, which were genuine embassies of the Liberation Movements, in strategic countries such as Egypt, Zambia and Ghana and the military training centres in Algeria, Morocco, Egypt, Guinea Conakry, Tanzania and Zambia.
We will eternally be grateful for the contribution of all our African brothers in this heroic mission we embarked on for the liberation of Africa.
The country that is your host today was once the battleground of a fierce struggle for independence and dignity. It was also here, in Southern Africa, that the remarkable victory of the heroic fight for the liberation of Africa was finally accomplished.
The overthrow of the Portuguese colonialism in Angola and Mozambique as well as the proclamation of independence in Namibia and Zimbabwe and the downfall of Apartheid in South Africa closed a chapter of domination and oppression in the History of our Mother Africa. Finally, the dream for which whole generations of combatants fought against colonialism and oppression became a reality.
Southern Africa is the most recent and last liberated zone in our Continent. Hence, the sacrifices that all of us made are still fresh in our minds.
This realisation reinforces our resolve to contribute to the design and implementation of the new strategic framework of action for the African Union.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our Continent faces great challenges before which there are two alternatives: we can either declare war to the disenfranchisement and underdevelopment or succumb to poverty and misery, lagging behind the global political and economic processes.
True to the ideals which our forefathers have fought for, we accept the challenge and meet the expectations of our peoples. We declare war without truce against hunger, safe water scarcity, backward and unsustainable agriculture, environmental degradation, endemic diseases namely HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, illiteracy and economic and technological backwardness.
We are confident that the Assembly will take decisions that will enable us to revert this situation in good time.
The New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) is our manifesto in the fight for economic liberation. NEPAD is the result of profound reflection on past experiences; it charts a clear path to success. We have been afforded a historic opportunity to bring to a successful conclusion the work that our forefathers started. In taking up this task we should be mindful that our response shall determine the place that our Continent shall occupy in the world this century.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The task before us as immense as that initiated by the founders of the Organisation of the African Unity. Building a prosperous and developed Africa that shall assert itself as an important player in the ……concerto…….. of the nations may seem to be an illusion or utopia.
We can and must draw inspiration, courage and strength from Kwame Nkrumah, Julius Nyerere, Gamal Abder Nasser, Hamed Sekou Touré, Jomo Kenyatta, Kenneth Kaunda, Amílcar Cabral, Agostinho Neto, Eduardo Mondlane and Samora machel. In them we will find the assurance that nothing is impossible if we join our efforts with determination to achieve our objectives.
Forty years ago, the liberation of the Continent also seemed an unattainable ideal. We are a living proof of the process of making that dream become a reality. We partook in that process and we were transformed and it reinforced our conviction that victory for a just cause is a historical necessity.
The development process of our Continent can be anticipated. We must overcome impatience and despair for these sentiments may undermine our conviction and confidence and our ability to overcome all obstacles. It is important that each action we take be a firm and decisive step that enlightens us as to the next step so that we tread on the right path.
The peace and stability in our Continent is a precondition for economic and social development of Africa.
Thus, it is imperative that we continue to seek sustainable solutions to the establishment of peace, security and stability in the Continent in order to direct our attention to the development and consolidation of democracy.
It is incumbent upon us to create a new image and change the current situation of the Continent. Our borders must be regarded as links that unite our peoples.
Mistrust and rivalry in Africa must give way to spontaneous fraternity and co-operation between neighbours united by history and culture and with a common future of prosperity.
We must help each other to improve our governance, learn from each other based on trust and friendship.
This way we will be able to wipe out the image of an Africa that is helpless and without future and build the image of a promising Continent, a destination for major investments for the production of wealth, to contribute to the improvement of our peoples’ living standards and to the eradication of poverty.
It is important that we continue to reflect and investigate the causes of conflicts within states and coup d’états, which must cease to occur. One way of achieving this would be to promote the involvement of our peoples in the processes of conflict prevention, building our economy and culture. We welcome the appeal by the civil society and our fellow countrymen in general to participate and enrich with their initiatives the implementation of the African union’s programmes. One of the major factors in promoting a culture of peace is the adoption of an inclusive approach. In a culture of peace each citizen participates in the production of the common good, be this material, intellectual or spiritual.
We would like to cease this opportunity to commend the achievements in the resolution of conflicts in Angola, Sierra Leone, Comoro Islands, Côte d’Ivoire, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
We welcome in our midst the return of the Republic of Madagascar, which due to a situation of conflict, has been unable to attend the last meeting in Durban. We note we regret the absence of the Central African Republic and hope that soon the situation will be resolved according to the democratic principles of our Union so that it can be with us in the forthcoming Summit.
It is incumbent upon us to seek solutions to the conflicts and tensions that still prevail in the Continent, in order to transform Africa into a zone of peace and stability.
Within this context, we must establish relevant mechanisms and institutions as a matter of urgency, particularly, the Peace and Security Council. Therefore, we appeal to the States that have not done so, to complete the process of signing and ratification of the Protocol that establishes the Peace and Security Council in order for it to enter into force soon.
The reform process underway in our Organisation must lead to de deepening of our reflection on the best ways of enhancing further the operation and the relationships between the various organs and institutions of the Union. In this context, we welcome the ongoing debate on the process of integration of NEPAD Secretariat into the Commission of the African Union.
We would also like to underscore the need for deepening the sense of ownership of NEPAD by Africans through the mobilisation local resources to finance this programme. This is, on the one hand, a matter of dignity and, on the other, a factor of greater credibility of our efforts in the eyes of our partners.
Within this ambit, it is important to clarify the recruitment methods of the Commission’s staff, with the need to integrate the best professionals from Member States. It is also imperative to clarify the working methods that will render greater operationality and efficiency to the Union, within the framework of the Commission’s Structure that is going to be approved.
The successful implementation of the decisions taken largely depends on the availability of financial resources. We note we concern that the situation of financial deficit still prevails in the organisation, to an extent this is due to the amount of assessed contributions in arrears. It is imperative that this situation is improved.
In opening this Second Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the African Union, I would convey a message of optimism and determination that has been an inspiration for the Mozambican People in the process of consolidation of peace, stability and democracy.
The Mozambican people are engaged in the preparation for the second municipal elections to be held in October 2003 and the third multiparty legislative and presidential elections to be held in 2004.
General elections are an important occasion for the involvement of the People in selecting its representatives and leaders, consolidating the participatory process in decision-making on the destiny of the country. We are confident that, once again, the Mozambican people will, through this process, exercise true democracy, within a spirit of reconciliation and tolerance that has characterised these last 11 years, since the establishment of peace, in 1992.
We would like to reiterate, once more, the commitment of our country to working towards the consolidation of unity in our Organisation and towards a common strategy in order to face up to current and future challenges.
We are confident that this Assembly will take the most appropriate decisions for the good of the African Union. The People and Government of Mozambique reiterate their gratitude that you have accepted that this pearl of the Indian Ocean hosts the Second Assembly of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union. With the breeze ushered by the waves of the Indian Ocean, let us renew our commitment to the African cause: a free, independent, democratic and prosperous Africa.
Maputo, 10 July 2003