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31 December 2002

END-OF-YEAR MESSAGE OF H. E. Mr. AMARA ESSY,
INTERIM CHAIR OF THE COMMISSION OF THE AFRICAN UNION


Fellow Africans,

It gives me great pleasure, at this dawn of the New Year, to once again extend to you my most sincere and best wishes on behalf of the Commission of the African Union and its entire staff. I also take this opportunity to express my appreciation for the efforts you have deployed to achieve unity and progress in our dear continent throughout the year 2002, despite the numerous and varied difficulties you have had to face up to. Your unalloyed commitment to the ideals embodied by the African Union has not only given us in the Commission of the Union, cause for encouragement, but has also been for us a source of inspiration and pride.

In the course of the year just ended, I have often had the privilege of consulting with most African Leaders, as well as eminent Africans and representatives of the broad spectrum of the socio-professional sectors, and I have found ingrained in all of these Africans the very same unflagging dedication to our common values, and the resolve and determination to ensure that their actions mirror the African peoples’aspirations to achieve unity.

If we reflect more profoundly on 2002, we will find that it has undoubtedly been a particularly trying year for Africa. We will also see at the same time, that the year has ushered in lots of hope.

The horizon was less somber than it appeared to be; and the great moments that we have witnessed, especially in Durban in July 2002, have rallied us to redouble our efforts and gear us up to take up the challenges that have not ceased to confront our Continent. It is evident that you are imbued with and driven by that very faith which made it possible for us to achieve total victory over colonialism, liberate all corners of Africa from political domination and crash out the hideous system of Apartheid. It is this same spirit that is today the engine of our tireless quest for unity and development; this very spirit that will lead us to make the 21th Century, Africa’s Century.

My Brothers and Sisters,

On 9 July 2002, in transforming the Organization of African Unity into the African Union, we succeeded in turning into reality the age-long dream of African Unity bequeathed to us, for over a century, by those who invested all their hearts and minds preaching and advocating Pan-Africanism and Unity, whose initial institutional framework was established in Addis Ababa on 25 May 1963. The African Union is therefore a perfect reflection of the deep-seated aspirations of our peoples for the unity of our Continent, and for the construction of an institutional framework capable of shaping their destiny.

Sustained efforts are currently underway to effectively translate words into tangible action. Right at this very moment, African institutions-public, private and civic alike - are actively engaged in laying the solid foundation on which will be erected the organs and structures capable of transforming the day-to-day life of our peoples and of welding them together in renewed solidarity.

The resilient efforts we collectively invested in promoting peace, security and stability on the Continent, have begun to bear fruits. As the curtain draws on the old year, the numerous regional conflicts which in some cases have raged relentlessly for very long periods, are beginning to see the sunshine of resolution. In some regions, negotiation has assumed the pride of place over the force of arms.

This is the case particularly in Angola which, at long last, is rising out of the dark abyss of war, thus enabling the sons and daughters of that country to pool their forces to build a prosperous nation. In this connection, we cannot but pay tribute to, and urge on the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo, as well as the peoples of the Sudan, Somalia and Burundi for their efforts at promoting peace and overcoming their differences which are at the heart of the untold sufferings and agony endured by the broad citizenry of these countries.

On the economic front, it is my earnest hope that the relatively positive trends of the year 2002 will take root in the course of the new year, and that NEPAD, this grand program of the African Union, will consolidate itself as the vehicle of our Continent’s renewal and development.

A lot of events did Africa proud in 2002; and in this regard, I hasten to mention the successes scored by African teams at this year’s World Cup Football Finals in which our Continent immensely distinguished itself. The most captivating of it all was the sight of young Senegalese players confronting the mightiest of the world of soccer, and performing with heroism and fair play from start to finish.

It was most inspiring and comforting that, on that occasion, the whole of Africa rose above its differences, driven as it was by one and the same spirit of solidarity and pride. Those moments indeed reflected the real Africa, the Africa that we all desire, the Africa which embodies all the attributes of the African personality.

Yet, despite our enviable sources of pride and hope, the scourge of war remains one of the greatest impediments to progress in our Continent. The numerous conflicts raging in Africa have continued to:

- fan the embers of desolation in several regions;
- claim numerous human lives, and
- throw into disarray prospects for development and consolidation of democracy.
In this connection, the cases of the DRC and Cote d’Ivoire constitute for us all a source of serious concern. There is no doubt that the crisis maiming these countries also endanger peace, security and stability all over the Continent.

It is my sincere hope that the on-going sustained efforts will be crowned with success, thereby enabling these countries to rekindle the torch of national reconciliation for the greater wellbeing of their peoples.

This is why we need to demonstrate more purposeful determination at this dawn of 2003 to protect the democratic institutions of our States.

We need to strengthen our constitutions so as to overcome our differences, in peace and harmony.

We must persevere in our efforts at promoting democracy and the rule of law in our countries. Democratic and peaceful change must be encouraged, as the experience of Kenya and Mali amply demonstrated, inviting us to emulate.

We have invested laudable efforts in the building of our nations. We therefore must not jeopardize what we have achieved. We must jealously guard unity and peace, the most precious assets of our collective wellbeing.

Furthermore, all around us, there is the increasing manifestation of the terrorism phenomenon, resulting in immense loss of lives and subjecting the people to untold sufferings. We must do all in our power to combat these senseless and irrational acts of cowardice, more so as the victims are innocent defenseless civilians.

At the continental level, our leaders are determined to maintain and consolidate our capacity to promote peace and security for all African peoples.

At their Summit in Durban in July 2002, our leaders resolved to establish the Peace and Security Council, a stronger body with enhanced facilities, capable of facing up to the challenges in these areas.

Our leaders further adopted historic decisions on the role of women in the development of the Continent. They, in particular, decided on equal numbers of men and women for the posts of Commissioner of the African Union.

The threat of HIV/AIDS is still looming in our midst with relentlessly devastating impact. Although all indications point to an increased awareness level, there has unfortunately been no significant change in behaviour.

We need to wage real war on the pandemic; this virus is in the process of mercilessly destroying the very fabric of our societies.

To further compound the situation, drought and famine threaten to decimate millions of people in Africa. We should once again summon our strong sense of solidarity in fostering mutual assistance to combat all these catastrophes.

These challenges are not insurmountable as long as we remain focussed in our vision, reinvigorated in our determination, and committed to bring our contribution to bear. With all that, we will overcome! We will succeed! We cannot afford to fail.

I thank you and once again wish you a happy and bountiful 2003.

Long Live United Africa! Long Live African Union!
ADDIS ABABA DECEMBER 31 2002