Get AfricaFocus Bulletin by e-mail!
Format for print or mobile
Africa: Reflections from an Elder Statesman
December 8, 2014 (141208)
(Reposted from sources cited below)
"In recent years, Africa has had strong economic growth records
largely attributed to the comparative advantage that we have on
natural resources and the demands fuelled by the strong growth in
the largest emerging economies in Latin America and Asia. However,
this growth has not translated into further reduction of poverty nor
income and wealth inequality as we expected. ... The wealth and
resources of our countries must be used to serve our people and not
benefit a few individuals." - H.E. Salim Ahmed Salim
The themes are now familiar - that growth in itself does not reduce
poverty or inequality, that youth and women must take leading roles
in Africa's transformation, that Africa's challenges cannot be
addressed only within individual countries. But these remarks by
Salim Ahmed Salim are worth reading not only for their clarity but
because of the consistent commitment of Salim himself over his years
as one of the continent's leading statesmen.
This speech, included in its entirety below, consists of his remarks
at an event in his honor held on December 2 in Addis Ababa by the
African Union, in conjunction with several civil society
organizations. It is available, along with other background
material, on the African Union website (direct link to event page
The new dawn he envisages, he stresses, will come from more
assertive popular voices, "less the Africa monopolized by states ...
than the Africa of the people of Africa."
For a short biography of Salim Ahmed Salim, visit
http://www.issafrica.org/ / direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/ppfxove
[AfricaFocus is regularly monitoring and posting links on
Ebola on social media. For additional links, see http://www.facebook.com/AfricaFocus]
Of recent interest:
*MSF Briefing Paper on status of Ebola Response
"The international response to Ebola in West Africa has been slow,
encumbered by serious bottlenecks in terms of staffing. Though all
three of the worst-hit countries have received some assistance from
foreign governments, these actors have focused primarily on
financing and/or building Ebola case management facilities, leaving
staffing them up to NGOs and local healthcare staff who do not have
the expertise to do so."
* African footfall stars pay tribute to West Africa health workers
videos in English, French, and Krio
* "The Survivors' Factory: The Sierra Leone Treatment Center that
Defies the Odds," December 4, 2014
http://www.eboladeeply.org / direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/l6ez69s
* Progress on #Ebola in eastern #SierraLeone despite continued
growth of epidemic elsewhere in the country.
"The key to the decline
in new cases was a wholesale shift in the public's perception of
Ebola and those fighting it."
++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note+++++++++++++++++
Remarks by Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim on the African Union Celebration of
H.E. Salim Ahmed Salim Service to the Continent
2 December 2014, Mandela Hall, African Union
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
http://www.au.int / direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/o9z2kch
Excellency, Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union,
Madame Nkosazana DlaminiZuma
Excellency, Hon Minister of Foreign Affairs, Federal Democratic
Republic of Ethiopia, Dr. Tedros Adhanom
Excellency, UNUSG and UNECA Executive Secretary, Mr. Carlos Lopez
Excellency, AU Commissioner, Peace and Security, Ambassador Smail
Excellencies, Commissioners of the African Union
Excellencies, Ambassadors and Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Distinguished representatives of ACCORD, Centre for Humanitarian
Dialogue, ISS and Mwalimu Nyerere Foundation
Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen
It is indeed an honour for me to join you at this auspicious
occasion. I am deeply humbled by the honour accorded to me this
morning. Allow me to thank you sincerely for the kind words and for
the recognition given to the modest contribution I have made in the
service of this great continent. I am fully aware that in its more
than 50 years of existence our continental organisation has had a
number of distinguished Secretaries General and Chairpersons. I am
also fully cognizant of the fact that this continent has produced
many gallant daughters and sons who have made outstanding
contributions to the wellbeing of our people and to the development
of our nations.
I interpret the occasion of this morning as an opportunity to
concretize and review the shared experiences of our continent, with
an intention of galvanizing our efforts to realize our desired
destiny. My personal contribution is therefore only a vague shadow
of the realities that we need to celebrate, assess, rectify and
My personal contribution is therefore only a vague shadow of the
realities that we need to celebrate, assess, rectify and
At this juncture, I would like to pay tribute to the Commission of
the African Union; The African Centre for the Constructive
Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD); the Institute for Security Studies
(ISS), the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue as well as the Mwalimu
Nyerere Foundation, for organising this event. I would like to thank
them for giving me the privilege of being the object of facilitating
today's reflection. It is a fitting contribution to the series of
activities on celebrating 50 years of our continental organisation.
I have been involved with these institutions in one capacity to
another for more than ten years. I thank for the recognition you
have given me and this recognition is more of a tribute to our
Madame Chairperson, Ladies and Gentlemen
The continental organisation has been the anchor of the
responsibilities I have been charged with for the better part of my
life. Whether as an ambassador in Egypt, India or China in the
1960s; or a Permanent Representative at the United Nations in the
1970s; a Minister of Foreign Affairs for my country in the 1980s, or
a Secretary General of the OAU in the 1990s, a Member of the Panel
of the Wise in the 2000s -- my assignment, my working brief, the
mission given to me has always been to promote, defend and realize
Africas goals and ideals. In other words, I have been involved and
or associated with the OAU and later African Union all my working
life. In the sense I have been part of this institution since its
first summit in 1964 in Cairo, Egypt onwards.
As we look back in history it is a fact that we have made a lot of
progress in pursuit of our continental endeavours. We have every
right to celebrate. It has Ibeen a long journey in which all of us
have travelled, confronting hardships, with our fallen heroes making
the ultimate sacrifices; others taking up the baton, to continue
with the struggle. This was the journey for Africas liberation; the
journey for the dignity and freedom of our people; the journey for
the unity and integration of our nations; the journey for peace,
security and prosperity of all Africans.
Out of all these, one thing which had made Africa triumph was the
unity and cohesion of our states and of our people. The faith that
our people had in this unity constituted a significant contribution
towards attainment of our objectives. It is important to safe guard
this unity and cohesion but we should go beyond that.
Today we find ourselves where we are. In occasions such as this, we
need to be clear on the true meaning of this moment particularly in
relation to where we have come from. Like that legendary Ghanaian
bird -- the Sankofa -- which, in order to determine its direction
when it feels disoriented when flying in the high altitudes, it
turns its neck backwards while continuing to fly forward. In that
flight mode, it acquires the full bearing of its past, present and
future. Perhaps, once in a while, we do need such Sankofa moments as
Madame Chairperson, Ladies and Gentlemen
Remarkable change has taken place in Africa since 1963. Indeed, long
narratives and eloquent statements have already been given about the
continental transformation of the past 51 years. There is this new
African who is free; outside the bondage and shackles of colonialism
and apartheid; striving to improve her/his welfare; determined to
forge linkages and unity; and committed to ensure peace, security
and sustainability. These are tangible and physical embodiments of
some of our gains, which are outstanding when compared with the
centuries of our Ibeing denied full humanity.
Signs are occurring across the continent that issues which are
seemingly normative as well as marginally relational, and even
considered to be routine are now acquiring a material force. A new
dawn is rising in Africa -- It is less the Africa monopolized by
states, rather it is the Africa of the people of Africa. Voices are
becoming more assertive. Collective force driven from within is
becoming more revealing and even causing organized change. The
people are crossing boundaries and trading among themselves. Women
from Uganda and Nigeria are involved in high value international
trade with their Chinese counterparts.
Their colleagues in Togo and Benin are hiring industrial
establishments in Germany to print indigenously designed fabric.
Youths across the continent are collaborating in music and film
creating a dynamic industry in art.
Madame Chairperson, Ladies and Gentlemen
We have made some success but we still have problems, some of them
critical. These problems can be divided into problems which are
basically African like the civil strife, poverty, endemic
corruption, fragile and failed states the new phenomenon of
extremism in our societies and so on. But we have problems which are
universal. As exemplified by the burning issue of climate change.
These are challenges which affect Africa as part of the
international community thus the continent has to work together with
the international community.
The phenomenon of extremism of all types has now grown more ominous
in the last five years or so. We can ignore this phenomenon only at
our peril. It is important for us as the whole continent to see what
can be done to deal with this.
The issue of systemic economic and political alienation of the
majority of African people that came in hand with the impressive
record of economic growth and democratic progress has led to
considerable tension in countries -- tensions between urban and
rural, between ethnic groups, between the rich and the poor, between
the security forces and the people, and even more worrisome tensions
across religious lines. Without tackling this challenge we may not
be able to resolve the problem of extremism and its accompanying
threats like terrorism.
The challenges that face us now, like what is going on in some of
our countries should not continue to be a one-country challenge. If
we want to see the benefits of tremendous economic and political
gains that our continent has been experiencing in recent years to
sustain and bring sustainable prosperity to all, we cannot allow
totally unacceptable situations to continue.
Let me emphasize. Whatever the causes, whatever the excuses, nothing
can justify the horrendous terrorist acts being perpetrated against
innocent civilians including women and children. We therefore not
only need to condemn these acts of extremism but to work tirelessly
within the continent and with the international community to put an
end to this menace.
Here I would like to reiterate what I said a few weeks ago in
Arusha, Tanzania. The challenges facing our continent are continuing
to expand and evolve. What is happening in some of the West African
countries with the Ebola demand undertaking a serious reflection on
what more can be done in relation to our crisis preparedness against
various threats, old and new, man-made and natural disasters.
We should be able to make use of the experiences gained to deal with
the Ebola crisis which besides causing significant human casualties
threatens to destroy all the gains that have been made by the three
affected countries including some which have done extremely well in
post conflict reconstruction. Although the African Union and
individual African states have started to fully mobilize the
response to this new threat in terms of preparedness and dispatching
medical and humanitarian support to the effected countries, we still
have not been able to provide a concerted effort that we should
have. As, in other conflicts and challenges facing our continent, we
need to do more on this.
Clearly, these challenges cannot be effectively overcome by one
country or a combination of few countries. It is always important to
work together as international community but with African States and
the African Union playing a key role. Fortunately in many cases this
is the case but we still have to walk the talk when it comes into
financing those solutions by ourselves.
While we talk a lot about dignity and rights, we talk a lot about
the African renaissance, about the sufferings we have gone through
etc, we also need to take into account that there is a price for
everything. And the price of this is that we must be prepared to
meet our commitments and where necessary to sacrifice more.
We recall what the late President Ahmed Ben Bella of Algeria stated
at the OAU Summit in 1963 "that we must all be prepared to die a
little for the liberation of our continent". In this case we must be
prepared to meet our obligations. It is scandalous that until today,
after all we have gone through we still have a problem where some
members of our organisation do not fulfil their financial
obligations. The African Union is trying its best. We thank our
friends in Europe, our friends in America, Our friends in Asia and
However, it is for me incomprehensible that Africa which is endowed
with considerable resources, to continue to be in a situation of
almost total dependency on external actors when it comes to deal
with crisis situations in our continent. In other words, the
anachronism which continues to remain today where for example the
programme budget of our continental organisation has to be funded
almost more than 90% by European Union and others. This situation
is both unsustainable and unacceptable.
We cannot continue to expect our institution with so many mandates
and responsibilities to deal effectively with our problems, when
member states do not invest in the institution. We recall the high
level panel, led by former Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo who
was the chairperson of the High-Level Panel on Alternative Sources
for Funding for the AU, who late last year presented the findings
There are a number of good recommendations in trying to limit the
external funding dependency the institution has, but unfortunately
implementation as usual will be a formidable challenge. Without
political will and determination, we will lack any implementation
that will result in fundamental and necessary changes. This can be
applied to an array of challenges our continent continues to face.
We need take this matter seriously and work towards attainment of
our goals and responsibilities.
Madame Chairperson, Ladies and Gentlemen
Some have called this century as an African century. A century that
we would see Africa rising to its rightful position as an important
factor in global affairs, l believe that this is possible,
achievable and most of all necessary. Indeed this should be the
clarion call of the new generation of young people who unlike in our
times has more privileges of global interconnectivity including
advance communication technology, to use for fulfilling its
Improvement of good governance is indeed the number one issue. We
must never retreat from the struggle to ensure that we have capable
and evolving systems that will ensure all those who lead, at
whatever level BUT especially as National Leaders, be held
accountable and act in a manner, which makes them truly servants of
the people who have elected them to power. Good governance,
democracy, accountability and transparency should be nurtured and
sustained and above all be made an essential component of our
societies. Africa should be in a forefront for the protection and
respect of human and people's rights. What we need now is to embrace
the culture of democracy and make our democratic gains to work for
To achieve this it is imperative to build democratic institutions,
improve our educational system and strengthen the civil societies.
To this I would like to pay a special tribute to all the
institutions around the continent that have been working hard to
support the African Union in its democratic endeavours and also in
various countries where both national and grassroots organisations
and institutions have been working hard entrenching democratic
values to our people.
Madame Chairperson, Ladies and Gentlemen
Indeed we must continue to work together in striving for uplifting
the lot of our people. Economic and social transformation is a
prerequisite condition. In recent years, Africa has had strong
economic growth records largely attributed to the comparative
advantage that we have on natural resources and the demands fuelled
by the strong growth in the largest emerging economies in Latin
America and Asia.
However, this growth has not translated into further reduction of
poverty nor income and wealth inequality as we expected. We must
guard against the growing inequities in our societies, which cause
resentment and despair among our people and especially the millions
of unemployed young people. If we fail to redress this imbalance we
run the risk of explosion and conflict. We must gradually but firmly
eliminate the contradiction of a very rich continent inhabited by
the poorest people. The wealth and resources of our countries must
be used to serve our people and not benefit a few individuals. We
must promote openness and accountability in the utilization of our
resources like oil, diamonds, gold, timber and other natural
resources so as to ensure that they serve as national assets and not
as a curse as is sometimes the case in some of our countries.
Among the immediate challenges is how we live up to the call of
greater economic integration of our continent. We are encouraged by
the various steps taken by African countries towards promoting
greater economic cooperation and indeed working towards greater
integration. There is no doubt that Africa's salvation lies in
marshaling the resources of our continent and making use of them for
the greater good of our people. The potential is enormous, but we
need to make use of that potential and can only succeed if we take
the call for integration seriously and make it part of our daily
agenda. We must always think it terms of our collective interests
rather than purely individual states interests alone. I have no
doubt in my mind the way forward for our continent lies in the
integration of our economies making our continent a powerful force
in international economic relations.
Madame Chairperson, Ladies and Gentlemen
Creating quality livelihood opportunities for young people is one of
the most pressing challenges facing Africa's stability and hence
prosperity. Many of our conflicts in the future will be driven by
the gap between aspirations of the people and the realities on the
ground. This in particular relates to the youth of the continent. We
need to recognise and wholeheartedly embrace the role of youth and
women based on the changes that are taking place in the continent.
It is encouraging to see that by and large there is some realisation
and recognition of their capacity and aspirations, but we need to do
more. We need to cultivate and empower them so that they feel
ingrained into our societies. We need to provide conditions where
the youth aspire to better for themselves and their country. We need
to make young people believe that tomorrow will be better, because
if not, we will then lose the raging battle with extremists and
criminal enterprises that radicalize our youth.
At the same time, the youth themselves have a responsibility to make
sure they are in the forefront to achieve those aspirations and
expectations. They should also have to understand where we are
coming from. We expect them to understand our history and learn from
it in making their contribution.
The women of our continent have been the most resilient and dynamic
force. They constitute more than 50% of the entire population. They
have played a crucial role in the struggle for independence and
liberation wars. In conflict situations they bear a disproportionate
burden of suffering. They have played and continue to play a pivotal
role in all facets of economic and social development. BUT THEIR
FULL POTENTIAL HAS YET TO BE UTILISED. This vital process needs to
be encouraged and intensified. This powerful force, when properly
empowered and allowed to make full use of their potential will
unleash an irreversible movement towards the political, social and
economic emancipation of the continent.
They would certainly make a major contribution in the struggle
against poverty including in the important area of ensuring that
Africa is self reliant in food production.
It is encouraging that in many African countries there has been some
development in recognition of women role and position in our
societies. A number of women representations in both local and
national decision making positions has grown. In some countries like
in my country Tanzania, the need for achieving a fifty percent
representation of women in parliament and other decision-making is
no more a question of why but rather how.
However, empowering women to take positions of leadership by itself
is not enough. We need to ensure that our societies fully embrace
the values of gender equality as central to our democratic progress
as well as human progress.
We cannot continue celebrating the modest achievements in this
aspect while at the same time we allow the unspeakable
dehumanization of our mothers, sisters and daughters. We have for so
long abused both social and religious norms into tools of
legitimization of unspeakable and intolerable indignity towards our
women and girls. A developing society need neither tolerate nor
understanding such indignity.
Madame Chairperson, Ladies and Gentlemen
As we look to the future therefore, we should aim for Africa which
is free, Africa which takes care of its own responsibilities and
working in tandem with international community, Africa which does
not tolerate extremism of any kind and Africa that our young people
who are the majority feel they have a future.
It is time, that we pay more attention to the nuances of the forces
and dynamics underlying the achievements, as well as the challenges.
We need to ask ourselves - what have been the drivers of these
changes, what are the ideals, norms, values guiding these
endeavours, what relationships have been forged among the people,
leaders and within institutions. How are all these being nurtured
and steered towards realizing our shared vision.
Before concluding, I would like to pay a special tribute to the
chairperson of the commission Madame Nkosazana Zuma for the way she
has steered the organisation with the support of her colleagues, the
various commissioners. Her devotion and commitment to the continent
is clearly inspirational. I would like to thank all African
colleagues here who for many years (some since my times as the
Secretary General of the OAU) have been supportive and active in our
collective efforts and struggles in the service of our continent.
I believe that what we are all striving for is to alleviate the
misery and suffering of our people but even more profound to
galvanise the momentum for realisation of our collective vision.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my family,
especially my dear wife, Amne, for being there for me all these
years. Without their understanding, support and encouragement it
would not have been possible for me to pursue the role and
responsibilities that I have been entrusted with all these years.
Asante sana mama watoto.
Thank you for your kind attention.
AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication
providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a
particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus
Bulletin is edited by William Minter.
AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please
write to this address to subscribe or unsubscribe to the bulletin,
or to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about
reposted material, please contact directly the original source
mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see