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Africa: African Renaissance
Africa: African Renaissance
Date distributed (ymd): 991012
Document reposted by APIC
Issue Areas: +political/rights+ +economy/development+
This posting contains the speech by South African President
Thabo Mbeki at the launch of the African Renaissance
Institute. A posting also sent out today contains the speech
on the same occasion by the Executive Secretary of the
Economic Commission for Africa, Dr. K. Y. Amoako.
Speech at the Launch of the African Renaissance Institute
President Thabo Mbeki
Pretoria October 11 1999
(For additional speeches by the South African President, see
Chairperson, Distinguished Elders of Africa, Secretary General
of the Organisation of African Unity, Your Excellencies
Ministers, Ambassadors and High Commissioners, Distinguished
participants, Comrades, Ladies and Gentlemen:
I am very pleased indeed to welcome you to the launch of the
African Renaissance Institute. I sincerely thank you for
giving us, as South Africans, the opportunity to host this
launch and for me to speak at this Opening Session.
I would also like to welcome to our country those of our
brothers and sisters who come from beyond our borders.
Once more, we would like to express our profound appreciation
to you all for the contribution that you made to our own
struggle for liberation.
Liberated South Africa is therefore your home, not merely
because it is an African country, but because without your
determined struggles, perhaps we would not be a free people
The sacrifices the peoples of our Continent made to end the
apartheid crime against humanity, which denied the very
humanity of everybody who was African, were many and varied.
Among other things, the countries of Southern Africa also paid
a very high price in human lives lost, as well as property and
infrastructure destroyed, as they withstood the campaign of
aggression and destabilisation conducted by the apartheid
Undoubtedly, Angola and Mozambique paid the highest price in
I would like to take this opportunity, once more, to reiterate
our profound appreciation to their governments and peoples for
their extraordinary solidarity, which our people will never
I am also very pleased to make special mention and pay tribute
to our elders who are here, of whom we are justly proud and
whose wisdom and African patriotism will make an important
contribution to our common quest for an African Renaissance.
All of us are greatly distressed that that great son of all
Africa, Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, is unable to be here, owing to
a difficult health condition. I am certain that we would all
agree that we should send him a heartfelt message of support
and our wishes for his speedy recovery.
We have also received the apologies of another great son of
our Continent, Ahmed Ben Bella, who could not join us owing to
As you are aware, the movement of our own struggle for
national liberation is the ANC, the African National Congress.
Brought up as we were by this movement and led by it,
throughout the entirety of our political lives we have been
exposed to the inspiring perspective of African unity and
solidarity and the renewal of our Continent.
Beyond this, the struggle for our own liberation led to the
development of perhaps the largest and most determined
Pan-African movement of solidarity our continent has ever
seen, involving both governments and all sections of the
population, in every country.
We are therefore pleased and moved that some of our fellow
Africans took the initiative to establish the Institute that
we are launching today.
I am convinced that all of us present here share a common
vision in favour of African unity and solidarity, African
development and renewal and an end to the marginalisation of
our Continent in world affairs and development processes.
It would seem to us vitally necessary that whereas, for some
time, the achievement of these objectives has been left to our
governments, it is necessary that we return this vision to the
We are therefore of the firm view that there is a critically
important and urgent need to develop a Popular Movement for
the African Renaissance.
Accordingly, we believe that political organisations and
governments in all African countries should be mobilised to
act in furtherance of the objectives of the African
Equally, the masses and their organisations in all African
countries should similarly be mobilised and drawn into action.
We must also pay attention to the intelligentsia, the
professionals, the trade unions, business people, women and
the youth, the traditional leaders, cultural workers, the
media and so on, to bring them into the popular struggle for
The question has been posed repeatedly as to what we mean when
we speak of an African Renaissance.
As all of us know, the word "renaissance" means rebirth,
renewal, springing up anew. Therefore, when we speak of an
African Renaissance, we speak of the rebirth and renewal of
This idea is not new to the struggles of the peoples of our
continent for genuine emancipation. It has been propagated
before by other activists for liberation, drawn from many
But it has been suggested that when this perspective was
advanced in earlier periods, the conditions did not exist for
Accordingly, what is new about it today is that the conditions
exist for the process to be enhanced, throughout the
continent, leading to the transformation of the idea from a
dream dreamt by visionaries to a practical programme of action
What, then, are these conditions! These are:
- the completion of the continental process of the liquidation
of the colonial system in Africa, attained as a result of the
liberation of South Africa;
- the recognition of the bankruptcy of neo-colonialism by the
masses of the people throughout the continent, including the
majority of the middle strata;
- the weakening of the struggle among the major powers for
spheres of influence on our continent, as a consequence of the
end of the Cold War; and,
- the acceleration of the process of globilisation.
As we take advantage of these changed circumstances, we must
move from the fundamental proposition that the peoples of
Africa share a common destiny.
Each one of our countries is constrained in its ability to
achieve peace, stability, sustained development and a better
life for the people, except in the context of the
accomplishment of these objectives in other sister African
countries as well.
Accordingly, it is objectively in the interest of all Africans
to encourage the realisation of these goals throughout our
Continent, at the same time as we pursue their attainment in
each of our countries.
We speak of a continent which, while it led in the very
evolution of human life and was a leading centre of learning,
technology and the arts in ancient times, has experienced
various traumatic epochs; each one of which has pushed her
peoples deeper into poverty and backwardness.
We refer here to the three periods of:
- slavery, which robbed the continent of millions of her
healthiest and most productive inhabitants and reinforced the
racist and criminal notion that, as Africans, we are
- imperialism and colonialism, which resulted in the rape of
raw materials, the destruction of traditional agriculture and
domestic food security, and the integration of Africa into the
world economy as a subservient participant; and,
- neo-colonialism, which perpetuated this economic system,
while creating the possibility for the emergence of new
national elites in independent states, themselves destined to
join the dominant global forces in oppressing and exploiting
the masses of the people.
During this latter period, our continent has experienced:
- unstable political systems in which one-party states and
military rule have occupied pride of place, leading to
conflict, civil wars, genocide and the emergence of millions
of displaced and refugee populations;
- the formation of predatory elites that have thrived on the
basis of the looting of national wealth and the entrenchment
- the growth of the international debt burden to the extent
that, in some countries, combined with unfavourable terms of
trade, it makes negative growth in national per capita income
- actual declines in the standard of living and the quality of
life for hundreds of millions of Africans.
The task of the African Renaissance derive from this
experience, covering the entire period from slavery to date.
- the establishment of democratic political systems to ensure
the accomplishment of the goal that "the people shall govern",
- ensuring that these systems take into account African
specifics so that, while being truly democratic and protecting
human rights, they are nevertheless designed in ways which
really ensure that political and, therefore, peaceful means
can be used to address the competing interests of different
social groups in each country;
- Establishing the institutions and procedures which would
enable the continent collectively to deal with questions of
democracy, peace and stability;
- achieving sustainable economic development that results in
the continuous improvement of the standards of living and the
quality of life of the masses of the people;
- qualitatively changing Africa's place in the world economy
so that it is free of the yoke of the international debt
burden and no longer a supplier of raw materials and an
importer of manufactured goods;
- ensuring the emancipation of the women of Africa;
- successfully confronting the scourge of HIV/AIDS;
- the rediscovery of Africa's creative past to recapture the
peoples' cultures, encourage artistic creativity and restore
popular involvement in both accessing and advancing science
- strengthening the genuine independence of African countries
and continent in their relations with the major powers and
enhancing their role in the determination of the global system
of governance in all fields, including politics, the economy,
security, information and intellectual property, the
environment and science and technology.
These goals can only be achieved through a genuinely popular
and protracted struggle involving not only governments and
political parties, but also the people themselves in all their
Such a popular movement for the fundamental renewal of Africa
would also have to take into account the multi-faceted reality
- it is engaged in an extremely complex struggle which would
be opposed by forces of reaction from both within and without
- it would achieve both forward movement and suffer occasional
- the continental offensive can only be sustained if the
active populations of all countries are confident that none of
the countries of the continent, regardless of the extent of
its contribution to the Renaissance, seeks to impose itself on
the rest as a new imperialist power; and,
- the forces for change have to be built up and consolidated
within each country, without ignoring or underestimating the
imperative and the potential for an increasing coordinated
trans-national offensive for the mutually beneficial renewal
of the continent.
From all this, it is clear that the achievement of the
historically vital African Renaissance requires that the
peoples of our continent should adopt a realist programme of
action that will actually move Africa towards its real
Accordingly, ways have to be found to ensure that:
- the OAU is further strengthened so that in its work, it
focuses on the strategic objective of the realisation of the
- links are built across Africa's borders among all social
sectors to increase the levels of cooperation ad integration;
- steps are taken to ensure that both Africa ad the rest of
the world define the new (21st) century as an "African
Century", in furtherance of the objective of the mobilisation
of the peoples of the world to support the offensive for an
African Renaissance; and,
- work is done to persuade the rest of the world, including
sch important institutions as the UN, the IMF, the World Bank,
the WTO, NAFTA, the EU, MERCOSUR, ASEAN and others, to the
point of view that we share with them the strategic view that
it is obligatory that we all support the vision of an African
Renaissance and that they should lend support to this process,
guided by what the peoples of Africa themselves want.
The difficulty we will face with regard to the accomplishment
of the last of these tasks is illustrated by the problem we
are facing even as we stand here, of arriving at the point
when we can conclude the bilateral agreement between our
country and the European Union.
Stripped of all pretence, what has raised the question whether
the agreement can be signed today or not, is the reality that
many among the developed countries of the North have lost all
sense of the nobele idea of human solidarity.
What seems to predominate is the question, in its narrowest
and most naked meaning - what is in it for me! What is in it
for me! - and all this with absolutely no apology and no sense
None of us were present when the slaves were forced into the
dungeons on the Isle of Goree in Senegal and on the island of
But we would not be wrong if we came to the conclusion that
those who survived these dungeons as well as their
transportation across the oceans, did so because of a strong
will to survive.
None of us were present when the people of the Congo were
slaughtered in their millions, to satisfy the rapacious and
insatiable greed of a Belgian monarch.
But we would not be wrong if we came to the conclusion that
the Congolese people did not resort to mass suicide to escape
the horror, because of a firm conviction that, in the end, as
a people they were indestructible.
We were present when the colonial and racist powers put up the
most determined resistance to deny the people of Algeria,
Kenya, the Portuguese colonies, Zimbabwe, Namibia and South
Africa their freedom.
We know that the peoples of these countries and our Continent
as a whole were not discouraged by what seemed to be
overwhelming odds against them, because they were determined
that the people's cause for national emancipation could never
We bore witness to the unspeakable genocide that descended on
the people of Rwanda in 1994.
We know that, in the end, these extraordinary Africans ended
the slaughter themselves because they took it upon themselves
to make the determination that Africa will not perish at the
hands of her own sons and daughters.
That same spirit of optimism and commitment to overcome must
inform all of us now as we build on the victories we have
scored, to engage what will clearly be a titanic struggle to
achieve Africa's Renaissance.
What will decide the outcome is not the strength of our
opponents but our own determination to succeed.
Stretching through the mists, for a millennium, our common
African history is replete with great feats of courage,
demonstrated by the heroes and heroines and the heroic
peoples, without whose loyal attachment to hope and the vision
of a bright future for Africa, her people would long have
The moment is upon us when we should draw on this deep well of
human nobility to make this statement in action - that
Africa's time has come!
We, in all our millions, including those of us who are in the
Diaspora, will ensure that Africa will not be denied what is
due to her!
The African century will not be proclaimed! It will come to be
The struggle continues! Victory is certain!
We wish the African Renaissance Institute success in the
historic mission we are all called upon to carry out, to end
a long and dark night without whose ending no human being
anywhere in the world can claim to be fulfilled as a human
The only ailment that has no cure is the spawn of a curse.
I thank you for your attention.
This material is being reposted for wider distribution by the
Africa Policy Information Center (APIC). APIC's primary
objective is to widen the policy debate in the United States
around African issues and the U.S. role in Africa, by
concentrating on providing accessible policy-relevant
information and analysis usable by a wide range of groups and