Mr Speaker, last Saturday, 25th May, 2013 marked the Golden Jubilee of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). Fifty years is a good time to reflect, review, renew and reenergise an organisation which was set up with lofty goals.
Mr Speaker, prior to 1963, Africa was divided into two main blocs, both seeking African Unity. The Casablanca bloc which was led by Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah included Guinea, Mali, Egypt, Algeria,
Morocco and Libya. The Casablanca bloc wanted Africa Unity immediately and Nkrumah had articulated these views from the 1950s. This group was considered as the radicals or progressives. The other group, the Monrovia bloc were the gradualists or conservatives and it included Nigeria and Liberia and most of Francophone Africa led by Leopold Senghor of Senegal.
They wanted unity to be built gradually on economic co-operation. It was left to Ethiopia under Emperor Haile Selassie to employ the diplomatic and negotiating skills of his Foreign Minister, Ketema Yifru to bring these diametrically opposed blocs to the table to establish the OAU.
Mr Speaker, history tells us that as at midnight of 24th May, 1963, the African Foreign Ministers had not agreed on a Charter which their Presidents could append their signatures to. The language of the Charter was finally agreed at 3.00a.m. and on 25th May, Heads of 32 independent African States signed the Charter.
Today, we must celebrate the founding fathers of the OAU. Great men like Ahmed Sekou Toure of Guinea, Abdul Gamel Nasser of Egypt, Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, Leopold Senghor of Senegal, and our own Osagyefo Dr Kwame Nkrumah. We celebrate them for their vision and fortitude which saw the birth of Africa's foremost political organisation. The OAU became the African Union on 9th July, 2002.
A major objective of the OAU was to provide Africa with a collective voice in international affairs. The ravages of the Cold War led to a situation where Africa could not speak with a collective voice. It was perhaps, only in the matter of decolonisation that Africa's collective voice was heard loudly at the United
Nations and in other international fora. Today, we have 54 members of the African Union, an addition of 22 countries to the original 32 and there is no African country under colonial rule, a result of persistent support to liberation movements by the OAU and its member countries.
Another primary aim was to attain a better life for Africans through co- ordinated co-operation among African States. The establishment of the African Development Bank in 1964 to provide funding for African projects in order to enhance economic development and social progress is a case in point. Its mission statement says “ADB seeks to Reduce poverty and improve living standards” and the ADB has done a lot in this regard.
There are many Pan-African specialised agencies currently working to enhance co-operation in special areas of the economies of African States under the auspices of the AU. These include PANA (The Pan- African News Agency), URTNA, (Union of African National Television and Radio Organisations), OATUU (Orga- nisation of African Trades Union Unity) with its headquarters in Accra. ACAC (African Civil Aviation Commission) indeed, may also include CAF established in 1957, predates the founding of African Union but works closely with AU. These are all positive signs of work to enhance co-operation at the continental level.
Mr Speaker, another basic objective of the OAU was to ensure that all Africans enjoyed fundamental human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration. Unfortunately, in this respect, OAU did not do very well. For, while we condemned Ian Smith in Rhodesia and Verwoed Botha in South Africa, some of the leaders of
our independent States, desirous of maintaining power at all costs, used unacceptable methods and brutal oppression to subdue opposition elements and many Africans were left voiceless, as their leaders became dictators. The principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of sovereign countries made it difficult for the OAU to condemn many such acts, especially in the case of Idi Amin's brutalities in Uganda, the civil wars in Nigeria, Ethiopia / Eritrea, Sudan, Chad and Rwanda.
Mr Speaker, looking forward, if this generation of African leaders wishes to attain the lofty goals of our founding fathers, then we must have for all African States, shared fundamental values.
Mr Speaker, today, in our country, Ghana, our people have agreed that democracy is the system of government that best provides a platform for the realisation of our aspirations.
Mr Speaker, we all agreed that in exercising our democratic rights, we would choose those who govern us by universal adult suffrage in free, fair, transparent and credible elections. Many African countries share this with us but if all African States could agree to operate on this basis, then the political union our forefathers craved for will probably be doable.
Secondly, Mr Speaker, the question of human rights is extremely important. It cannot be that if African States shared in respecting the human rights of all Africans, The Gambian or Libyan experiences of some unfortunate Ghanaian citizens could have occurred. We have an African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights which was adopted by the OAU in June, 1981 (Banjul Charter) and all African countries are signatories to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Could the operationalisation of the Banjul Charter in all African countries not enable us to share values which will be a reference point for all our countries?
Thirdly, Mr. Speaker, the rule of law is what underpins democracy and human rights. Without the rule of law in all African countries and accepted as the norm by all citizens, no citizen is really free. The pendency of an election petition before the Supreme Court is evidence that respect for the rule of law in Ghana is paramount. The alternative would have been too horrendous to behold.
It is important for all citizens, especially those who have the opportunity to govern to submit themselves to the law. A common adherence to this fundamental value will provide another common ground for political unity.
Fourthly, the bane of Africa's development has been corruption by officials and politicians who seek illegal rents for doing business for which they are ordinarily paid by the citizenry through taxes. It is sad to note that even resource-rich African countries remain poor while a few individuals become super- rich. It is important that all countries commit to the elimination of corruption as it reduces the resources available for development. The building of institutions dedicated to ensure transparency, probity and accountability is also critical.
Commitment to invest in health, education and infrastructure -- all African countries must commit to invest a substantial percentage of available resources into health and education to improve the capacity of the human resource base not only to reduce poverty but to open up avenues for the broad masses of the people. Investment in
infrastructure (water provision and energy generation) and especially in ICT infrastructure, will not only integrate African countries but will also open up the rest of the world for business and investment.
African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) -- Mr Speaker, the APRM provides us with an opportunity to take a look at what individual African countries are doing. Ghana, as we are aware, has submitted itself to be reviewed by its peers. It is important that every African country and its leaders submit to APRM process.
Mr Speaker, if we share fundamental values and are willing to work for them, we may then be putting the superstructure in place to ensure real unity of the countries of Africa.
I thank you, Mr Speaker.