Full text of the Acceptance Speech by His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe and Chairman of Sadc, Cde R. G. Mugabe, on being confirmed as the Chairman of the African Union at the African Union Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Jan. 30, 2015
Outgoing chairperson of the African Union, President Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz,
Your Excellencies, Heads of State and Government,
Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Dr Nkosazana Dhlamini-Zuma,
Honourable Ministers and Commissioners,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Comrades and Friends.
Let me, at the outset, express my deep appreciation and gratitude to Your Excellencies, Heads of State and Government, for the honour and trust you have bestowed on the Government and people of Zimbabwe, and on me personally, by electing me to preside over this august body.
With the full knowledge of the onerous responsibility that lies ahead, I humbly accept your collective decision. I do so confident that I can always count on your full support and co-operation in the execution of the important mandate you have given me.
Your Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,
Allow me also to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to the Government and people of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia for, once again, extending to us the usual generous and exceptionally warm hospitality that we have become so accustomed to during our visits to this great country.
I also wish to take this opportunity to thank and commend Your Excellency, President Mohammed Ould Abdel Aziz, for the able and professional manner that you steered our deliberations in the past year. I will certainly draw on Your Excellency’s experience and advice in the year ahead.
Your Excellencies, Distinguished Guests,
More than five decades ago, I had the unique privilege, as a representative of ZANU, a liberation movement then, to attend the historic occasion of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity in 1963, here in Addis Ababa.
It was indeed a momentous occasion at which Africa decisively took destiny into its own hands.
I still recall, quite vividly, the palpable collective resolve, dedication and commitment of our forebears, to unite and free our continent from the twin scourges of colonialism and poverty. Our freedom and the socio-economic progress, we have thus far attained, are ample testimonies of the correctness of our forebears’ vision.
Africa has come a long way since then. In 1999, at Sirte, Libya, we transformed the OAU structures into the African Union, this in order to take into account the current realities on the Continent.
We have also taken steps to strengthen the essential building blocks for greater African Unity.
Along the way, we have fashioned, for ourselves, very comprehensive and timeless programmes, among which are the Lagos Plan of Action, the Abuja Treaty, and the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD). Furthermore, we are now at the threshold of launching, for ourselves and future generations, yet another framework in the form of the 50-year Agenda 2063.
As we move forward with this noble agenda, we must emulate and draw inspiration from the principled stand and selfless sacrifices that our forebears made to bring us a strong and united Africa that we are so proud of today.
We call for renewed boundless zeal, commitment and dedication, in implementing programmes and projects that we have set for ourselves in the various political, social, economic and security sectors.
Excellencies, Distinguished Delegates,
During my tenure as Chair, I will deliberately provoke your thoughts to pay special attention to issues of infrastructure, value-addition and beneficiation, agriculture and climate change in the context of Africa’s development. Numerous studies have pointed out that the lack of physical infrastructure and interconnectedness in Africa has hampered economic development.
Our roads, rail, air and sea route networks are not sufficiently developed to stimulate intra-African trade, investment and tourism.
We need to continue, and perhaps redouble, our current collective efforts in this sector. The road and power projects that we are developing are a positive step in our quest to improve Africa infrastructure. We, therefore, need to work and co-ordinate closely with those partners who are committed to developing our infrastructure as envisaged in our Programme for Infrastructure Development in Africa (PIDA).
Given that the continent is rich in mineral resources, such resources should be seen to contribute more meaningfully to Africa’s development. While we continue to exploit the mineral resources, we seem not to have paid sufficient attention to their value-addition and beneficiation. If the present practice of exporting our minerals in their semi or raw form continues, Africa will continue to have people without employment, who languish in extreme poverty.
Since the majority of our people depend on the land for sustenance and livelihood, we need to ensure they have access to the land, and that Africa’s vast agricultural potential is fully harnessed. The Land Reform Programme, that my Government embarked upon since the year 2000, was precisely meant to achieve this, notwithstanding the political demonisation that my country has endured from those who had selfish and vested interests in our land.
The positive impact the programme is having on some sections of our farmers has vindicated us. Our production in the tobacco sector, for example, has by far surpassed levels attained by white former farmers.
Sadly, climate change continues to threaten agriculture on the Continent. Since we are the most vulnerable as a continent, it is imperative that we actively champion our interests within the framework of the United Nations climate change negotiations. In addition, we need to continuously take the necessary mitigation measures as advised by our own experts.
I am alive to the urgency with which we should together continue to strive to confront the ills that beset our continent.
As we look ahead, the African Union should continue to endeavour and double its efforts in bringing about sustainable peace and security on the continent. We are disheartened by the turmoil in Libya, a key member of this august body. Violence in that country has reached unacceptable levels. In the Central African Republic and the Republic of South Sudan, communities that have lived peacefully together for centuries, are now torn apart.
Add to this, the, recurrent disturbances in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo which have taken a heavy toll on human, national and regional resources.
But, on a positive note we highly commend the AU and ECOWAS for handling, in a peaceful manner, the transition in the Republic of Burkina Faso. We also commend the Southern African Development Community for the expeditious and successful manner in which it handled the recent disturbances in the Kingdom of Lesotho.
May I, at this juncture, observe that the continent is not completely free, for as long as our brothers and sisters in Western Sahara remain under Moroccan occupation. We call on the UN to implement all relevant resolutions requiring the holding of a referendum on self-determination for the Saharawi people.
Our failure to complete the decolonisation process in Western Sahara would be a serious negation of the ideals that our founding fathers fought for and bequeathed to us.
The scourge of terrorism and all its attendant evils, threatens all our gains achieved since 1963. In the coming year we, therefore, should deliberate and find lasting solutions to the scourge of terrorism.
The loss of innocent lives and the destruction of property, inflicted by terrorists in Cameroon and Nigeria, is intolerable. I, therefore, advocate that ways and means of containing and eventually eradicating terrorism, be found soonest.
As we meet here, Africa is in the throes of another scourge in the form of the Ebola virus. I am, however, heartened to observe that a lot of ground has already been covered in combating the epidemic.
We stand firm with our brothers and sisters, who are directly affected, as we fight to contain and finally eradicate the Ebola scourge. I also take this opportunity to express our gratitude to the Member States, co-operating partners, corporate bodies, civil society organisations and individuals, who have joined efforts in battling with Ebola.
It would be remiss on my part not to reflect on some perspectives on developments, on the global stage, which have a bearing in Africa. Our continent is not immune to the most debilitating conflicts in the Middle East. We urge our international partners of goodwill to bring about sanity and end the senseless loss of lives and the immense suffering of innocent women and children.
The people of Palestine have suffered callous murder and territorial displacement, and yet the so-called champions of human rights in the international community continue to block every effort towards the creation of a viable Palestinian State, existing side by side with the State of Israel.
The AU should fully support the Palestinian God-given quest for statehood, based on the pre-1967 boarders, and membership of international organisations, including the International Criminal Court.
As SADC Chairman, allow me to take this opportunity to share with you our efforts towards meeting the goals of our regional organisation.
In SADC, we have adopted several economic strategies to propel the sub-region to greater heights, mindful of our role as a building block towards the African Union. The economic transformation strategy we have crafted, is anchored on leveraging the region’s diverse resources to attain sustainable economic development.
The strategy, encapsulated in the Regional Indicative Strategic Development Plan (RISDP) and the Strategic Indicative Plan for the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security, (SIPO), entails adding value to commodities and the beneficiation of minerals. This should bring about industrialisation which, as a result, should catapult the region to a high level of development.
We have agreed, at Summit level, to dedicate an extraordinary Summit to deliberate on this important strategy. We will be meeting in Harare in April this year to deliberate on these issues.
As you may recall, during the 23rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union, held in June 2014 in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, we made a landmark decision to declare 2015 as the “Year of Women Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063.”
The theme offers us a great opportunity, as Africa, to strengthen our initiatives and to consolidate the gains we have made in the area of gender equality and women empowerment. It also strengthens our resolve to ensure that our commitments to gender equality, as enshrined in the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa and the Solemn Declaration on Gender Equality are effectively implemented.
Cognisant of the importance of this theme, we have set aside the 2015 African Union Session to fully deliberate and develop this theme. It is now my singular honour to declare the theme.
‘‘An Africa where development is people-driven, unleashing the potential of its women and youth,” officially launched.
I thank you.