ADDIS ABABA — African leaders Saturday commemorated 50 years since the founding of a continental organization that would become the modern African Union. At AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, the organization’s leaders celebrated the achievements of the past and called for greater solidarity among nations going forward.
At a ceremony marking 50 years to the day since the establishment of the Organization of African Unity, AU Chairman, Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn honored the bloc’s founders with a call to continue to carry out their vision.
"This historic day marks not only a great leap forward in the Pan-African quest of freedom, independence and unity but also the beginning of our collective endeavor for the realization of Africa’s social and economic emancipation,” said Hailemariam.
Prime Minister Hailemariam said achieving these goals would require a “paradigm shift” in social and economic governance.
The AU has adopted the theme of Pan-Africanism and the African Renaissance for its jubilee year - a call for greater regional integration and a celebration of Africa’s re-emergence as a global power.
In her address Saturday, AU Commission chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said there is no greater show of African solidarity than in the sacrifices made by AU peacekeepers fighting to restore peace and security to Somalia.
“When we therefore talk about African solutions to African problems it is because we know that we can only permanently silence the guns if we act in solidarity and in unity,” said Zuma.
African leaders are also looking at ways to sustain the continent’s rapid economic growth and to ensure it translates into an increase in jobs and a reduction in poverty, which still plagues the continent.
African Development Bank President Donald Kaberuka, speaking at the AU event Saturday, highlighted the economic imbalance in Africa noting that while the continent uses mobile phones more than Europe and North America combined, none of the components are manufactured in Africa.
AU heads of state will begin the official summit Sunday. Among the items being discussed is a call from African foreign ministers for the International Criminal Court case against Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy to be returned back to Kenya.
The motion is seen as a major rebuke of the ICC, which leaders here say unfairly targets Africans.