|46th Africa Day & 34th ECOWAS Day Celebrations 22 May – June, 2009|
Statement By Hon. Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni Minister For Foreign Affairs And Regional Integration At AU And ECOWAS Day Press Conference
VENUE: MINISTRY OF INFORMATION CONFERENCE ROOM
TIME: FRIDAY 22 MAY, 2009, 10:00 A.M
Dean of the Diplomatic Corps,
Your Excellencies, Members of the Diplomatic Corps
The President, Musicians Union of Ghana
Members of the Media
Members of the National Planning Committee of AU and ECOWAS Days
Ladies and Gentlemen
As you already know, Monday 25th May is African Unity Day, while Thursday 28 May is ECOWAS Day. In other words this year 25th May marks the 46th Anniversary of the founding of our continental body, the then OAU and now African Union, with head-quarters in Addis Ababa.
At the same time, this year 28th May also marks the 34th birthday of our sub-regional body, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
It is however to be noted that while the AU Day is a public holiday in Ghana, ECOWAS Day is not.
In the creation of both the AU and ECOWAS, Ghana played, in line with her traditional Foreign Policy of Promoting African integration, cooperation and development, a key role, especially in the founding or our continental body.
Indeed, long before many others realised its significance, Ghana had already become convinced that, with the emergence of many sovereign states, operating in an unfavourable global system of exchanges, regional integration and unity offered a life-line to developing economies.
Infact, you would recall that as far back as 1963 during the first session of the then OAU, the precursor to the AU, Ghana’s first President, Dr Kwame Nkrumah, in an address to the Assembly, called for the formation of the Union Government of Africa much like the United States of America and not a Union of loose states as in the case of the European Union.
Although that was not to be, some three decades on, the issue of Union Government was strongly revived in Sirte in 1999, and brought back to the front burner, with yet a long road to travel if we are to get there.
On occasions such as this one, it behoves on us to take stock of our achievements and challenges and strategise to respond effectively to the latter, in order to move forward in the right direction, as one people, one nation, one sub-region and one continent in a global village.
The theme for this year’s AU anniversary is therefore instructive: Towards a United, Peaceful and Prosperous Africa.’
The key questions arising out of this theme which should exercise the minds of every Ghanaian and every African include: where did we come from in our continental development effort? What paths did we follow? Were they useful? Did we co-operate well in the past? Are we doing better now? Is the Continent experiencing the peace that it deserves to be able to develop harmoniously? Which parts are enjoying peace and why?
Which parts are prospering and why? Are there people and parts of the continent being left behind? How can parts of the continent continue to move forward if they cannot pull the others along? Why is it that some four decades after the founding of our continental body we are still debating whether Union Government now or the gradualists approach?
These are questions for us all, for every African stakeholder to address individually and, more importantly, in a collective manner.
On the sub-regional level, while ECOWAS has not chosen a theme for member states, we in Ghana have taken the liberty to choose our own theme for this year’s ECOWAS Day celebration by focusing on one of our ECOWAS priority concerns:
“Eliminating Obstacles to Free Movement While Fighting Cross-border Crime”.
Indeed ECOWAS is considered one of the leading Regional Economic groupings in Africa. It has registered major and model achievements in the area of conflict management. As a result, today, there is no active conflict in West Africa unlike was the case in the recent past, or is happening elsewhere in Africa.
In the area of democracy and good governance considerable efforts are on-going to consolidate democratic governance in West Africa: happily Ghana is not found wanting in helping show the way.
In the area of infrastructure, ECOWAS continues to make some progress and the current focus on energy as a strategic entry point to unleashing the progress in the other infrastructure sub-sector, as well as make infrastructure drive development in the other sectors, is very commendable.
Appropriate institutional arrangements have therefore been put in place, including the West African Power Pool, the West African Gas Pipeline Authority, the ECOWAS Regional Energy Regulatory Authority (ERERA) currently being established in Accra, and the ECOWAS Renewable Energy Resources Centre in Praia Cape verde.
On the other hand, we have again set the tone for free movement in Africa by abolishing visa requirements under the ECOWAS Protocol on Free movement of Goods and Persons, in order to promote trade and business in general. Unfortunately, despite this achievement, our people, especially the ordinary travelers and traders, continue to face undue obstacles to their free movement and trade in the sub-region, and beyond.
What is more, despite efforts at controlling the illegal movement and trade in small arms and light weapons, the illegal trade in drugs, human trafficking etc, these nefarious activities still continue across our borders.
This is why the theme for this year’s ECOWAS Day is also very instructive. By all means Government will continue to work with sister Governments in the sub-region to help remove the obstacles to free–movement. In doing so, however our efforts must move in tandem with corresponding efforts to combat cross-border crime. Indeed, they must be seen as two sides of the same coin.
It should also be understood that government and government agencies cannot, by themselves, address these challenges. While government will continue to provide leadership, it expects to count on the full co-operation of all national stake-holders, travelers, the private sector, civil society organization etc. We need to forge strategic public/private partnership as canvassed by New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), to promote free movement and to fight cross-border crime.
Happily the ECOWAS Leadership has formulated a new vision of taking our sub-regional organization from an ECOWAS of states to an ECOWAS of peoples, where our Peoples partake in decision-making process, programme implementation, monitoring and evaluation, in order to allow for free movement to transact business in a regional space of peace and rule of law; a space that allows the people to harness their vast human and material resources for the benefit of our peoples.
It is against this background that the NDC Government has decided to give a new impetus to the regional integration agenda through the fast track approach.
You will recall that when H.E Prof Mills, president of the Republic of Ghana, visited Burkina Faso, Cote D’ Ivoire and Togo last April, this item as very high on the agenda of discussions he held with his counterparts.
It is therefore in this spirit that we approach this year’s AU and ECOWAS Day celebrations. The new strategy will necessarily include promoting public/private partnerships for enhance integration and development.
Thus for the first time, the National Planning Committee of the AU and ECOWAS Day celebrations includes representatives of the private sector and civil society as well as the West Africa Monitory Institute headquartered here in Accra.
More specifically, we have entered into a partnership with the Ghana Musicians Union (MUSIGA) to use the powerful tool of Music in promoting integration and development. I therefore wish, at this junction, to commend the Executive of MUSIGA under the able leadership of their President, Mrs. Diana Hopeson, for this laudable initiative. Together with MUSIGA, we shall be working at the national level. But we also plan to facilitate their efforts at the sub-regional level to help create an ECOWAS Musician Union, in support of ECOWAS ideals and programmes.
Accordingly, as already spelt out in the press release of the Ministry of Information, the highlights of the this year’s AU and ECOWAS Day celebration are: Christian and Muslim prayers for Africa Unity and progress; commemorative AU flag-raising ceremony on Monday 25 May 2009 at the State House at 9:00 am, Photo Exhibition which immediately follows at Accra International Conference Centre at 11:00 am the same day,
And the Africa Day Cocktail the same day at 6:30 p.m for which attendance is by invitation only. While thanking the Centre for Democratic Development (CDD) for their active participation along with LECIA in the planning of this year’s event, we also note that at this very moment CDD is, at the Golden Tulip Hotel, here in Accra, in the process of releasing the outcome of its Afro-barometre studies, in commemoration of Africa Day.
Naturally, we have also programmed sensitization activities on radio and TV, as well as the innovative MUSIGA-organised float on ECOWAS Day 28th May 2009 at the Aflao, Elubo and paga borders, respectively. The floats will speak to the themes chosen for the AU and ECOWAS Days and will hopefully include participants from our neigbouring countries.
However, to sustain the momentum, we also intend to have other activities organized from June to December 2009. These include the MUSIGA Song Competition to be launched here by its President, Quiz competition for second cycle institutions and debating competitions for third cycle institutions. The Ghana United Nations Association will also organize a symposium on the AU theme in September 2009.
Government, in line with its commitment to integration will foot the bill for the AU week-long activities running from 22nd to 28th May 2009.
I therefore wish to appeal to the private sector to partner us in sponsoring the other activities programmed for June-December 2009, i.e. the MUSIGA song competition, the second cycle Quiz competition and the third cycle debating competition.
Needless to add, the media, as part of civil society, has a very strategic role to play in sensitization, monitoring and evaluation, as well as resource mobilization. Please continue to support us to move this country, this sub-region and this region Africa, forward in the right direction. Forward ever, backwards never.
I thank you for coming and for your kind attention.