By Tseday Alehegn
Published: Thursday, June 27th, 2013
New York (TADIAS) – The African Union Permanent Observer Mission to the United Nations in New York hosted a “High level Panel Discussion and Workshop” on Wednesday June 26th inside the UN building marking the 50th anniversary of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the predecessor to the African Union (AU), headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The event opened with a remark by Ambassador Tete Antonio of the Permanent Observer of the AU to the UN, who delivered an introductory message from Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson of the AU Commission and the first woman to lead the organization. Statements were also made by the head of the African Group for the month of June 2013, Mr. Roble Olhaye, Permanent Representative of Djibouti to the United Nations.
The keynote speaker was Dr. Ali A. Mazrui, the famed academic and political writer on African and Islamic studies as well as North-South relations. During his speech Professor Mazrui, who turned 80 last year, proposed that the AU, which currently has no real authority to make binding decisions for all of Africa’s 54 states, perhaps should establish a permanent member council similar to the U.N. with a rotating chairmanship. He suggested the body should be made up of 4 or five countries, one from each region based on size of population: “Nigeria from the West, Egypt from the North, Ethiopia from the East and South Africa from the South.”
Mazuri also recalled Nelson Mandela’s memorable interview with Ted Koppel on ABC’s Nightline on February 15th, 1990, soon after he was released from his 27-year imprisonment. “Most people would look at the last 27 years of your life or at the life of someone who has spent the last 27 years in prison and say to themselves “what a waste.” What about you?,” the ABC host had asked. “That is true, to spend 27 years at the prime of your life is a tragedy and I regret those years that I have wasted in prison,” Mandela had responded. “But there are very positive aspects too because I had the opportunity to think about problems and to reflect on my mistakes.” Mandela added: “I also had the opportunity of reading very widely and especially biographies and I could see what men sometimes from very humble beginnings were able to lift themselves with boot strings and become international figures and men that are useful to society in their own community and to the world.”
The gathering also included screenings of a short documentary focusing on the history of the founding of the OAU in Addis Ababa on May 25th, 1963 as well as a trailer of a film highlighting the organization’s 50th anniversary celebrations .
Below is a slideshow of images from the panel discussion:
Watch: Feb. 15, 1990: Nelson Mandela Interview with Ted Koppel on ABC’s Nighline