Africans all over the world are today celebrating Africa Day. The Day was first observed in 1963 in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa when 32 African countries formed the Organisation of Africa Unity (OAU). Since then, 21 more countries have joined the OAU. South Africa was the last to join in 1994 after the end of Apartheid.
The original mission of the OAU was to help ensure freedom in African countries that were still under colonial rule in the 1960s, uphold their human rights and defend their sovereignty. The OAU would in 2002 become the African Union (AU), which to date supports political and economic integration among its 54 member nations.
Africa Day, which is widely commemorated on May 25, is a national holiday in some countries. This year’s celebration comes amid challenges including not only Covid-19 but also food insecurity and increasing malnutrition. And that is why this year’s theme is centered on the importance of addressing malnutrition and food insecurity. “Reinforced action to strengthen resilience in nutrition and food security will help overcome the effects of many of these challenges,” the UN says. Certainly, these goals cannot be achieved without unity, and so to celebrate Africa Day, here are 10 great quotes from African leaders on African unity:
1. If we do not approach the problems in Africa with a common front and a common purpose, we shall be haggling and wrangling among ourselves until we are colonized again and become the tools of a far greater colonialism than we suffered hitherto. – Kwame Nkrumah, Former President of Ghana
2. There is no much sense in building Africa in sovereign States, independent of each other for we know that it is from our union and from it alone, that we shall draw sufficient strength to assert ourselves in the world. – François Tombalbaye, former President of the Republic of Chad
3. Our experience has taught us that mutual confidence and respect between partners constitutes the basis of success of all efforts at unity. That is why we have avoided letting our own current national reconciliation turn into a settling of old scores. Nothing can be built on hatred, on bitterness, or on vengeance. – Joseph Kasa-Vubu, Former President of the Republic of Congo
4. In a very real sense, our continent is unmade; it still awaits its creation and its creators. It is our duty and privilege to rouse the slumbering giant of Africa, not to the nationalism of Europe of the Nineteenth Century, not to regional consciousness, but to the vision of a single African brotherhood bending its united efforts toward the achievement of a greater and nobler goal. – His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I, Former Emperor of Ethiopia
5. What binds us is beyond history: it is rooted in pre-history. It arises from geography, ethnology, and hence from culture. It existed before Christianity and Islam; it is older than all colonization. It is that community of culture which I call African-ness – Leopold Sedar Senghor, Former President of Senegal
6. African unity cannot come by divine will, “Let there be unity”. And none of us is prepared in the name of unity to invite a Napoleon to come and bring about such unity by conquest. We are therefore left with only one method of bringing about African unity. That method is the method of free agreement. – Julius Nyerere, Former President of Tanzania
7. If we want this unity in Africa, we must first agree to certain essential things: The first is that African States must respect one another. There must be acceptance of equality by all States. No matter whether they are big or small, they are all sovereign and their sovereignty is sovereignty. – Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Former Prime Minister of Nigeria
8. The unity of Africa reflects the most noble of aims. It ‘must be pursued by all who are convinced of its necessity. – Fulbert Youlou, former President of Congo (Brazzaville)
9. The African unity that we are firmly decided to achieve…. must be an efficacious weapon to annihilate forever foreign domination in all its forms on our continent. – David Dacko, Former President of the Central African Republic
10. Our main difficulty lies in the links we still have with the powers which shattered our culture and exploited our resources human and material. We cannot run away from the fact that the economies of our new states are still dependent on external powers. But our peoples remain sensitive and proud and they look to a day when their leaders will give them full freedom. – Milton Obote, Former President of Uganda