African Unity silver jubilee celebrated in Delhi

New Delhi, May 26 (IANS) Africa Day, which this year marks the golden jubilee of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), was celebrated here Saturday.

Organised by the embassy of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the event included the 42 African ambassadors in the national capital and Minister of State for Human Resource Development Shashi Tharoor as the chief guest.

The OAU, that is now the African Union (AU), was established May 25, 1963, to promote solidarity and unity among newly independent nations emerging out of colonialism and apartheid.

“This year’s theme of Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance gives us the opportunity to look at our past, our present and the future,” said Gennet Zewide, Ethiopia’s ambassador to India, addressing gathering.

“As we take stock of the achievements of this continental organisation, we feel enormous pride at our successes. Our founding fathers gave us a platform for interaction in Africa and with the world,” she added.

Zewide said that lasting peace and prosperity in the African continent was an objective that was yet to be realised. Though the number of violent conflicts had subsided, “even with abundant natural resources, the transformation of African society and socioeconomic emancipation of the continent remains to be fulfilled”, she said.

Recalling how Indians had gone to settle in Africa more than a century and a half ago, Tharoor – who looked after Africa during his tenure as minister of state in the external affairs ministry – said that apart from being a continent, “Africa is also an idea to which India is committed”.

Tharoor cited Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s recent sanction of $5 billion in concessional credit by India to Africa. He said that as part of India’s commitment to creating institutions and capacity building in Africa, 80 new institutions are to be created in that continent with India’s support.

“The transformation of the OAU into the African Union marks the birth of African renaissance. It brought the various African regional economic communities together, while politically it started with peace keeping forces and joint political responsibility,” Mark Reynhardt, political counsellor at the South Africa High Commission here, told IANS.

Pointing out that seven of the 10 top developing countries in the next five years are projected to be from Africa, Reynhardt said: “Looking at the future, the African Union is a very exciting prospect on a global scale.”

“This year’s Africa Day celebrations have special significance for me because I was also born 50 years ago,” Egyptian ambassador to India Khaled El Bakly told IANS.

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