Saturday, May 25, 2013
African leaders on Saturday opened celebrations for the 50th
jubilee of the continental bloc, with Africa's myriad problems set aside
for a day to mark the progress that has been made.
African Union Chairman and Ethiopian Prime
Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, in a speech to open the ceremony, said
the celebrations would look forward to "create a continent free from
poverty and conflict and an Africa whose citizens enjoy a middle income
Today's 54-member AU is the successor of the
Organisation of African Unity (OAU), established amid the heady days as
independence from colonial rule swept the continent in 1963.
"While our founders met for the formation of the
OAU at the dawn of the independence period 50 years ago, it is fitting
that we are meeting here today at a time when Africa is rising,"
Leaders said the celebrations would boost the movement to support pan-Africanism.
"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 unity," AU Commission chief
"We committed ourselves to honour this historic
commemoration by having celebrations that are memorable, that are across
the globe... and that will leave a long legacy."
African leaders were joined by UN leader Ban
Ki-moon, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff and US Secretary of State
John Kerry, while French President Francois Hollande and China's Vice
Premier Wang Yang were expected to attend celebrations later.
Mass dancing troupes are set to perform musical
dramas later Saturday to some 10,000 guests in a giant hall in the
Development indicators on the continent --
including health, education, infant mortality, economic growth and
democracy -- have improved steadily in the past 50 years.
Africa is home to some of the fastest growing
economies in the world according to the IMF, and has attracted huge
amounts of foreign investment in recent years.
At the same time 24 out of the 25 nations at the
bottom of UN human development index are in Africa, and the subsequent
summit will tackle a range of crises the continent faces.