Africa Day 2020: Continent celebrates amidst COVID-19 pandemic

Zainab Sa'id, Abuja

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Countries on the African continent are celebrating Africa Day 2020 with the theme: “Silencing the Guns in the context of the COVID-19.”

Africa Day is observed annually on 25 May to commemorate the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) which was created 57 years ago on 25 May 1963 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

This year’s celebration takes place amid the continent’s advancing efforts to combat the spread of the Coronavirus disease also known as COVID-19.

The celebration includes a special virtual broadcast featuring speeches by the President of the Republic of South Africa and Chair of the African Union (AU), President Cyril Ramaphosa; the AU Commission Chair His Excellency Moussa Faki Mahamat; the President of the Pan African Women Association, Ms Eunice Ipinge, and the AU Youth Envoy, Ms Aya Chebbi.

In his speech, Chairperson of the African Union and President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa said: “We mark this Africa Day in the shadow of the Coronavirus pandemic, which has swept across the world and left no part of our continent untouched.

“This COVID-19 pandemic will have a lasting impact on our ability to meet the aspiration of the African Union’s Agenda 2063 of a peaceful, united and prosperous continent.

“The virus has exposed the deep inequalities that continue to exist on our continent and across the world. It has shown how far we are from realising our developmental goals and our responsibilities to the citizens of our continent.”

“But at the same time, this global crisis should enable a new Africa to come to the fore. It should be an Africa of heroic acts of solidarity, an Africa of cross-border collaboration and sharing of knowledge and resources, an Africa that is united by a common goal.

“The challenge of this pandemic has shown how Africa is able to work together to solve its own problems,” he said.

He added: “We must not under any circumstances allow this global health emergency to derail our efforts to Silence the Guns on the continent.

We must continue to affirm the supremacy of dialogue over military intervention. As Africans, we will continue to stand on the side of justice and support the people of the Western Sahara in their enduring struggle for freedom and self-determination.

“If we remain united, we will overcome this pandemic. We will recover and restore our economies. We will uplift the conditions of our people and we will be worthy inheritors of the legacy of the great Africans who met in Addis Ababa in 1963 to form the OAU,” Ramaphosa said.

Need for ceasefire

UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, in his message said this year’s Africa Day is being marked under extremely difficult circumstances as the world grapples with the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“African countries have demonstrated commendable leadership through a swift and coordinated response. The AU established a task force to develop a continent-wide strategy and appointed special envoys to mobilize international support.

“Its Peace and Security Council has also taken steps to counter the negative impact of COVID-19 on the implementation of critical peace agreements and reconciliation efforts,” he said.

 “I welcome the African Union’s support for my call for a global ceasefire to fight the COVID-19 pandemic – an imperative that also reflects the AU’s 2020 theme: “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for Africa’s Development.”

“On Africa Day, I reaffirm my total solidarity with the people and Governments of Africa in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic and paving the way for recovery and a better future for all,” Guterres said.

On his part, the Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said: “This year, celebrations are more muted because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The early set-up of a leaders’ coalition led by the African Union, under the chairmanship of President Ramaphosa of South Africa was key to rapidly accelerating preparedness efforts and issuing comprehensive control measures.

Africa’s knowledge and experience of suppressing infectious diseases have been critical to rapidly scaling up an agile response to COVID-19”.

The Celebration of Africa Day provides an opportunity to educate the people of the continent on the African Union’s initiatives to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.

The African Union has developed a comprehensive COVID-19 strategy, established an African Union COVID-19 Response Fund and strengthened the Africa Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.

The OAU was established with the aim of promoting political, economic and social integration among the African States, and to eradicate colonialism, apartheid and neo-colonialism from the African continent.

The OAU was transformed into the African Union on 09 July 2002 in Durban, South Africa, to achieve greater unity, cohesion and solidarity between African countries and nations.

May 25 was agreed upon at the formation of the OAU to replace the date of Africa Freedom Day (or Africa Liberation Day) held on 15 April to mark the onward progress of the liberation movement against colonial rule, and to symbolize the determination of the people of Africa to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation.