22 May 2020 | Story Kanego Mokgosi

On 25 May 1963, representatives of 32 African states gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to form the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) (now known as the African Union). During the formation of the OAU, only two-thirds of African countries had been liberated from the yoke of colonialism. The coming together of these states to form the OAU was aimed at supporting the liberation of other African states that were still under colonial rule, as well as to foster political and economic unity and the integration of the continent. It was at this conference for the formation of the OAU, that a decision was made that the peoples of Africa will, on 25 May each year, commemorate Africa Freedom Day, later renamed Africa Liberation Day, and now known as Africa Day. 

The commemoration of Africa Day presents a unique opportunity for the affirmation and celebration of the history and ideals that spawned and sustained the movement towards economic integration, political unity, and liberation of the African continent. Today, the commemoration of Africa Day has metamorphosed, incorporating the celebrations of the rich cultural diversity and heritage of the African people. The understanding is that Africa Day celebrations should be inspired by more than just inquisitiveness about the past and about politics. Though history and politics are still the fount and matrix of the celebrations, the celebration should also help us affirm our culture and heritage as fellow progenies of the African soil.  

It is indeed true that much has been achieved on the political and economic front. In a similar vein, there is a lot that still needs to be done. However, in the discourse on the celebration of Africa Day, we should choose not to indulge in the clamour of bean counting. Instead, we should pause, take stock, and embrace what has been achieved – with the sole understanding that this can lead us to achieve even more. We should be inspired by our resilience as a people, drawing from the understanding that we cannot afford the luxury of throwing in the towel even in despondent and gloomy times. 

This is even more apt today, as Africa and the world at large find itself facing the spectre of the coronavirus disease of 2019, popularly known as COVID-19. On a lighter note, perhaps the irony of this year’s celebration of what was known as Africa Freedom Day or Africa Liberation Day (now known as Africa Day), is that we are not really ‘free’ or ‘liberated’. The spectre of COVID-19 is proving that the challenges to our ‘freedom’ or ‘liberation’ and even to our existence, are vast and evolving. But as enunciated earlier, we should draw from our resilience as a people. Only then shall we overcome.

Article was written by Kanego Mokgosi, Senior Officer Comprehensive Internationalisation, UFS Qwaqwa Campus 

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