25 May 08 - Africa Day Address by UNAMID Joint Special Representative
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a great pleasure and a privilege to be among you on this great day for Africans. I thank you for the honour of being chosen to address you this evening on behalf of UNAMID.
When I was preparing these remarks earlier today, I couldn’t help thinking that you can trace a direct line from the birth of the OAU in Addis Ababa 45 years ago to both AMIS and UNAMID. In some ways, you could say they are the AU’s youngest children.
What do I mean by that? Let me explain. When our brother Africans established the OAU all those years ago, they cherished the dream of pan-African unity, which is what we celebrate together today.
That desire to integrate the peoples and states and economies of our great continent has never waned for a moment, and today more than ever we act together on the African – and world – stage.
We are better together. Stronger. More effective. Better able to represent the aspirations of our peoples. We know that this is the best - and only - way forward.
I speak to you tonight as a representative of UNAMID. You would be hard pressed to find a finer example of both African unity and our ability as Africans to tread the international stage as one. Before I talk to you in greater detail about UNAMID, we should remember where it came from.
First there was AMIS, you see. This was the African Union’s first ever peacekeeping operation. Talk about ambition! AMIS was deployed to help bring peace to the devastated region of Darfur. It has proved to be one of the most difficult and intractable conflicts the world has seen in recent years.
Yet both AMIS and UNAMID have achieved what many thought would be beyond them. There is no question that they have saved innocent lives, enabled the world’s largest humanitarian operation to continue, and advanced the cause of peace. The world has taken notice and seen Africa act as one.
Under one roof in Al Fasher we gather the countries of the continent in cooperation with our UN colleagues from around the world.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Our leadership alone comes from the Republic of Congo, Ghana, Nigeria, Rwanda and South Africa. Many more African countries are represented in the military, police and civilian sectors. The military component, for example, comes from 45 countries, 27 of them African. As for the police, 18 African countries are represented alongside partners from another 14 nations.
UNAMID, in other words, is the concept of African unity translated into practice, teamed up with the international community at its finest. There is no doubt in my mind that the founders of the OAU would smile on us now if they could see what UNAMID is doing in Darfur.
Of course, Africans have paid a heavy price in this conflict. Untold thousands killed, millions displaced, too many lives devastated. And African peacekeepers have not been spared the bloodshed. On Thursday, at a special ceremony in Al Fasher, we will honour the 61 AMIS peacekeepers who sacrificed their lives in the noble quest to bring peace to Darfur.
The conflict in Darfur is a reminder of how much further we have to go on the path towards African unity. We must work together to bring peace to Darfur, to the rest of the Sudan, to the rest of the continent.
Africa Day and UNAMID together remind us how far we have come together, what we can achieve when we work as one, how much more there is to do. There is no shortage of challenges ahead for us. I know we are ready to meet them together.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The dream of African unity lives on! Thank you