Addis Ababa, Ethiopia -The African Union and the United Nations have bestowed honor and praises on the Chairperson of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government and President of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The continental body and the United Nations also honored the West African sub-regional body, which President Sirleaf chairs. The honoring took place during the formal opening of the 28th Ordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government of the African Union.
According to a dispatch from Addis Ababa, the honor was conferred by both the Chairperson of the African Union Commission Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma and the Secretary General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres. The out-going Chairperson of the African Union Authority,
“Let me call on President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia and my sister to join me on the podium. ECOWAS, under your excellent leadership has made all us all very proud. ECOWAS defended the values and principles of the African Union by the quality of your intervention in The Gambia. Thanks to all of the leaders of ECOWAS, but particularly to President Sirleaf because it was under leadership that a potentially explosive situation was peacefully resolved”, Out-going AU Commission Chairperson Zuma told the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government amidst huge applause from the audience.
Madam Zuma noted that President Sirleaf is a pioneer and inspiration to women and men of the world particularly the women of Africa as the first ever elected female President on the African continent. She expressed the hope that all of Africa and the rest of the world can follow the wonderful and professional example of ECOWAS in conflict prevention and resolution. President Sirleaf was ten brought to the podium and presented the award jointly by Dr. Zuma and President Idriss Deby in grand style.
Consistent with the summit’s theme “Harnessing the demographic dividend through investments in youth”, Dr. Zuma decried the huge unemployment amongst the young people of the continent and indicated that the young people must be given comparative advantage and must also be translated into demographic dividends. She announced that a special AU Envoy on Youth will be named this year to advocate for and work on issues affecting young people.
For his part, the new Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres noted, “Let me join the out-going Chairperson of the African Union Commission in recognizing the extraordinary leadership of President Sirleaf and ECOWAS in conflict prevention and resolution. It is my hope that all of us can learn from the fine example of President Sirleaf and West African sub-regional body”, he concluded.
Commenting on other issues during the opening ceremony, Dr. Zuma recognized and commended all newly elected Presidents of AU Member Countries and those whose mandates were renewed by their people including Ghana, the Gambia, and Zambia amongst others and the newly appointed Deputy Secretary General of the United Nation, Amina Mohammed of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
In paying special homage to the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro whom she described as the greatest revolutionary and internationalist, Dr. Zuma reflected on the life and struggles of Castro and his support to liberation movements across the African continent.
“Castro was a great friend to the African continent and aided greatly the struggle for liberation against colonialism. He was involved with the anti-colonial and liberation struggle of colonized African. Our greatest tribute to him will be to continue the friendship and solidarity with Cuba and its people”, Dr. Zuma indicated. She also recognized the longest serving leader of South Africa’s African National Congress (ANC), Oliver Tambo whose centenary celebration is being observed. Tambo was born in 1917.
Dr. Zuma also noted that the banning of people by bigger nations of the world is a test to African unity and solidarity. “It is a surprise that countries that transported our people as slaves are today banning entry but African has been and will remain a sanctuary for all oppressed people seeking protection”, she noted.
She renewed Africa’s commitment to combat terrorism and silence the guns on the continent and also praised President Idriss Deby for his excellent leadership as Chairperson of the AU Authority.
Touching on other issues, the new Secretary General of the United Nations called for collaboration with Africa in many sectors including peace-keeping and peace enforcement where necessary. He indicated further that the United Nations supports the silencing of the guns in Africa and elsewhere, adding that the UN will work towards reliable financing for African Union peacekeeping operations.
He joined Dr. Zuma in noting that Africa’s borders remain opened for people seeking protection when the borders of developed countries are being closed to refugees and others seeking refuge. He concluded by pledging to support Africa to realize Agenda 2063 and have the Africa we want.
The Vice President of Cuba, the leader of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas and the new Chairperson of the African Union Authority also made statements during the opening ceremonies. The President of the West African nation of Guinea, Prof. Alpha Conde was elected as the new Chairperson of the AU Authority.
In an unrelated development, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf Johnson Sirleaf last evening called and chaired an extraordinary meeting of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The meeting focused on matters concerning the sub-regional body to include update on the Gambian situation and the election of the new AU Commission Chairperson among others.