“For some of us, the Global African Diaspora Summit is yet to register its significance as the first official embrace between parents who lost their children 500 years ago, and though both have known where the other exists, the Summit made it the first time they decided to come together and finally acknowledge their collective existence. The enthusiasm on both the parents and children was palpable, and you could see the pride of belonging on the part of every participant. After 500 years, the children of the martyred Africans who had been forcibly abducted in chains and taken to different parts of the world were being welcomed back by the parents who had suffered for over 500 years not knowing what had happened to their children. It was an emotional moment that could never be duplicated ever again throughout the history of the African people, in the continent or outside.”
Sandton, Johannesburg, South Africa – May 26, 2012 – The main event of the Global African Diaspora Summit ended yesterday, May 25, at the Sandton Convention Center, bringing to an end the most monumental historic event in the lives of Africans in the continent and all over the world. For those fortunate enough to be at this event, it marked an unforgettable milestone in their lives, an indelible achievement in an united Africa dream.
For some of us, the Global African Diaspora Summit is yet to register its significance as the first official embrace between a parent who lost their children 500 years ago, and though both have known where the other exists, the Summit made it the first time they decided to come together and finally acknowledge their collective existence. The enthusiasm on both the parents and children was palpable, and you could see the pride of belonging on the part of every participant. After 500 years, the children of the martyred Africans who had been forcibly abducted in chains and taken to different parts of the world were being welcomed back by the parents who had suffered for over 500 years not knowing what had happened to their children. It was an emotional moment that could never be duplicated ever again throughout the history of the African people, in the continent or outside.
The South African government, which had been charged by the African Union, to organize the African Diaspora and host the Summit, spared no expense in getting over 300 participants to come to South Africa, apart from the 64 countries whose Presidents or officials were represented there, bringing more than 500 participants to the Summit. There were at least 76 “Eminent Persons” who were brought into the country in a very classy manner, including first class/premier class tickets, separate cars to take them around in Johannesburg, being quartered in first class hotels in suites. Such “Eminent Persons” included former Presidents Chief Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, Sam Nujoma of Namibia, former Mayor David Dinkins of New York City, who was delegated a spokesperson for the “Diaspora Eminent Persons,” at the final Global African Diaspora Summit event on the 25th of May, at the Sandton Convention Center, but promptly chose Mr. James Early, Director of Cultural Studies and Communication at the Center for Folklife Programs and Cultural Studies at the Smithsonian, Washington, DC to do him the honor. Mrs. Cecile Thompson, the widow of late Ambassador Dudley Thompson, the Pan-African icon, was specially recognized and was asked to stand and receive a thunderous applause from the audience. At a minimum, South Africa must have spent nothing less than $50 million to help the African Union and Africa welcome its children back.
Of course, this is not the first time that South Africa is hosting an event for the African Diaspora; it has hosted many events in the past, including in New York, Washington, DC, Brazil, the Caribbean and Europe, preparatory to this Summit.
The Global African Diaspora Summit was a 10-day event, starting with a pre-Summit. Delegates were flown into Johannesburg on the 16th of May, as the pre-Summit had started at the massive Oliver Tambo (OT) Complex, which is the venue where the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) is housed. The Pre-Summit was designed to address the concerns of civil society African Diaspora, and presentations were made by Ambassador Jerry Matjila, Director-General of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) and Dr. Jinmi Adisa, Director of the Citizens and Diaspora Directorate of the African Union Commission (CIDO).
Some of the notable African Diaspora delegates who attended the pre-summit included Dr. Julius Garvey the orthopedic surgeon and son of the Pan-African icon, Dr. Marcus Garvey; Prof. Leonard Jeffries who retired from the City University of New York (CUNY) and now President of World Afrikan Diaspora Union (WADU); Ambassador Erieka Bennett of the African Diaspora Forum based in Accra, Ghana; Prof. David Horne, President of Pan-African Development Union (PADU); Mr. Melvin Foote, CEO and President of the Constituency for Africa (CFA); Mr. Lee O. Cherry, CEO and President of the African Scientific Institute; former Ambassador Vincent Okobi of Nigeria, as well as others. African Union Ambassador to Washington, DC, Ambassador Amina Salum Ali was a participant.
There were two venues for the Summit, actually three if you include the Pan-African Parliamentary event at Midrand, where it is located. Those who had arrived earlier had the opportunity to register either at the Oliver Tambo complex, where the Department of International Relations and Cooperation is located, or at the Sandton Convention Center at the massive Mandela Square, where the Sandton Library is located.
The Pan African Parliamentary meeting on the 23rd and 24th of May, 2012, concluded with a joint-statement on their behalf as well as on behalf of African parliamentarians in the Diaspora, representing Europe, North America, South America and the Caribbean. One of the resolutions in this joint-statement, included, “The Pan African Parliament and the Global African Parliamentarians in the Diaspora are strongly convinced of the need to develop policy frameworks that will enable peoples of African descent in the Diaspora to participate in the development of our continent – Africa. The sharing of our experiences in combating poverty, creating prosperity and uniting in a peaceful way all our people will bring us closer to each other, and will contribute to the sustainable development of our continent. The PAP and the Global African Diaspora Parliamentarians therefore support the goals of putting in place systems and structures as a means to achieving these goals which are shared by the peoples we represent.”
Some of the specific recommendations to come out of the PAP meeting, including the “need to agree on concrete steps that will ensure that all Africans are re-integrated into the African society e.g. granting of dual citizenship….; need to have representation of the parliamentarians in the African Diaspora in the PAP as the 6th region; and DNA testing to establish origins of Africans in the Diaspora.”
There was an intellectuals conference, the import or narrative of which I was unable to discern as necessary to what went on in this summit.
While every evening, there seemed to be a big welcoming party for delegates, it was the Gala Night party thrown by President Jacob Zuma, the hosting President, on Thursday the 24th May, that was the mother of all parties. Not only were Presidents there, there were ex-Presidents, Prime Ministers, ministers, ambassadors, and delegates. This is where President Zuma and Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, got down to the floor and danced to the electrifying music of Chaka Chaka. The crowd went wild when it was announced that Mugabe was on the floor. People already know about President Zuma as an “ikoso” (great dancer), but Mugabe was a new one. The crowd cheered the Presidents and joined in dancing with them.
With the conclusion of this an historic summit, there is no doubt that a foundation has been laid for the African Diaspora delegates to take back to their respective abodes, and begin the job of implementing some of the recommendations out of the Resolution passed by the Heads of State on Friday. What most people would have loved to achieve on this an historic meeting, was the enactment of a legal framework for the recognition of the African Diaspora as the 6th Region of the continent. That might be the only disappointment that delegates could see out of this an monumental and historic beginning of a journey for the parent welcoming back its children home and to the fold.
Some of the leaders who attended included President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea; King Mswati III of Swaziland; President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe; President Manuel Pinto Da Costa of Sao Tome and Principe; President Silva Kiir Mayardit of South Sudan; Prime Minister Samuel Archibald Anthony Hinds of Guyana; Vice President Esteban Lazo of Cuba; Vice President Arc Mohammed Namadi Sambo of Nigeria; Vice President Nourdine Bourhane of Comoros; Vice President Khumbo Kachali of Malawi; Deputy Prime Minister Amadou Ali of Cameroon. Former Presidents Chief Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, Sam Nujoma of Namibia and Thabo Mbeki of South Africa also attended.
Below is the press release issued by the African Union after the close of the Global African Diaspora summit. The Resolution of the Summit adopted by the Heads of State is being posted on another page.
“The first ever Global African Diaspora Summit was held in Sandton, South Africa, on Africa Day, 25 May 2012. The meeting was attended by Heads of States or representative of the 54 Member States of the Union, the Government of the Caribbean Community, South and Latin America.
The Summit began with welcome remarks by the Host, President Jacob Zuma which was followed by the remarks of Dr. Jean Ping, the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Honorable David Dinkins, former Mayor of New York, as Eminent person from the Diaspora, Honorable Arnold Joseph Nicholson, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Honorable Samuel Hinds, Prime Minister of the Republic of Guyana, on behalf of CARICOM, Mr. Esteban Lazo, the Vice President of the Republic of Cuba and President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea. The opening session was concluded with the opening remarks of President Boni Yayi, President of the Republic of Benin and Chairperson of the Union.
In his opening Statement, President Zuma expressed the gratitude of his Government and the people of South Africa to Heads of States and Governments that have taken the time from their busy schedule to attend the event and acknowledged the sterling work of the AU Commission in preparing for the Summit. He linked the historic event to the impetus that led African leaders to create the Organization of African Unity and the centenary celebrations of the ANC as the first African liberation movement. He further acknowledged the vision and commitment of the first generation of African leaders and their vision to see Africa taking its rightful place, with respect and dignity in global affairs.
In turn, the Chairperson of the AU Commission thanked the Host President, Mr. Jacob Zuma for his hospitality. In similarity with President Zuma, he traced the historical Global Diaspora Summit to the vision and agenda of the first generation of African leaders. He then provided a detailed overview of the events and processes that culminated in the Draft Declaration presented to the Summit. He observed that the Declaration offers a basic law and a working document that will support the objectives of rebuilding the Global African family. He concluded on the note that Member States and all other stakeholders must recommit themselves to the implementation agenda by providing necessary resources for the program and sustaining focus and interest in its consolidation and advancement. He pledged the dedication of the African Union Commission to this process and appealed to African leaders to ensure that the Declaration will be a living document that generations after us will come to applaud, respect and continue to implement.
Subsequently, the addresses of the Minister of Jamaica, Eminent Representative of the Diaspora, the Prime Minister of Guyana and the Vice President of Cuba, expressed their support for the AU’s Diaspora Initiative. Each recalled the involvement of their people in the struggle for African liberation and pledged to work with the AU to ensure realization of its objective.
Finally, President Boni, Yayi, the Chairperson of the Union, noted that processes of Regional Consultative conferences developed and consolidated the views, desires and objectives of Africans over all the world into the Draft Declaration that is now before the Assembly. He observed that the Summit was initially supposed to be held in 2008 but that the period since then had been put to good use in order to refine and consolidate the documents. He expressed gratitude for the work of the AU Commission and the South African government in preparing for this Summit and urged all leaders and Ministers to rededicate themselves to implementation of Summit outcomes and to provide necessary resources for this process.
Subsequently, a closed session of the Assembly considered and approved the Draft Declaration that was formally presented by Ms Maite Nkoana-Mashabane Minister of International Relations and Cooperation of South Africa. The integrated Draft Declaration that was adopted had four basic elements. The first was a political declaration embodying vision, purpose and objectives. The second was a Program of Action that highlighted areas and programs required to support the implementation agenda. Third were implementation and follow-up mechanism embodying the instruments that would be employed to facilitate implementations of the outcomes and fourthly, five legacy projects that would give immediate, urgent and practical meaning to the Declaration.
The meeting ended with closing remarks by the Host, President Jacob Zuma and President Boni Yayi, the Chairperson of the African Union.”
In the resolution passed, the AU mentioned the legacy projects it would embark on achieving as follows, “We further agree to adopt five legacy projects as a way of giving practical meaning to the Diaspora program and in order to facilitate the post-Summit implementation program. These are: a) the production of a Skills Database of African Professionals in the Diaspora; b) the establishment of the African Diaspora Volunteers Corps; c) the African Diaspora Investment Fund; d) a program on the Development Marketplace for the Diaspora, as a framework for facilitating innovation and entrepreneurship among African and Diaspora; and e) The African Remittances Institute.”
The African Union website is constantly being updated, where you can get more information about the Union and what is going happening in Africa and the Diaspora.
See the “Final Declaration of the Global African Diaspora Summit” here