25 May 2019 marks 56 years since Africa Day was conceived in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. On 15 April 1958 President Nkwame Nkrumah called for the first meeting of all independent African States. At that time only eight African countries (Ghana, Morocco, Ethiopia, Sudan, Tunisia, Liberia and Libya. Cameroon and Algeria) had gained independence from colonialism, which meant only a few could attend. Strong notions of equality, freedom and human rights underpinned this conference. This was the first ever conference in which Africa’s leadership came together to discuss being free from European dominance, and it is when the celebration of Africa Day, formerly known as Africa Liberation Day (ALD), was conceived.
“The most powerful weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed”
― Steve Biko
Between 1959 and 1963, Africa Day was openly celebrated by Africans on and away from the continent. On May 25 1963, leaders from 32 African countries converged on Addis Ababa and formed the Organisation of African Unity. It was then agreed to move Africa Day from April 15 to May 25.
In contemporary times, what does Africa Day mean to the ordinary African citizen? Over time the liberators have become tyrants. How do we celebrate being African when the continent is suffocating in unemployment, corruption and exclusion of women and youth? How do we bridge the gap between African institutions and her citizens? Africa Day must be a reminder to leaders of the promises and objectives set out on that momentous day. Africa needs leadership that is centered on service and free of corruption. Only true leadership can bring about the Africa we want.
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