#AfricaDay: past and present

Women of Sierra Leaone [image: Annie Spratt]

Every year since 25 May 1963, Africa has celebrated Africa Liberation Day, or what we now refer to as Africa Day. The objective of the day was to look back on the continent’s success stories in the fight against colonialism with the help of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).

The origin of Africa Day actually dates as far back as 15 April 1958 when Ghana held the first annual Conference of Independent African States. As the first African country to achieve freedom in 1957, Ghana became not only a source of inspiration to its brother nations, but also a key player in helping them fight against oppression and exploitation on their own soil.

The first few countries to attend the conference were Ghana, Ethiopia, Sudan, Liberia, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Cameroon. More countries, even non-African countries such as the UK and China to name a few, celebrated Africa Day as the years progressed. In 1960 and 1961 Tunisia and Egypt respectively hosted the conference.

However, with all this growth, a need for an organisation that would convey the goals of the African continent, its people and their struggle also grew.

Then, on 25 May 1963, leaders from 32 African nations congregated in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to form the OAU. There they agreed to have an annual assembly complete with heads of state, ministers, a secretary, and a commission of mediation, conciliation and arbitration. That was the year a new commemoration date was agreed upon: 25 May became the Africa Day we now know, celebrate and love.

Founding fathers of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), 1963 [image: thisisafrica]
The OAU played a pivotal role in lending support to Southern African countries in their strife for liberation. Even South African political parties such as the African National Congress and Pan Africanist Congress benefited from the OAU’s support during apartheid. After the first democratic elections in 1994, South Africa joined the ranks of the OAU on 23 May.

After serving the continent for 38 years, the OAU was replaced by the African Union in 2001.

This time last year, in commemoration of both Africa Day and the 5th annual Declaration of World Peace, the International Peace Youth Group hosted a peace walk that was attended by members of the City of Cape Town, community leaders, religious leaders and more than a thousand citizens, most of which were the youth.

Keeping with the AU’s Agenda 2020, the message rung clear: achieving a conflict free Africa together, resolving conflicts and spreading a culture of peace through the Declaration of Peace and Cessation of War.

More of the same can be expected on Saturday at the Civic Centre from 10 am to 2 pm and the event is open to the public.
Happy Africa Day.