Delivered on behalf of the African Student Union, on the occasion of the first African convention held at Mary’ek Hall, Kuching Sarawak, Malaysia!
Our guest of Honour, Y.B Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr George Chan Hong Nam, Deputy Chief Minister of Sarawak, Minister of Industrial Development and Minister of Modernization of Agriculture Sarawak,
Mr President, Speech Your Excellencies,
Mr William Tan, the Managing Director/ Chief Executive, INTI College,
My African students,
Ladies and Gentlemen
“As the Chairman of the Organizing Committee for the African Convention 2005, I would like to welcome all of you to this convention and indeed to Kuching!
I would especially like to thank our Guest of Honour, The Deputy Chief Minister of Sarawak, Y.B Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr George Chan Hong Nam for gracing our convention this morning. We of this Association are particularly happy to welcome your Excellency!
I would also like to take this opportunity to thank our distinguished guests Your Excellency Dr Wahab Dosunmu, the Nigeria High Commissioner to Malaysia, The Libyans People’s Bureau Representative Mr Fathala, Namibia Representative, Mr Paul Shisemgo and all of you who are here this morning.
I am privileged and honoured to speak to you today at the First African Convention in Sarawak. We are here to explore our visions for our future Africa; our Africa that has given so much to us, our Africa that has fought so unremittingly with us against Apartheid, so that as equal to any other, we can exercise our sovereignty as a people.
We will forever be indebted to the continent and its people. Africa of which we speak is a cradle of humanity and has given humanity her civilization and continues to hold unlimited opportunities for the future.
We are also here in the spirit of friendship to explore ways to further strengthen the relationship between Africans and Malaysians. I foresee that we have much to learn from each other, and the horizon of opportunity is limitless.
Our association shares in the same dreams as we have tried to establish a solid relationship with the people of Sarawak and Malaysia at large, through paying a visit to the charitable organization, showcasing Africa’s Cultural Heritage and many more.
Let me re-state the obvious, we are of Africa, her destiny, her fortunes are ours. Over forty years ago, our founding fathers, met at the epoch-making Conference to establish the Organization of African Unity. At that Conference leaders such as Nyerere, Kaunda, Nasser, Nkrumah and others with their rich and unfailing fountain of wisdom made the following commitment, ”The purpose of the Organization shall be to promote unity and solidarity of the African States and to intensify their co-operation and efforts to achieve a better life for the peoples of Africa”. President Oliver Tambo had this to say on that watershed day, “The Organization of African Unity is one of the most hopeful symbols of African aspiration and determination to carve a proper place for our continent in the world”.
To us, the sentiment of African solidarity and unity is deeply rooted and has always found expression in our Association. Your presence today is inspired by this moving ideal of African brotherhood and sisterhood, and this outlook is expressed by our commitment to inviting you all today.
Ladies and Gentlemen
We all know of the sordid and indeed sad tales of the African continent from slavery which robbed Africa of her able-bodied and healthy men and women to imperialism and colonialism which pillaged and plundered her raw materials destroyed her culture, her traditional agriculture and domestic food security. These ventures and escapades on the continent were occasioned by a premise that as Africans if we were not equal to the marauders, we must have been sub-humans. Neo-colonialism perpetuated and reinforced the exploitation of the continent while creating a self-serving and rapacious elite, whose only interest was the vertical integration into the dominant global forces.
Notwithstanding, these pervasive and demoralizing conditions which sometimes seem to have assumed their permanency of place on the continent, a new generation of African leaders is emerging in the continent. This leadership is sufficiently outraged by conditions which define Africa’s contribution to human development as only chaos, anarchy, internecine wars, and barbarity, as well as the projection of Africa as nothing but the object of pity forever dependent on the mercy of others. It is this anger that has fuelled the movement for continental renewal, which seeks space for Africa under the sun like any other.
Ladies and Gentlemen
A new generation of African leaders is emerging in the continent to further enhance the following efforts:
Peace, security and governance;
Investing in Africa’s people;
Diversification of Africa’s production;
Investing in Information Communication Technology and basic infrastructure; and
Developing the financing mechanism.
A question would be rightfully asked, why would this Programme succeed when similar initiatives have in the past failed to extricate the continent from its economic quagmire? Our student association and other student organization have to stand straight for this task.
Historically, in times of crisis, student activism has been a crucial force for social change. Students around the world have been at the forefront of movements to promote democracy and human rights. Student movements have toppled powerful dictatorships and military juntas. Student movements have ended wars. And student activism has often served as the conscience for nations, reminding people in times of turmoil of the founding ideals of their countries and the aspirations of all people for justice, dignity, and equality. Thus, it comes as no surprise that the world’s most repressive government jail and often murder student activists, close down college campuses during times of crisis, and enforce strict guidelines about what can and cannot be taught in school systems. Those in power understand the significance of student movements, often more so than student activists themselves. So no doubt that our generation of African youth is ready to make this change happen. We will continue to organize similar events to educate ourselves on the need to make this change happen in Africa.
We cannot gainsay that the information technology revolution is the driving force of the process of globalization. The information gap between the continent and the rest of the world determines who to a large extent has access to knowledge, ideas and information that drives development. We will continue to educate our governments and African people on the need for extensive investment in information technology and IT personnel. On the hand, we know that Africa’s contribution to international trade lies in her raw materials. In this knowledge-based economy, it is imperative to work towards the benefaction of her products, thereby adding value and ensuring the export of the finished product. The developed countries have demonstrated their commitment to helping Africa close the digital gap through projects such as Dot Force and others. It is imperative that we strive toward producing finished products. So as we gather together for today and the future, we believe that this convention is a wonderful opportunity for all of us to learn from each other. Indeed, it is a time of sharing and caring for our future!
Let us not be disturbed, one thing is certain President Luthuli the visionary, saw into the future and had this to say in 1961 about the continent’s rebirth “Let me invite Africa to cast her eyes beyond the past and to some extent the present with their woes and tribulations, trials and failures, and some success, and see herself an emerging continent bursting to freedom through the shelf of centuries of serfdom”.
The incontrovertible truth is that the Africa of hope is emerging like the warming rays of the sun on a cold winter day, ready to envelop us with its warmth. This Africa of Hope challenges us to be warriors of her Renaissance. This challenge is borne every day by Africans in their peasant associations, village committees, professionals, civic movements, women’s organizations and our association.
We wish to warmly thank you all for allowing me the opportunity to share with you and prove to you that Africa is hard at work to achieve her rebirth. Our Association is one of the members of the Battalion of the mighty force of the continental movement for change and renaissance. By honouring these distinguished and gallant Africans today, men and women, you are confirming this long-held view that out of Africa comes excellence.
Ladies and gentlemen, together we can achieve this task and reclaim our destiny. By reporting on the positive images of Africa without glossing over the negatives, you are in your small way making a dent against Afro-pessimism so dominant out there.
Members of the Battalion strewn all over the continent and in the Diaspora speak boldly that the sun has not fallen on the continent, but it has just set. This is a hundred years in which Africa must and shall regain her glory. Her children must and shall walk tall in pride and dignity well clothed, well-fed and with security, in order to reach their true potential and to borrow from the President of the Republic “not being ashamed to be African”.
In closing, on behalf of the African Students Association of INTI College Sarawak, I would like to once again welcome all of you to this convention
I thank you
Mr Anthony Claret Onwutalobi
p style=”text-align: justify;”>African Convention 2005