Ladies and gentlemen,
“Convinced that it is the inalienable right of all people to control their own destiny,
Conscious of the fact that freedom, equality, justice and dignity are essential objectives for the achievement of the legitimate aspirations of the African peoples,”
These are the opening words of the original OAU Charter adopted on 25th May 1963.
In 1963, they resonated across the African continent, and across the world, as a new symbol of hope and opportunity for the peoples of Africa.
In 1964, in charting Seychelles’ own path to independence, President France Albert Rene, put people centred development, and the dignity of the Seychellois people at the heart of his vision. Independence was not an end in itself- but was a means by which all Seychellois could strive to offer the best future for their children, and their children’s children.
On 29th June 1976, when Seychelles acceded to independence, we also became the 49th state to become members of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).
In 2002 the OAU became the African Union, which today has 54 states, and we are proud to come together today to start the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of this organization, ahead of its anniversary Summit on the 25th May in Addis Ababa.
We start these celebrations, by remembering where we have come from.
The flame that we will light this morning, reminds us of the hopes and dreams that inspired us in 1963. Many of those dreams are now a reality and we see this reality in the opportunities available to the young people of today.
We take this opportunity to re-affirm our thanks and appreciation to President René for pursuing his vision- for having the courage to pursue his convictions.
Thanks to his efforts, we are convinced, and we are conscious, that we control our own destiny.
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
The 50th anniversary is also occasion for us to reflect on what still needs to be done to achieve the ideals laid out in the OAU Charter and re-affirmed in the AU Charter of 2002.
As pointed out in the recent 2013 United Nations Human Development Report, African nations have accelerated their development significantly in recent years and contributed to the phenomenon referred to in the report as the ‘rise of the South’.
It is a good time to be in Africa in terms of economic growth. But too often economic growth that is not situated within the right development framework does not improve the lives of citizens.
In Seychelles, we have never lost sight of the importance of this framework.
We have continued to invest in people centred development under the leadership of President James Michel as we have emerged from the world financial crisis in 2008.
The world economy continues to be overcast- with much turbulence and storms ahead.
Africa meanwhile is shining.
To sustain this positive forecast- all African nations must look beyond their own borders to create opportunities for each other.
While Seychelles is the smallest of all African states, we have a lot to share in our continent:
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
Since 2009, the threat of piracy has been a matter of concern, not only for Africa, but for the world. As a country that defines itself through its ocean, we could not stand by and allow our trade and fisheries to be decimated. Together with international partners, and using Seychelles’ experiences in prosecuting pirates, we have established a model that has severely dented the profitability of piracy. And through new initiatives such as RAPPIC we can establish a new sense of security on our oceans.
Over the next 50 years, many of Africa’s opportunities will be defined by how we harness the development potential of the ocean. This is why the ‘blue economy’ concept is so important for us, and for Africa as a whole. The majority of world trade is by sea. The majority of the world’s oil is transported by sea. There is no food security without a sustainable ocean. The majority of new mineral resources will not be found on land but in the sea. The Blue economy is our future- and it is Africa’s future.
Seychelles also believes that no African country will succeed unless it can empower its young people. This is why President Michel has created the University of Seychelles. This is why we have our Young Leaders Programme. And this is why also we seek to connect our young people beyond our own borders- starting with our Indian Ocean Region.
« Excellences, Mesdames et Messieurs,
Les pays de l’indianocéanie sont logés dans une zone pleine de promesses et d’opportunités. Nous sommes les gardiens d’un océan qui côtoie de nombreux continents. Sous la présidence seychelloise de la COI - nous n’avons eu de cesse d’insister auprès de l’Union Africaine sur la valeur et l’importance que s’attachent les pays de la COI, et nous avons accédé au statut d’observateur auprès de cette Union. L’Afrique ne peut et ne pourra réaliser de façon optimale son potentiel commercial, économique et d’investissement, sans les gardiens des autoroutes maritimes. A cet égard, nous ne pouvons que nous incliner devant tous les efforts que la Présidente de la Commission de l’Union Africaine ne cesse de faire afin que les spécificités insulaires soient prises en compte dans les plans d’actions de l’Union.
Excellences, Mesdames et Messieurs,
Les Seychelles sont non seulement fières, mais également heureuses d’appartenir à la fois à la sphère anglophone et à la sphère francophone de notre continent. Car nous estimons que le plurilinguisme est une force pour l’Afrique. Mieux, c’est un extraordinaire atout. C’est fort de cette conviction, qu’en célébrant la valeur de notre langue, le Créole, nous mettons aussi en valeur la richesse et la densité de la diversité culturelle africaine.
Nous pouvons d’ailleurs dire dans ce contexte, ce sans exagération et sans fausse modestie, que les Seychelles constituent déjà l’unité africaine à l’échelle réduite, et que par son métissage culturel inné et par l’harmonie qui s’en dégage, elles préfigurent déjà l’unité dans la diversité recherchée non seulement par l’Union Africaine mais aussi par tous les grands ensembles constitués à travers le monde. »
Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,
As you all know- Seychelles is a candidate for the Security Council for the period 2017-2018. We are standing for Africa, and the principles enshrined in the AU Charter. The OAU, and the AU, have always stood for ensuring that all voices are heard. Already, since the announcement of our candidature, we have been touched by the support and encouragement we have received from African partners. Today’s event further symbolizes our resolve to ensure that our voice- as an African Island state- is heard far and wide.
Before concluding, I would like to once again salute all those Seychellois who have not only contributed to Seychelles independence- but to the ideal of the African Union.
President René, your presence here with us today bears witness to the role that Seychelles’ has played in creating this Union.
I also salute those that have contributed in one way or another and who are no longer with us.
I would like to make a special mention of the late Guy Sinon, a former minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Seychelles- who understood just how much Seychelles was a part of Africa, and how Africa was a part of us. We are proud, that alongside President René, he will be recognized as a proud father of the liberation movements of Africa, and a proud father of the African Union. I am proud to follow in his shoes. And I know how proud his son, Peter, is to serve the Republic of Seychelles as a minister, and also as an advocate of pan-Africanism.
We light this flame today to remind us of how far we have come- and how far we still have to go. Our achievements tell us, that we cannot be daunted by the scale of the task, as we have already done more than many may have expected. Above all, this flame represents our determination to succeed.
I thank you for your attention.