AFRICA DAY 2019
By: Cheryl Kahla
Africa Day – a public holiday in nine African countries – is observed annually on 25 May to commemorate the foundation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). It’s quite sad that we need one day or one month a year to celebrate Africa, considering that we live in Africa, but I digress.
Africa Day origins
Ghana gained independence from Britain in 1958. Africa Day was observed for the first time the following year when Nkwame Nkrumah called for a meeting of all independent African States.
At the time, only eight countries had gained their freedom from colonialism – Ghana, Ethiopia, Sudan, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Liberia. While Algeria and Cameroon were not free at the time, they were represented at the meeting of independent African States.
Topics on the agenda included wanting liberation and the acknowledgement of human rights after centuries of oppression. That was the start of Africa Day, at the time known as Africa Liberation Day.
African Liberation Day was celebrated on 15 April and gained traction throughout Africa and the rest of the world. Four years later, representatives from 32 African countries gathered in Abbis Ababa.
The then-71-year-old emperor Halie Selassie, who spent more than a year preparing Addis Ababa for the summit of African nations, famously said: “May this convention of union last 1 000 years.”
The OAU was formed on 25 May 1963. It was agreed that Africa Day celebrations be moved from April to May. The OAU decided to have an annual assembly of heads of state, a council of ministers, and a commission of mediation, conciliation and arbitration.
In addition, the OAU supported the struggle for liberation in Southern Africa. The ANC and PAC received support from the OAU during the struggle. South Africa joined the OAU in 1994 after the fall of Apartheid. On 25 May 2001, 38 years to the day after it was founded, the OAU was dissolved to be replaced by the African Union, also based in Addis Ababa.
Africa Day Theme for 2019
The Africa Day theme for 2019 is “Healthy Lifestyle Prolongs Life”. It was selected to show the link between an unhealthy lifestyle and premature mortality.
South African citizens are encouraged to create awareness for the public at large. Go out and create African Unity through activities such as community projects and event to showcase African cultural diversity.