Africa Day: 'A moment for reflection and celebration'

On May 25 every year, people across Africa celebrate the anniversary of the founding, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) , a predecessor to the African Union. The OAU was formed in 1963,to spearhead the decolonisation of the African continent. The OAU successfully brought about political independence and passed the baton to the AU to complete the lap of economic independence.

It is important that while commemorating Africa Day, Zimbabweans should seize the opportunity to reflect on its progress or lack thereof towards fulfilment of its obligations in terms of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights. Zimbabwe is still struggling to cope with the aftermath of politically motivated violence that has left hundreds dead and resulted in the mass displacement of thousands of men, women, and children.The gukurahundi masacres which took place in the eighties still traumatise the majority of the people of Zimbabwe from the Southern part of the country.

In celebrating the continent's diversity and achievements, there is also a need to keep stressing that unity is the only way to continue developing and progress further, and this includes unity against all forms of violence, harassment and intimidation. Perhaps it is befitting that much of this year's celebrations are taking place   under the theme of reflection. Zimbabweans must take time to self introspect the journey that the country has travelled since the enactment of regional bodies set up to have an oversight over the welfare of people, democracy and good governance.

Despite the formation of the inclusive government in 2009 and commitments to conduct critical reforms, there is still a huge gap on the agreed reforms and what is prevailing on the ground. There is continued denial of human rights, bad governance and  undermining of the Rule of Law. Moreover, since the formation of the AU ,dictatorial rule and poorly administered elections in the continent have characterised the political environment presenting the need for a second wave of struggle against the pangs of authoritarianism.  Zimbabwe has a long record of human rights abuses perpetrated by the ZANU PF regime - from the Gukurahundi massacres in the 1980s, the Murambatsvina mayhem in 2005 and the 2008 election killings where human rights abuses have allegedly been committed despite government denials and the continued persecution of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters.

In the face of growing agitation that has given birth to the historic uprisings in North Africa for the demand of human rights, democracy and an end to autocratic rule, it is important that African institutions and regional bodies continue to clamour for the rights of the down trodden and agitate for the full enjoyment of fundamental freedoms, "Every individual shall have the right to express and disseminate his (sic) opinions within the law €, stipulates Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and People's Rights (ACHPR). While the ACHPR is to be credited for this call, one cannot help but wonder about its efficacy given the ongoing daily   abuse of human rights in Zimbabwe and the African continent as a whole. . Moreover, many Zimbabweans have been denied the right to clean water and health given the absence of clean drinking water, collapsed sewer systems and poor standards of hygiene in most Harare's suburbs which has provided a fertile ground for diseases like cholera and typhoid.

For Africa and Africans, Africa Day is a symbol of fraternity in the struggle for progress in peace and development, and a rallying call to mobilise opinion and join effort for the acceleration of African integration and ultimate unity. As Africans strive to overcome threats to peace and development, the continent will continue to need strong and dedicated support from all its partners. The African Union has been referring to the phrase, "African Solutions for African Problems," meaning that Africa as a continent must endeavour to be full partners in addressing African problems. Given this, the African Union is clearly a part of the solution and must articulate a common voice for the African continent. Therefore, the African Union (AU) must not lose its focus on the crisis in Zimbabwe. The AU leadership should not fold back their hands and let the crisis in Zimbabwe cascade into further turmoil. They must indeed maintain pressure on politicians and policy makers in Zimbabwe to meet their obligations and implement fully the Global Political Agreement (GPA).


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