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Leaders of Africa, EU lead tributes for Africa Day

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The Organisation of African Unity, the precursor to the current African Union, was born on 25 May 1963, and ever since this day has been commemorated as Africa Day. Jean Ping, Chairman of the Commission of the African Union, and Andris Piebalgs, European Commissioner for Development, look back on almost half a century of African co-operation and look forward to building on the successes of recent Euro-African collaboration. 

Message from Dr Jean Ping, President, Commission of the African Union, on the occasion of the celebration of the Africa Day (25 May 2010)

Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Continent,
Friends and Partners of Africa,
Today, we are celebrating Africa Day, as we do every year on 25 May.

This year, we have chosen the theme ‘The Consolidation and Maintenance of Peace through Sport’. Just a few weeks before the 19th Football World Cup, being held for the first time in history on our continent, this theme is of particular relevance. It draws attention to our desire to make every possible effort to achieve the goal of an Africa at peace, in harmony, prosperous and playing a dynamic role in the global community. It also reflects the decision taken by our heads of state and government in Tripoli in August 2009 to declare 2010 The Year of Peace and Security in Africa. It recalls a resonant and symbolic moment in the history of the continent, one that drew the attention of the whole world to the power of sport and its contribution to peace and social cohesion. I refer, of course, to the World Rugby Cup held in South Africa in 1995, which was an event that sealed the reconciliation of the Rainbow Nation, torn apart by decades of apartheid, thanks to the personal involvement of a charismatic, and visionary leader, President Nelson Mandela. As a highly symbolic gesture, throughout the competition President Mandela wore the shirt of the, Springboks team who were seen as the team of the enemies of the black community. By so doing, he opened an era of forgiveness and swept away the fear of reprisal that had been gripping the Afrikaner community. Thus, sport became a symbol of rediscovered unity, of national reconciliation, a means for a nation to move ahead and to come together in strength, thanks to the "sacred union" behind the national team. President Mandela said that "soccer, like rugby, cricket and other collective sports, has the power to heal wounds". This is a heritage of which the continent, like the South African people, can be proud and from which it can learn.

There are innumerable examples of how sport has contributed to achieving the objectives of peace and development around the world, in particular due to its media impact, such as the soccer competition between Armenia and Turkey, which led to a return to diplomatic exchanges between the two countries. Sport also has the unparalleled potential to mobilise global sentiment. It has the capacity to attract and touch the masses and to capture the attention of the younger generation. It can be an educational tool, raising awareness and promoting tolerance, respect for the rules of the game and the referee, courage, good conduct, discipline, perseverance, effort, humility in victory, self-control in defeat, and esteem for one’s opponent. Today, as we promote sport as a powerful instrument and vehicle by means of which Africa may also work towards peace, we are reaffirming our faith in these values, inherent to sport and part of both universal human values and our shared African values. By promoting sport, we reiterate our conviction that it is essential, always and increasingly so, to focus our actions on improving human society and its values by means of activities that make it possible for everyone to achieve fulfilment. Sport, exchanges and competition can do this, helping us to build peace in our communities, among our countries and with the rest of the world, faster and more effectively than would otherwise be possible.

On a continent that is still plagued by conflicts, in spite of putting into operation the structures we built and in spite of our relentless efforts, on a continent that still has the largest number of refugees and displaced people in the world, and where some reconstruction procedures have been initiated in post-conflict situations, sport is also a fundamental tool. On one hand, it creates links and connections between communities that have been divided by conflict; on the other hand, it improves the relationships between peace forces and missions and local populations. An example of this is the organisation, by the United Nations Operations in Ivory Coast (UNOIC), working with the African Football Federation (AFF), of tournaments such as the African Championships of Nations (ACN), a unique event in the history of peace missions, held in a country emerging from crisis. Sport also contributes to the restoring of a peaceful environment conducive to elections.

Peace is not simply the absence of war. Peace is also synonymous with development. On our continent, it harbours enormous and as yet under-exploited potential. It draws attention to the necessity to promote the values of solidarity that will guarantee our continent a better future. Sport, thanks to its unifying nature and because it encourages participation and facilitates inclusion and citizenship, can make an enormous contribution in this regard.
Personally, in the new context of globalisation, of which Africa is resolutely an integral part and stakeholder and now, in 2010, in a year in which several African states are celebrating the 50th anniversary of their independence, I am confident of our willingness to make this dream, so long embraced by our founding fathers, a reality: an independent Africa, united, prosperous and at peace. As the motto of the Olympic spirit suggests, there are no limits to our collective endeavours to build on the sustainable development of our continent. We will always be ambitious, high- performing champions, so that together we can ensure the future and the peace of the continent. Citius, Altus, Fortius! Faster, higher, stronger! United for an Africa that knows how to win!

To one and all, have a wonderful Africa Day!

Joint Statement by EU HR/VP Catherine Ashton and Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs on the occasion of Africa Day: 25 May 2010

For many countries in Africa, 2010 marks an important anniversary, as independence swept across the continent fifty years ago. And today, Africa Day, marks the founding of the Organisation of African Unity in 1963.

This was the first step towards the African Union which we know today - 53 countries bound by one Union, encompassing the diversity and dynamism of the modern Africa. For the European Union, Africa Day is also a chance to look forward. In particular, we look forward to building on the successes of the first ever Joint EU-Africa Strategy adopted two and a half years ago. This is taking relations between the two continents beyond traditional development to forge a genuine partnership of equals. It goes beyond Institutions, to emphasise the people to people links. And it has opened the way for Europe and Africa to look beyond their own borders to work together in tackling the global challenges such as climate change.

Among those challenges, the fight against poverty remains a key priority. The EU looks forward to preparing together with Africa for the UN High Level Conference on the Millennium Development Goals this September. The challenge of climate change is another important example where the two partners are working together ahead of the next UNFCCC conference in Cancun.

Sustainable development and the promotion of democracy and good governance remain top priorities of our partnership. Perhaps most of all, this Africa Day is a chance to look forward to the EU Africa Summit in November and the adoption of a new joint strategy, which will set the agenda for the relationship for the first years of this new decade. Europe and Africa