President Cyril Ramaphosa has assumed the Chairship for the African Union (AU) during the first day of the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Sunday 09 February 2020.
South Africa was elected in February 2019 as the incoming chair of the AU. The Union, then, agreed that the assumption of the rotational Chairship shall take place on the occasion of the 33rd Ordinary Session.
South Africa chairs the AU after 18 years
South Africa first chaired the African Union 18 years ago in 2002, at the seminal session of the official launch of the Union in Durban, South Africa.
President Ramaphosa takes over the Chairship of the AU from President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of the Arab Republic of Egypt.
Silencing the Guns
Convened under the theme “Silencing the Guns: Creating Conducive Conditions for African’s Development”, South Africa’s 2020 Chairship of the AU coincides with its Chairship of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) and the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change (CAHOSGCC).
Delivering his acceptance statement of the AU Chairship, President Cyril Ramaphosa said he was immensely humbled by the great honour bestowed on South Africa saying “On behalf of the men and women of South Africa I graciously accept your collective decision that I should Chair the AU in 2020”.
President Ramaphosa said South Africa will utilise the Chairship of the African Union to mobilise the AU member states to pursue a number of development objectives and bolster the progress already underway as part of the African Decade of Action.
The President has committed to enhance the collective work to deepen the unity of our continent, advance inclusive economic growth and sustainable development.
He further highlighted key priorities of the term as supporting integration, economic development, trade and investment in the continent; driving the implementation of the Presidential Infrastructure Champion Initiative in support of the African Continental Free Trade Area; advancing gender equality, the empowerment of women and the combating of violence against women and girls; strengthening cooperation between the African Union and United Nations and; promoting peace and security and advancing efforts to silence the guns on the African continent and elsewhere.
President Ramaphosa reaffirmed the principle of finding African solutions to African problems as the fundamental approach to addressing all conflicts on the continent, working within the frameworks of the AU and UN.
He further called on the AU to continue to support the just struggles of oppressed people elsewhere in the world; reiterating unwavering support for the people of Palestine in the legitimate quest for an independent and sovereign state and the right of the people of Western Sahara to self-determination.
“A continent in ascent”
In calling for support in the realisation of these priorities, President Ramaphosa said “the African continent is on the ascent. It is indeed a regeneration moral and eternal, as described by the South African revolutionary Pixley ka Isaka Seme. If we pursue our objectives with diligence and determination, and mobilize our fellow African countries to support them, I am certain that ours can be a meaningful, effective and impactful Union. Let us build the Africa we want. Let the Guns be Silenced. Let our swords be beaten to ploughshares, and our spears turned into pruning hooks. It is the actions we take from this day onwards that will determine our continent’s destiny”.