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Dakar, Senegal (PANA)–The role of the African Diaspora constitutes a key feature at the third extraordinary session of the African Union (AU) Executive Council scheduled for Sun City, South Africa, May 21-25, conference sources here said recently.
This group of people, who originate from Africa and are scattered around the earth, have never formed part of the various policies and programs adopted by Africa, the sources noted.
The AU intends to bridge this gap by openly appealing for their full participation in developing the African continent, the sources hinted.
The issue of the African Diaspora came to the fore in July 2000, when Senegal proposed inclusion of this group in the AU Constitutive Act as a “sixth region” of the continent, adding to the North, East, West, South and Central regions of the continent.
The ensuing heated debate resulted in a draft recommendation, which for the first time took into account these natives of the continent.
“The AU is expected to invite and encourage the full participation of the African Diaspora in the programs of the African Union, as a vital component of our continent,” the sources said.
But Senegalese Foreign Minister Cheikh Tidiane Gadio elects to underscore the contributions of “Back to Africa” pioneers such as Sylvester William, W.E.B. DuBois, George Padmore and Marcus Garvey in launching the pan-Africanist movement, later heralded by the likes of Kwame Nkrumah and Cheikh Anta Diop.
Mr. Gadio said under the pan-Africanist movement, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) achieved its goals of finalizing the independence process and dismantling apartheid, while the AU has emerged to hoist the continent to a higher level.
He paid tribute to the combined efforts of heads of state Muammar Gadhafi (Libya), Olusegun Obasanjo (Nigeria), Thabo Mbeki (South Africa), Abdelaziz Bouteflika (Algeria) and Abdoulaye Wade (Senegal) for championing the creation of the AU.
Commenting on the role of the African Diaspora in the continent’s development, Mr. Gadio said he viewed the group as the “sixth natural, historic, political and intellectual region of the continent.”
He added that Black Americans and those from the West Indies were not the only members of this Diaspora, citing the Blacks in Peru and Colombia, Afro-Cubans and Brazilian Africans as part of the vast African Diaspora.
The Senegalese minister opined that there existed a dual African Diaspora–the first comprising the historic group whose ancestors were brutally ripped off their continent centuries ago, and who continue to share common identify with Africa.
Mr. Gadio described the second as the “modern Diaspora,” comprising American Nigerians, European Senegalese, Dutch Cameroonians, Swedish Gambians, as well as Algerians in France, and Moroccans and Tunisians in Spain and Italy or the 200,000 Egyptian executives, doctors, engineers and researchers living in North America.
The Senegalese foreign minister said members of the African Diaspora have welcomed the AU initiative, which they see as a form of recognition of their existence and an opportunity to get involved in building the continent of their origin.
“They know that something is about to move and they welcome it heartily,” Mr. Gadio said.
“It is not our intention to convince the United States to admit that part of our Diaspora is in their territory and that they should, as a result, be more generous towards our continent, but we are simply trying to correct an omission,” the Senegalese official said.
“After contributing to building many countries and nations throughout the world, these sons and daughters of the continent, who left us under conditions that were often extremely painful, have good reasons to develop a particular affection for Africa,” he said.
Mr. Gadio said Africans are “duty bound to welcome them with open arms” and develop new forms of cooperation that go beyond sentiments to find expression in their involvement in the scientific, technological and medical fields of the continent.
Apart from the Diaspora issue, the Sun City Council of Ministers session will examine the experts’ report on joint defense and security policies, as well as the report on the new structure of the AU Commission, the sources said.
The AU council of ministers would also review the budget covering Sept. 1-Dec. 31, 2003 and the 2004 budget year, as well as the report of the ad-hoc ministerial committee on member states’ contributions.