Towards African Unity: OAU Summit Speech by Haile Selassie


By H.I.M. Haile Selassie

OAU speech, 1963, African Summit



We welcome to Ethiopia, in Our name and in the name of the Ethiopian Government and people, the Heads of State and Government of independent African nations who are today assembled in solemn conclave in Ethiopia's capital city. This conference, without parallel in history, is an impressive testimonial to the devotion and dedication of which we all partake in the cause of our mother continent and that of her sons and daughters. This is indeed a momentous and historic day for Africa and for all Africans.

We stand today on the stage of world affairs, before the audience of world opinion. We have come together to assert our role in the direction of world affairs and to discharge our duty to the great continent whose two hundred fifty million people we lead. Africa is today at mid- course, in transition from the Africa of yesterday to the Africa of tomorrow. Even as we stand here we move from the past into the future. The task on which we have embarked, the making of Africa, will not wait. We must act, to shape and mould the future and leave our imprint on events as they pass into history.

We seek, at this meeting, to determine whither we are going and to chart the course of our destiny. It is no less important that we know whence we came. An awareness of our past is essential to the establishment of our personality and our identity as Africans. This world was not created piecemeal. Africa was born no later and no earlier than any other geographical area on this globe. Africans, no more and no less than other men, possess all human attributes, talents and deficiencies, virtues and faults. Thousands of years ago, civilizations flourished in Africa which suffer not at all by comparison with those of other continents. In those centuries, Africans were politically free and economically independent. Their social patterns were their own and their cultures truly indigenous. The obscurity which enshrouds the centuries which elapsed between those earliest days and the rediscovery of Africa are being gradually dispersed. What is certain is that during those long years Africans were born, lived and died. Men on other parts of this Earth occupied themselves with their own concerns and, in their conceit, proclaimed that the world began and ended at their horizons. All unknown to them, Africa developed in its own pattern, growing in its own life and, in the nineteenth century, finally re-emerged into the world's consciousness.

The events of the past hundred and fifty years require no extended recitation from Us. The period of colonialism into which we were plunged culminated with our continent fettered and bound, with our once proud and free peoples reduced to humiliation and slavery; with Africa's terrain cross-batched and checkerboarded by artificial and arbitrary boundaries. Many of us, during those bitter years, were overwhelmed in battle, and those who escaped conquest did so at the cost of desperate resistance and bloodshed. Others were sold into bondage as the price extracted by the colonialists for the "protection" which they extended and the possession of which they disposed. Africa was a physical resource to be exploited and Africans were chattels to be purchased bodily or, at best, peoples to be reduced to vassalage and lackeyhood. Africa was the market for the produce of other nations and the source of the raw materials with which their factories were fed.

Today, Africa has emerged from this dark passage. Our armageddon is past. Africa has been reborn as a free continent and Africans have been reborn as free men. The blood that was shed and the sufferings that were endured are today Africa's advocates for freedom and unity. Those men who refused to accept the judgement passed upon them by the colonies, who held unswervingly through the darkest hours to a vision of an Africa emancipated from political, economic and spiritual domination, will be remembered and revered wherever Africans meet. Many of them never set foot on this continent. Others were born and died here. What we may utter today can add little to the heroic struggle of those who, by their example, have shown us how precious are freedom and human dignity and of how little value is life without them. Their deeds are written in history.

H.I.M. Emperor Haile Selassie I

Speech retrieved online from http://www.nazret.com/history/him_oau.php

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