Friday Feature

Celebrating Africa Month
Remembering Africa Liberation Day

“Africa’s victory, although proclaimed, is not yet total, and areas of resistance still remain.”
– Emperor Haile Selassie I, First President of OAU

The month of May, also known as Africa Month, marks the annual commemoration on 25 May of the founding of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the precursor of today’s African Union (AU). Today the AU, consisting of fifty-three member states, brings together Africa to collectively address the challenges it faces.

At the end of the Second World War, the African liberation movement was gaining momentum as Africans were fighting for independence from colonial domination. Consequently, between 1945 and 1958, a significant number of African countries gained independence. On 6 March 1957, Ghana was the first country to gain independence.

A year after gaining independence, Ghana’s President Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, convened the First Conference of Independent African States in Accra, Ghana on 15 April 1958. The conference was an unequivocal assertion of Africa’s rejection of colonial and imperialist domination of the continent. It became the first Pan African conference to be held on the continent bringing together various African countries. Ethiopia, Egypt, Liberia, Libya, Morocco, Sudan and Tunisia attended the conference. Also in attendance were the representatives of the National Liberation Front (FLN) of Algeria and the Union of Cameroonian Peoples. It is worth noting that at the time of the conference, only eight countries were independent.

To further encourage and forge a common goal of fighting against colonial rule, the conference called for the observance of African Freedom Day or African Liberation Day once a year, to mark “the onward progress of the liberation movement, and to symbolize the determination of the People of Africa to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation.” Consequently, 15 April was enacted as African Freedom Day or Africa Liberation Day.

Years following the First Conference of Independent African States, between 1958 and 1963, seventeen African countries gained independence. On May 25, 1963, the OAU was founded with headquarters in Africa Hall, Ethiopia; Africa Freedom Day or African Liberation Day was changed to Africa Day, which would be commemorated annually on 25 May.

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