Journal of the People’s Pastor

“Writing The History I’ve Lived, Living The History I Write!”

DARFUR DIARY

Part III – A Weekend of Hope and Promise
Quest for the 6th African Region – A bold, historic step toward African unity


On June 8th 2007 I received a letter from the South African Ambassador to the United States, Barbara Masekela. The letter addresses the dream of Pan Africanist dating back to at least the turn of the 20th century, probably, going back to ancient times – how to unite people of African ancestry worldwide. Because of its historic importance and because the letter provides vital information, I will share with you substantiate portions of it:

Dear Mr. Daughtry,

It is my pleasure to invite you to a Regional Diaspora Consultative Conference at the Jumeirah Essex House, 106 Central Park South, New York on 22-23 June 2007.

By way of background, South Africa is honoured to have been requested by the African Union (AU) during the AU Summit held in Khartoum in January 2006, to host the next African Diaspora Summit in 2007 or early 2008. The Summit will be held at Heads of State level and will be preceded by a Ministerial Conference, Senior Officials meeting and an AU Consultative Conference. The African Union (AU) has defined the African Diaspora as “[consisting] of people of African origin living outside the continent, irrespective of their citizenship and nationality and who are willing to contribute to the development of the continent and the building of the African Union.” Its constitutive act declares that it shall “invite and encourage the full participation of the African Diaspora as an important part of our Continent, in the building of the African Union.”

For these reasons, the African Union has designated the African Diaspora as the 6th region of Africa. In order to prepare for the African Diaspora Summit, South Africa will be hosting Diaspora Consultative Conferences in areas of concentration of the African Diaspora, such as the United States of America. There are other conferences in Brasilia, Bahama, London and Brussels. About six representatives from each of the Regional Conferences will attend the AU Heads of State Diaspora Summit to be held in South Africa in 2008.

The purpose of the Consultative Diaspora Conference would be to discuss and interrogate on the thematic structure of the conference scheduled for 2008 in South Africa and will focus on six multi-stakeholder Working Groups namely: Global Dialogue, Peace and Security; Regional Development and Integration; Economic Cooperation; Historical, Socio-Cultural and Religious Commonalities; Women, Youth, Children & Vulnerable Groups and Knowledge Sharing. Please see Annex A for a more detailed background on the mentioned themes. Mindful of your interest and the contribution that you and your organization have made in the promotion and growth of Africa, we ask for your assistance in the realization of the Diaspora Consultative Conference…
Sincerely,
Barbara Masekela
AMBASSADOR

In Annex A, alluded to in the letter, there was listed six working groups; 1. International Affairs and Peace and Security; 2. Regional Development and Integration; 3. Economic Cooperation; 4. Historical, Socio-Cultural and Religious Commonalities; 5. Women, Youth and Children; 6. Knowledge Sharing. I chose the 4th working group.
I arrived at the hotel 10am on a beautiful morning. The participants were moving toward their work groups. It was after 10pm when I departed for home. I had spent the whole day in this “Consultative Conference.” It was a day well spent. The comfort, attentiveness of the Essex Hotel, across the street from Central Park, the delicious food, even for a vegetarian, made the mental, physical and emotional strain of the all-day workshops a little easier to bear. (I learned later the Essex Hotel, now named Jumeirah Essex House, is owned by Saudi Arabia. It makes you wonder who really owns America.)

Inevitably there was a change in the program. Instead of six working groups, there were three:

1. Social, Cultural, Health & Religion
2. Political Issues
3. Economic Issues

I started with group #1, moderated by Dr. Howard Dobson, Curator of the Schomburg Library. After introductions and 15 minutes of discussion, I decided to change groups. I was primarily concerned with structure – how would these six regions be structured? I thought the political group would address my concerns.

The political group was held on the second floor. It was much smaller than the group from which I had departed.
Soon I discovered that this group was dealing with issues too. They were wrestling with the questions of how to be helpful to the continent and/or what can make for mutual benefit. Many ideas, programs and policies were discussed. But, there was no discussion on structure. So for the rest of the day I kept the issue of structure on the table, even as some of the participants were growing restless and whose eyes did not cast a friendly look.

Finally, my frustration reached the exasperation point. When I was given the floor to speak, slowly, deliberately, I explained my frustration. I said, our priority should be to develop and submit to the AU a working structure. Issues or convergence of interest will flow from the structure. Anyway, other groups are dealing with issues, programs and policies. I mentioned I had attended many conferences and consultations and meetings on African solidarity. Always, there were great ideas put forth. But always, the ideas could go but so far.
To be continued…

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