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
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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