Gonsalves makes historic African Union address
February 5, 2010

Gonsalves makes historic African Union address

Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves made history by becoming the first Vincentian to address the African Union on Monday, bringing a message of partnership and solidarity to the 14th Summit of the African Union (“AU”) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.{{more}}

African Union officials indicated that Prime Minister Gonsalves’ well-received message might have been the first formal address ever delivered by a CARICOM leader at an official AU gathering.

Gonsalves told the gathering of 53 African Leaders that the bonds between Africa and its Caribbean and Latin American Diaspora must be strengthened. In voicing solidarity with the AU on its ambitious developmental and diplomatic agenda, the Prime Minister recalled the historical ties between African and the Caribbean, and the fact that Caribbean countries are largely of African descent. Gonsalves also cited the decisive military action by Cuban forces in Angola’s Battle of Cuito Cuanavale, which led to the downfall of the Apartheid regime in South Africa, as a modern example of African-Caribbean cooperation and solidarity.

“We wish to reaffirm our love to Africa and our commitment to work together to build a better life for our populations,” said Gonsalves.

The Vincentian Prime Minister also called on the African states to continue to assist the rebuilding of Haiti in the wake of recent devastating earthquakes. Gonsalves suggested that this cooperation and assistance was a moral debt owed to the “first independent state of African descendants in the Western Hemisphere.”

Prime Minister Gonsalves was attending the AU Summit on the invitation of the outgoing President of the AU, Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi. Also invited and attending the meeting from the Caribbean were St. Kitts and Nevis Prime Minister Denzil Douglas, government ministers from Belize, St. Lucia and Grenada, and other representatives from Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, as well as various Caribbean Pan-African organisations.

Gonsalves was joined on his delegation by two Vincentian Rastafarians: Clive “Bish-I” Bishop and Edroy “Ras John” John. On Gonsalves’ previous visit to Ethiopia in October 2005, he was joined by four Vincentian Rastafarians. Ethiopia is a country of special spiritual significance to Rastafarians, many of whom have migrated to Shashemene, a special enclave set aside by former Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie I for members of that faith. Bish-I and Ras John met with Ras “Bandi” Payne, a Vincentian Rasta who resides in Ethiopia.

Prime Minister Gonsalves’ delegation also included his wife and Ambassador Camillo Gonsalves, Permanent Representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines to the United Nations.

On the margins of the AU meeting, Prime Minister Gonsalves met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Ato Meles Zenawi, Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete, and South African President Jacob Zuma. He also held discussions with Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, the South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation.

Prime Minister Dr. Gonsalves and the entire Caribbean contingent later travelled to Libya to hold talks with the Libyan government on matters of cooperation and assistance.