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COLUMNISTS

Global African Diaspora Summit
By Ato Bob

Is this any of your concern?

 

"The African Diaspora are peoples of African descent and heritage living outside the continent, irrespective of their citizenship and who remain committed to contribute to the development of the continent and the building of the African Union.” - African Union

 

Introduction

 

As a regular reader of this column you already know that the Global African Diaspora Summit took place in South Africa on Africa Day2012, which is of course 25th May.

The (final official) Declaration has already been widely circulated by various media and can be best read on the website of the AU (African Union) or of the South African Government, but of course also on Facebook. www.facebook.com/GlobalAfricanDiasporaSummitSouthAfrica

 

In this article I will give you some excerpts of the declaration, but also some views on the background and where it comes closer to home that is: to you. I will get to the question already asked above: What does it mean to you as an African Diaspora, do you care about it and will it move you into action?

 

Africa and its old and new Diasporas

 

Basically one could say that there are ‘old diasporas’, who inherited this ‘status’ and ‘new diasporas’, who became like that by choice.

 

The African Diasporas in Europe are there by their own choice, whether ‘seeking for greener pastures’ or ‘fleeing from their own government as asylum seekers’, in the past and unfortunately though sparingly, even now.  Most have a good memory of Africa, being born there, though there is a growing second and even third generation that does no longer have that advantage.

 

The African Diasporas in the Caribbean, North and South America are descendants of Africans that were forced into the Diaspora by, as you know, the dark era of the slave trade.

This gives rise to deep feelings of loss, longing for reunion and homecoming, as expressed by Afro-Americans when they stand at ‘the gate of no return’ at the Cape Coast (slave) Castle in Ghana.

 

It was also voiced in the spirit of the Global African Diaspora Summit like this: “For some of us, the Global African Diaspora Summit is yet to register its significance as the first official embrace between  parents who lost their children 500 years ago, and though both have known where the other exists, the Summit made it the first time they decided to come together and finally acknowledge their collective existence. The enthusiasm on both the parents and children was palpable, and you could see the pride of belonging on the part of every participant.  After 500 years, the children of the martyred Africans who had been forcibly abducted in chains and taken to different parts of the world were being welcomed back by the parents who had suffered for over 500 years not knowing what had happened to their children.  It was an emotional moment that could never be duplicated ever again throughout the history of the African people, in the continent or outside.”

 

What happened at the Summit?

The above statement was made by ‘conyeani’ reporting in the African Sun Times www.africansuntimes.com on the historic Summit. He continues to describe the event:

“The South African government, which had been charged by the African Union, to organize the African Diaspora and host the Summit, spared no expense in getting over 300 participants to come to South Africa, apart from the 64 countries whose Presidents or officials were represented there, bringing more than 500 participants to the Summit. There were at least 76 “Eminent Persons” who were brought into the country in a very classy manner, including first class/premier class tickets, separate cars to take them around in Johannesburg, being quartered in first class hotels in suites.  Such “Eminent Persons” included former Presidents Chief Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, Sam Nujoma of Namibia, former Mayor David Dinkins of New York City, who was delegated a spokesperson for the “Diaspora Eminent Persons.  At a minimum, South Africa must have spent nothing less than $50 million to help the African Union and Africa welcome its children back.”

 

A pre-Summit preceded the Global African Diaspora Summit, during which the civil society African Diaspora exchanged views and concerns with the AU and the host. They listened and reacted to presentations by Dr. Jinmi Adisa, Director of the Citizens and Diaspora Directorate of the African Union Commission (CIDO) and Ambassador Jerry Matjila, Director-General of the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO).

 

The whole Global African Diaspora Summit took 10days, which included various preparatory meetings and advice gathered from invited technical experts.

 

A Pan African Parliamentary (PAP) meeting also took place before the Summit on the 23rd and 24th of May, 2012. This included the African parliamentarians in the Diaspora, representing Europe, North America, South America and the Caribbean.  Their joint-statement, included: “The Pan African Parliament and the Global African Parliamentarians in the Diaspora are strongly convinced of the need to develop policy frameworks that will enable peoples of African descent in the Diaspora to participate in the development of our continent - Africa.  The sharing of our experiences in combating poverty, creating prosperity and uniting in a peaceful way all our people will bring us closer to each other, and will contribute to the sustainable development of our continent.  The PAP and the Global African Diaspora Parliamentarians therefore support the goals of putting in place systems and structures as a means to achieving these goals which are shared by the peoples we represent.”

 

Some of the specific recommendations to come out of the PAP meeting, included the “need to agree on concrete steps that will ensure that all Africans are re-integrated into the African society e.g. granting of dual citizenship; need to have representation of the parliamentarians in the African Diaspora in the PAP as the 6th region; and DNA testing to establish origins of Africans in the Diaspora.”

 

What’s in the final declaration?

 

As you may not have read it yet, though you certainly should, let me give you some introduction.

It starts, naturally with a political statement and stating the vision, aims and objectives. The body of the declaration is a program of Action, divided into three main sectors, Political cooperation, Economic Cooperation and Social Cooperation, again divided into various sub-sectors. These cover virtually every aspect you can think of and can form whole programs by themselves.

 

The Declaration ends with a section on Implementation and Follow-up and closes by listing five desired legacy project. As the declaration describes these: “We further agree to adopt five legacy projects as a way of giving practical meaning to the Diaspora program and in order to facilitate the post-Summit implementation program. These are: a) the production of a Skills Database of African Professionals in the Diaspora; b) the establishment of the African Diaspora Volunteers Corps; c) the African Diaspora Investment Fund; d) a program on the Development Marketplace for the Diaspora, as a framework for facilitating innovation and entrepreneurship among African and Diaspora; and e) The African Remittances Institute.

 

Some excerpts

 

WE, the Heads of State and Government of the African Union, the Caribbean and South America;

RECOGNIZING the important presence of Heads of State and Government from the Caribbean Community, South and Latin America and representatives of the African Diaspora;

RECOGNIZING the need to build sustainable partnerships between the African continent and the African Diaspora through sustainable dialogue and effective collaboration with governments and peoples of different regions of the World in which the Diaspora populations are located;

TAKING INTO account the need to put African history in its proper perspective and harness this towards rebuilding the global African family.

TAKING INTO ACCOUNT the First and Second Conferences of Intellectuals of Africa and the Diaspora (CIAD I&II) held in Dakar, Senegal and Salvador de Bahia, Brazil in 2004 and 2006 respectively, the outcomes of the First AU-South Africa Diaspora/Caribbean Conference held in Kingston, Jamaica in 2005 and the various Regional Consultative Conferences held in different regions of the world in 2007 to consolidate the results;

Create platforms for closer interaction, solidarity and effective collaboration between and amongst governments and civil society of Africa and its Diaspora including continuation of Regional Consultative Conferences and creation and consolidation of Regional Networks as partners and interlocutors for the implementation of the outcome of the Global Diaspora Summit;

 

Why should you as an African Diaspora in Europe care about all this?

 

As you have read above, the Caribbean and South and Latin American countries were represented at top government level, while European countries at best might have had observers at the level of diplomatic missions. This obviously stronger link, is of course mostly due to previous contacts and particularly conferences, the higher number of African Diasporas compared to Europe, but it could  also be the stronger deeper wish for closer ties and the realisation of the value of Africa-African Diaspora political, economic and social cooperation!

Now you as ‘new’ African Diaspora in Europe with the advantage of still having a good memory of home and mostly having direct active contacts, what are you doing for Africa. You should know that Africa has the future, that some African countries have a higher economic growth rate than most European countries, that Africa can be a success story. Closer to home, you may have been building a house in the African country of your birth, perhaps even a business, but you can do more!

 

You can be part of the PAP – Pan African Parliament through appropriate representation.

This still needs to be affected, representatives chosen, in the European Diaspora and particularly in The Netherlands. Mrs Drs. Barryl A. Biekman of the African Union African Diaspora 6th Region Facilitators Working Group and Kenneth Robinson Chair of the ADCC –African Diaspora Community Council both well known African Diasporas in the Netherlands, were at the Summit from The Netherlands.

 

 Here I must refer to my article ‘African Diasporas to have Representatives at African Union meetings Diasporas to form a political body?’ (The African Bulletin May 2012) I hope you kept that copy, otherwise go to: http://www.mediablackberry.com/index.php?oid=12869

 

Conclusion

 

The Global African Diaspora Summit will have no meaning if there is no response from the African Diaspora, wherever they are. Here in the Europe and particularly in The Netherlands we must apply the LNCB-model (Leave No Community Behind) to engage all African Diasporas and select those to represent the African Diaspora in Europe. As I wrote earlier, despite the African Diaspora so diversely organized in hardly any overall national NGOs, but most on ethnic, tribal, political and even religious background, though with a number of umbrella NGOs, a way needs to be found to reach all of African descent. If you have comments, ideas or oppose what is stated above, feel free to send me an e-mail at atobobhensen@hotmail.com which, with your permission, I can publish or use the information!

 

*Ato Bob is a former Dutch Diplomat who now consults with various NGO’s on African issues. He lives in Rotterdam and may be reached on atobobhensen@hotmail.com 





















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