Letter to the African Union
Gretings and Rastafari Blessings!
After extensive reasonings in Shashemane, the following letter was delivered to the African Union in Addis Ababa.
To: His Excellency Mr. Thabo Mbeki February 25, 2003
President of the Republic of South Africa
Chairperson of the African Union
From: Ras Nathaniel, Coordinator Issembly for Rastafari Iniversal Education (IRIE)
RE: African Diaspora and Recommendations for the African Union
Long before the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was established by Haile Selassie in His capital city of Addis Ababa, the people called by his name – the Rastafari – have cried out for Repatriation, to return the descendants of Africa who were taken in captivity to the west. Land in Shashemane, Ethiopia, was even granted to Black people of the west as early as 1931, and many people, mostly members of the Rastafari and Jamaican communities, began to settle there. From that time to the present, Rastafari people have done more to promote African Unity and Repatriation than any group of Africans abroad. In fact, it was the Rastafari culture which taught the world "Africa for Africans at home and abroad."
Before the OAU was formed, the African Diaspora, including three members of the Rastafari community and a delegate of the Ethiopian World Federation, sent a fact-finding mission to several African nations in 1961 to discuss Repatriation. The mission, sponsored by the Jamaican Government, was met and welcomed by H.I.M. Haile Selassie of Ethiopia, Governor General Nnamdi Azikiwi of Nigeria, President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, President William Tubman of Liberia and Prime Minister Milton Margai of Sierra-Leone. Several official and unofficial reports with recommendations were made at that time, and thus, the issue of Repatriation was the primary issue of concern of both the African Diaspora and leading governments of Africa who, two years later, would form the OAU.
Perhaps the first attempt that the OAU made to include the African Diaspora happened in 1963 at the opening session of the OAU Summit. At that conference, H.I.M. Haile Selassie affirmed that,
"Our Armageddon is past. Africa has been reborn as a free continent and Africans have been reborn as free men. The blood that was shed and the sufferings that were endured are today Africa's advocates for freedom and unity. Those men who refused to accept the judgment passed upon them by the colonies, who held unswervingly through the darkest hours to a vision of an Africa emancipated from political, economic and spiritual domination, will be remembered and revered wherever Africans meet. Many of them never set foot on this continent."
At that same conference, Milton Obote of Uganda insisted that a representative of the Africans in America be invited to participate. In 1964, that representative was Malcolm X, who addressed the Second African Summit Conference in Cairo on July 17, and stated, "Some African leaders at this conference have implied that they have enough problems here on the mother continent without adding the Afro-American problem. With all due respect to your esteemed positions, I must remind all of you that the good shepherd will leave ninety-nine sheep, who are safe at home, to go to the aid of the one who is lost and has fallen into the clutches of the imperialist wolf." Malcolm X also attended the OAU session in Addis Ababa on August 17 as an observer. Malcolm X was instructed to form a single organization to represent all 22 million Africans in America. This organization was called the Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU). Nearly as soon as it was formed, Malcolm X was murdered and the OAAU failed to materialize its strength. Also at this same time, two members of the Rastafari Community in Jamaica made a second mission to Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Kenya to follow up on the 1961 mission, and invited H.I.M. Haile Selassie to visit Jamaica. Two years later, in 1966, His Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie visited Jamaica and addressed the Parliament, saying,
"From another point of view, this is precisely why the OAU has been established. It is because the African Continent, which comprises more than 250 million people, if it were to remain divided among more than 30 states, their individual voices would not carry weight. It is precisely why, since there is an identity of interest, we have attempted to include Jamaica."
From that time to now several members of the Rastafari Community have demanded their rights to citizenship and to Repatriation. Numerous communications were forwarded to the OAU. In 1992, during the 100 Year Anniversary/Centennary Celebration Year of His Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I, the struggle for Repatriation entered a new phase, as Ethiopia witnessed the consistent arrival of Rastafari men, women and children. On August 4, 1992, the Ethiopian World Federation, Incorporated met with officials at the OAU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. During this same year, Priest Harry of the Ethiopian African Black International Congress (EABIC) had face-to-face communications with OAU General Secretary Salim Salim concerning Repatriation. The EABIC called on the OAU to grant Jamaica observer status so that she (Jamaica) could request an OAU member state to take up the issue of Repatriation.
In May of 1993, in Abuja, Nigeria, the OAU organised a Pan-Afrikan Conference on Reparations for the suffering caused by colonialism in Africa The issue of Repatriation was put off. Then in June, rather than giving a member seat to Jamaica, the OAU made Eritrea (historically an Ethiopian territory) its 52nd member. Indeed, on July 14, 1993, Ghanian President Jerry John Rawlings, in a speech to the OAU in Cairo, called for African leaders to "Make a place for Africans in the Diaspora". President Rawlings also said, "We should and must find a way to include all the sons and daughters of Africa in building and moving our societies forward. In this respect, I would propose that the OAU should consider grating observer status to representative groups of Black Africans in the Diaspora." This was followed up by the EABIC with another letter submitted to OAU General Secretary Salim Salim through a Mr. Hagaga on November 17, 1994.
More recently, in 1998, The EABIC Honorable Priest Kenny forwarded a report to Mr. Abdul Kouroma, Assistant Secretary General of the OAU and outlined the situation of the Rastafari Community on the Shashemane land grant. Two years later, in 2000, the Honorable Priest Kenny was also murdered, and to this day, the Rastafari Community still has not received a response from the OAU.
When the African Union reached out to the African Diaspora, incredibly no invitation was extended to the Rastafari Community. Consequently, the Rastafari Community was not represented at the First African Union Western Diaspora Forum held in Washington, D.C. December 17-19, 2002. As a result, the main issue of Repatriation was not even mentioned in the Forum's report.
Therefore, We, the Rastafari Community, would like the Executive Council which is going to meet prior to the Maputo Summit to discuss proposals on how to include the African Diaspora, to include the following recommendations:
1)Acknowledge and address the issues previously raised in several prior communications by members of the Rastafari Community;
2)Fulfill His Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie's desire by granting to Jamaica a seat at the OAU. Likewise, to grant another seat to the Africans in America once they are organized in a single organization similar to Malcolm X's OAAU.
3)To provide for the immediate exercise of Article 15 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by any member of the African Diaspora upon arrival to the continent. Article 15 reads: "(1) Everyone has the right to a nationality. (2) No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality nor denied the right to change his nationality." This could be achieved by setting up Bureaus at all major African airports. Any member of the African Diaspora who so desires to exercise this right would be issued Dual Citizenship, enabling that member to simultaneously hold two passports—one from the country of birth, and the other from the African country of his choice. When this latter passport expires, a new, continental African Union passport is to be automatically issued.
4)To assist the Rastafari Community's effort to repatriate a specific number of people to the Shashemane Land Grant and others under a Five-Year Plan culminating on the Ethiopian Millenium (September 11, 2007).
"We stand today on the stage of world affairs, before the audience of world opinion. We have come together to assert our role in the direction of world affairs and to discharge our duty to the great continent whose two hundred and fifty million people we lead. Africa is today at mid-course, in transition from the Africa of yesterday to the Africa of tomorrow. Even as we stand here we move from the past into the future. The task on which we have embarked, the making of Africa, will not wait. We must act, to shape and mould the future and leave our imprint on events as they pass into history."
--H.I.M. Haile Selassie I, to the OAU, 1963
We look forward to a response from the Executive Council before the Maputo Summit.
Ras Nathaniel, Coordinator
Issembly for Rastafari Iniversal Education (IRIE)
Cc: H.E. Dr. Nkosazana Clarice Dlamini-Zuma, Chairperson
Executive Council of the African Union; H.E. Mr. Amara Essy, Interim Chairperson Commission of the African Union; D.T. Orjiako, Head of Press and Information at the African Union; Mr. Desmond Martin, Chairman of the Jamaican Rastafari Development Community (in Shashemane, Ethiopia); Mr. Ronald Pennycook, President of The Ethiopian World Federation, Inc.; Priest Paul of the Ethiopian African Black International Congress, Rastafari Speaks newspaper
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