FOR Africans in Diaspora who have long lost contact with their ancestral homes, a window of opportunity has now opened for them to reconnect with their roots and contribute to the development of their ancestral continent.
This opportunity is coming, thanks to a historic collaboration between the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN).
The AU has already fixed a meeting for June in South Africa, which would be the first African Diaspora summit of its kind.
At a meeting yesterday in New York between AU officials and their UN colleagues on how to re-establish the link, the UN Special Adviser for Africa, Mr. Cheick Sidi Diarra, said that “there is now clear recognition that the African identity is a global one,” regardless of how Africans now leaving abroad left the continent either by reasons of war, choice or slavery.
Diarra, who is a UN Under-Secretary-General, noted the importance of establishing co-operation between Africa-based decision-makers and Diaspora communities worldwide to work on shared issues to improve the life of the continent’s peoples.
Ahead of Thursday’s meeting at the UN headquarters, the President of the AU Pan African Parliament, which is organising the meeting had told UN reporters on Wednesday that the meeting would feature legislators from African Diaspora communities in the United States (U.S.), Europe, Asia and any other continents outside Africa. This means that African-American Congressmen and women, at the federal level, state lawmakers and local council men and women have been invited.
Nigeria is one of the 47 AU member-nations, which are represented on the 235-member Parliament, which is expected to assume full legislative powers of the AU next year. .
Dr. Moussa Idriss Ndele, from Chad, the Parliament’s President told UN reporters that the effort was “to mobilize the potential of the African Diaspora to help revitalize their ancestral homeland and spur the growth and empowerment of people of African descent worldwide.”
Plans are already set, he disclosed, for the AU’s first-ever global summit on the topic of the African Diaspora later this year. .
Ndele said that yesterday’s meeting at the UN was a preparatory one planned by the parliament and hosted by the AU mission at the UN ahead of the May 25, 2012 forum of the Parliament ahead of the June summit, to be held in Midrand, South Africa.
An African-American commentator on Pan-African issues, and university teacher, Prof. David L. Horne commenting on the development and the invitation from the AU to African-Americans, said that “this is the first time we, the Diaspora as a whole, have been so honoured.”
Writing on his blog, Horne noted that the AU “has called us to the negotiation and discussion table to engage the issue of Africa’s future… There is no question that we both want to and need to accept the invitation.”
According to Diarra yesterday, “people of African descent are dispersed to all parts of the world due to forced migrations through slavery, colonialism and war and more recently to voluntary migrations due to globalisation.
“These pockets of African people scattered around the world can now play a significant role in Africa’s growth, development and empowerment,” he said.
This will be the first time that the AU holds a summit with Heads of States on the subject of Diaspora, and the event seeks to create partnerships between African legislators and legislators in Diaspora communities worldwide.
The summit also aims to draw the attention of global decision-makers to share issues between Africa and its Diaspora communities, and to provide lawmakers with an understanding of the challenges faced by each Diaspora community, as well as enhance their capacity to lobby at a national and regional levels.
Yesterday, the preparatory meeting in New York featured some parliamentarians from Africa and the Diaspora as well as prominent civil society members, setting out the agenda and the format of the summit later in the year.
Ndele noted that the AU summit later in the year would be preceded by a two-day African parliamentary Diaspora forum, also in Midrand, aiming to “bring the Diaspora closer to the African Union and see how they could contribute to support for (wider) Africa.”
The culmination, he said would be the first African Union Summit in June 2012 with and about the African Diaspora. He said that the summit was to be held at the Head of State level and followed up the aim of the AU, as set out in its Constitutive Act, to “invite and encourage the full participation of the African Diaspora as an important part of our continent, in the building of the African Union.”
Responding to several questions, Ndele stressed that “Diaspora” covered all people of African origin living outside the continent, irrespective of their citizenship or nationality. He said that the Diaspora had contributed much to the African continent, including through the respective struggles to end colonisation and eradicate racism worldwide.