My recent trip to Africa’s diplomatic capital, Addis Ababa in Ethiopa, for the Africa youth day celebration on November 1 was a mesmerizing experience. Originally this trip was not part of my strategic plan for 2015. Preparations for the trip began in late August due in part to the encouragement of my boss, Mr David Allu. The experience brought to mind memories of my last trip to East Africa in 2009 for the Zain Africa Challenge inter University Quiz competition. These were my first experiences of Kenya and Uganda and which certainly whet my travelling appetite.
Setting out from my abode at Uyo, Akwa Ibom State in far Southern Nigeria in the early hours of October 25th, I journeyed North to Abuja to catch a flight to Nairobi en route to Addis Ababa. I was joined in Abuja by James Allu and fellow delegates Chiagozie Udeh and Ngozi Emmanuel; together, we set out for Addis Ababa.
Our trip to Addis was eventful, most notably for the cancellation of our connecting flight from Nairobi to Addis Ababa. We were treated to a five star experience at Nairobi’s Panari Hotel (just for one night though), and afterwards continued our journey to Addis. We eventually landed at Addis Ababa on 28th October around Noon, and after clearing security and immigration, were warmly received by the YALDA-AAU team (Youth Alliance for Leadership and Development in Africa—Addis Ababa University Chapter) who were the conference organizers, and conveyed us to our temporary lodgings at Afarensis Hotel.
After we were peacefully settled at the hotel, we were treated to an Ethiopian welcoming luncheon subsequent to registration on 29th October. Our next event was a delegates training session, which allowed us to further familiarise ourselves with the conference formalities. Delegates were divided into three committees with each one assigned to an African Country. The committees were
- Gender Equality, Women in Business and Entrepreneurship
- Right to Health and Right to Education
- Youth Civic Space and Diaspora in Youth
I was assigned to the ‘Youth Civic Space and Diaspora in Youth’ Committee as the Eritrean delegate, with my delegate partners, Musinguzi Wilfred and Bit Mar Saad.
On 30th October, the summit began after a Model African Union General Assembly at the Main Conference Hall of the Old African Union Building. After a short session there, we dispersed for the committee sessions.
Representing Eritrea in the context of youth issues was no simple task, especially considering the troubles the country is alleged to have had with Military Service conscription, absconding of Eritrean delegates at sporting competitions as asylum seekers and countless Eritrean youths who risk their lives fleeing their country to undertake dangerous crossings of the Sahara and Meditteranean. Yet, despite these factors, I was determined not to be a passive committee member. I was determined to ensure my voice was heard whilst trying to realistically and effectively work as an an Eritrean representation.
Observing what I began to think was the parliamentary naivety of most delegates in my committee, I was satisfied with my performance until a certain Lesotho delegate tabled a motion stating that Nation states such as Eritrea, who have not yet ratified the ‘African Youth Charter’, be disenfranchised from the debate and subsequent voting on any resolution on the youth issue. There and then, I championed the Eritrean cause by calling for an open worded apology to the Eritrean delegation from the Lesotho delegation as their statement seemed vindictive. I argued that my government was still studying the document, after which a decision on the appropriate ratification action on the charter will be taken. I intended to stage a walk out, but not wanting to cause a parliamentary crisis, remained present whilst the Chairperson urged progress as the Lesotho delegation only stated facts. The Lesotho delegation continued to chide my delegation saying…
‘It is deeply saddening that reality worries you’.
That statement seemingly dealt a death blow to all my self satisfied parliamentary wit. Not willing to prolong the matter further, I let things rest.
Aligning to blocs during the unmoderated caucus was another issue. Acquainted with the apparent uncooperative stance of Eritrea with her regional bloc, IGAD (Inter Governmental Authority on Development), and not wanting to sit side by side with the Ethiopian delegation, I let my delegation play lone wolf choosing instead to independently align with the nearby delegation of Zambia, Congo and Benin, and together we worked to draft a resolution. As the committee reconvened for a final moderated caucus, time constraints only allowed for the resolution put forward by the Algerian delegation be debated upon and adopted as the committee’s final working paper to be presented at the General Assembly.
As an interlude between committee sessions, delegates were given a pep talk on Agenda 2063 by an AU volunteer, Jerry Laurence Lemogo.
Getting the resolutions passed on the floor of the final General Assembly was no mean task. While others had a simpler time with what could be described as near easy passages, my committee was critiqued but in the end allowed to pass.
Having concluded the sessions of the Model African Union, all was set for the Africa Youth Day slated for 1st November. The session was held at one of the committee rooms in the new African Union Headquarters building. The day was based around the themed “Agenda 2063” with a special focus on the African Union declaration of the year 2016 as “African Year of Human Rights –The Africa we want with particular focus on the Rights of Women”.
There were opening addresses, notably from the President of the Pan African Youth Union, Francine Muyumba and the Africa Union Commissioner for Human Resources, Science and Technology, Dr. Martial De-Paul Ikounga. A message from the Head of the African Union commission, Dr Nkosanza Dlamini Zuma was relayed in absentia in a short video clip, which conveyed her best wishes for the African Youth.
Aside the reading of the resolution from the Model African Union Sessions, there was a presentation of works from African Youths who were deemed outstanding in their personal endeavours. In all, we were thrilled by the presentation of ten of them as ‘Youth Heroes’ for their humanitarian work in HIV/AIDS education, girl child empowerment, Sex education etc.
In rounding off the session, there was a hearing on the good work of the African Union Youth clubs and other associated youth clubs from their representatives. In the end, more collaborative work amongst these various groups was urged, and the Pan African Youth Union was officially recognized for its correspondence with the African Union Youth division. More inclusive initiatives were suggested to bring on board youths who are not students of higher institutions of learning.
The day ended with a photo session as everyone dispersed with a message of hope and motivated to engage further in the actualization of Agenda 2063.
Just before my departure, I found time to tour Addis Ababa on 2nd November, thanks to my Ethiopian friend Asefa Lintso. In his absence he enlisted his good friend, Deneke Desalegn, to be my tour guide. Though pained that I couldn’t get on the famed Addis metro train, I visited the Museum, Emperor Haile Selassie’s Palace at the Addis Ababa University and of course the Nigerian Embassy. We were just in time to catch the ambassador, His Excellency, Usman Baraya who just flew in from New Delhi following the India-Africa summit. His Excellency treated us to a Nigerian Jollof Rice which was cooked amazingly by an Ethiopian Chef I learnt had been working at the embassy for 32 years!
Bole Airport was my next port of call for my departure from Addis Ababa. Coincidentally, even though we had booked our flights separately without any prior knowledge of one another, I travelled aboard the same flight with delegates I met en-route Addis Ababa!
My trip to Addis Ababa was a great experience as an introduction to the intricacies of Pan African diplomacy. I met with over 250 delegates from about 30 African Countries and surely, my journey into Pan Africanism has just begun!
Agenda 2063, On Y Va