Item 651 - Address by President Nelson Mandela at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)

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Address by President Nelson Mandela at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)


  • 1998-10-30 (Creation)

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Transcription of speech made by Mr Mandela

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(18 July 1918-5 December 2013)

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Migrated from the Nelson Mandela Speeches Database (Sep-2018).

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ANC Website

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Meeting of Heads of State of ECOWAS

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  • English

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Your Excellency, the Chair of ECOWAS
Heads of State
Distinguished delegates
Ladies and Gentlemen

It is indeed an honour for me as the Chair of SADC, to have been invited to address African leaders at this meeting of Heads of State of the Economic Community of West African states.

This, my first visit to an ECOWAS Summit, is for me personally also my final visit as the President of South Africa and Chairman of SADC. I thank you most sincerely for affording me the rare privilege.

It provides a valuable occasion for us to share ideas on the similar and complex challenges faced by our two regions of West and Southern Africa.

In today's world, no country can conduct its affairs in isolation. What happens in any country in a region impacts on its neighbours, and still further afield. The global financial turmoil originating far away from our own economies has taught a harsh lesson in the economic interdependence that is one of the distinguishing marks of today's world. It has reminded us, if we needed it, that none of us can solve our problems on our own.

Our regional associations are indeed a practical recognition of the need for us to seek development through co-operation with our neighbours, and to boost growth through regional integration.

As they succeed they will become ever more trustworthy building blocks in the African economic community which will further unleash our potential. They will enhance our collective weight in the search for a new international economic order that better reflects the needs of developing countries and the poor.

To the extent that we build economic links between our regions, between ECOWAS and SADC, we will advance these objectives.

Our shared economic perspectives, and our common commitment to democracy, human rights and good governance, as well as the progress we are making in realising these ideals, give us reason to speak of a rebirth of our continent.

If I may, I would like to take this opportunity to convey to our host and friend, General Abdusalaam Abubakar, our joy at the opening of the way towards the restoration of democracy in Nigeria.

But the achievement of any of our goals is, we know, dependent on the achievement of the others. In particular the greatest weapon that any nation or region can have in striving for development, is peace. The process of renewal and reconstruction, and all our hopes of a new dawn, are put in peril by political conflicts which bedevil both our regions.

At the threshold of a new century that holds out the real potential for us to redress Africa's legacy of poverty and underdevelopment, are we as leaders allowing a situation to develop which could undo our efforts at improving the lives of Africa's children by eradicating hunger; disease and ignorance!

Like our other challenges, these too are beyond the capacity of any one country to solve. Our regional and continental organisations provide an indispensable framework within which we must seek solutions.

You, as the Heads of state of ECOWAS, will be deliberating on such matters as the situation in Sierra Leone and the current crisis in Guinea-Bissau. It is our fervent hope that your deliberations, building on the growing West African experience in the resolution of conflict, will promote a peaceful political solution to these crises.

SADC too is troubled by instances of political instability, most notably in Lesotho, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

I am happy to report that the intervention of SADC mediators has facilitated progress by Lesotho's leaders, to the extent that we feel confident that a political solution acceptable to all parties is near at hand.

The conflict in the DCR remains a burning ember of political instability in our region, one which could pose a serious threat to the African continent.

The military conflict has the potential to escalate further, and to destabilise ever more of our continent with the increasing number of countries militarily involved.

South Africa continues to promote a peaceful resolution to this conflict, through SADC and in consultation with the OAU and other regional initiatives, in accordance with principles decided upon at the SADC Summit in Pretoria in August.

The immediate implementation of a cease-fire, a standstill of military forces and the withdrawal of all foreign forces from the DRC are imperative. So too is a dialogue of all parties to the conflict on the security' concerns of all affected states.

Finally and fundamentally, an all inclusive political dialogue to achieve long term peace in the DRC is essential. Our point of departure must be that whatever assistance others can give, it is the people of the DRC who must determine their own destiny.

The peaceful resolution of these and other conflicts would be an immense contribution to the future of Africa, both for their immediate impact, and for the confirmation they will give that Africa has leaders who can rise to the challenge of their times, because they know that the solutions in their own hands.

Your Excellencies,

I thank you for affording me this opportunity to address you on issues which affect the future of our continent as we approach the new millennium.

It is my earnest hope that your deliberations will be, crowned with success.

On a personal note, I will soon be retiring from public life that demands of office have prevented me from visiting all the peoples whose solidarity made the ending of the apartheid system less costly than it might have been, and thanking them for what they did.

But I am moved today at being amongst the leaders of so many of those countries whose peoples regarded our freedom as their own.

To be amongst leaders who are bringing to the challenges of today the same intensity that freed our continent, fills one with hope that the next century will indeed be an African century of peace and development.

I thank you.

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Acquisition method: From website ; Source: ANC Website. Accessioned on 11/12/06 by Helen Joannides




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