Address at the 25th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union

Address by His Excellency Anthony Thomas Aquinas Carmona, ORTT, SC President and Commander In Chief of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, Address at the 25th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union June 15, 2015

Your Excellency Robert Mugabe, Chairperson of the African Union, Your Excellency Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, Your Excellencies

Ladies and gentlemen.

It is an honour and a privilege to be afforded the opportunity to address such distinguished men and women during the 25th Ordinary Session of the African Union. I am in the presence of great leaders, great men and women, and when great men and women meet, great things must happen on the altar of humanity. Shaking hands and engaging in courtesies we must, but we need to take it to another level, and hold hands united in a common purpose, to find solutions, to source answers to the problems that beset and plague this continent of Africa.  I come from small islands, Trinidad and Tobago and a small region, the West Indies. We have big hearts, broad vision and great dreams. The fact that a Caribbean region so small has produced 3 Nobel Laureates, 2 writers, V S Naipaul and Derek Walcott, and economist Professor Arthur Lewis bares testament to what we are capable of and our capacity to not only get the job done but excel at it. My countrymen have historically contributed to the growth and development of Africa. I speak of Henry Sylvester Williams who in 1897 found the African Association to challenge paternalism, racism and imperialism and who coined the term Pan-Africanism, the great Pan-Africanist George Padmore who has a library named after him in Ghana, CLR James, and Kwame Ture (Stokeley Carmichael) in Guinea, Justice Ulric Cross in Sierra Leone and Justice Telford Georges in Tanzania, to name a few.

We need to develop a working concept of globalization that needs a new presence and a new meaning, one that challenges each of us to adopt the persona of a global villager and we must rise to the occasion to fix our problems and not leave it to others. The folded arm technique no longer works in governance. We need to address the crisis of hundreds dying in the Mediterranean Sea and even more dying in the Sahara Desert. Many would consider them nobodies but we were once like them, and by taking care of them, we protect future leaders of Africa. We all ran barefooted on the dusty roads in our past, but now the Emperor wears shoes, and it is our responsibility to ensure that the barefooted child and the doting mother are afforded a holistic environment to realize their dreams and ambitions. No one must be left behind, because one of those barefooted children can well be sitting in this very forum of Leaders in forty years’ time.

The first line of defense in any truly progressive society lies in the empowerment of women, and woman empowerment will not result in our emasculation. It can, however, imbibe and strengthen our societies both with a philosophy and a perspective that forces us all to be more caring, compassionate, practical and just. So that the theme of the Summit – “Year of Woman Empowerment and Development, Toward Africa Agenda 2063” must not only be a yearlong focus – it must be an eternal one. Agenda 2016 of a United Africa cannot be achieved without Woman Power, because gentlemen we know “Woman is Boss”. Nelson Mandela hinted as much in his book A Long Walk to Freedom, “As long as outmoded ways of thinking prevent women from making a meaningful contribution to society, progress will be slow. As long as the nation refuses to acknowledge the equal role of more than half of itself, it is doomed to failure.”

A few days ago in Johannesburg on 8 June 2015 at the ‘Gender is my Agenda’ Pre-Summit Conference, Her Excellency Mrs. Fatima Acyl, Commissioner of Trade and Industry, stated of her boss, Dr. Dlamini Zuma, “She always reminds our Heads of State and leadership, if they are serious about development and shared prosperity, they cannot ignore more than 50% of our population, the women. If we don’t empower women, we will function at half capacity and it will be a huge missed opportunity.” It is indeed a telling message and mandate to us all not only how we must chart the Continental route, how we must captain the ship of governance, but also who should make up the crew. The old African proverb, “If you educate a man you educate an individual, but if you educate a woman you educate a nation” continues to resound forcefully today. There is a proviso I submit.

The sustainable development of Africa and other regions of the globe, including the Caribbean, would not be achieved without an enabling environment, and must include inter- and intra- lasting State peace, security and stability.

Peace and security of our planet must be based on the collective action of all nations, not a few, however powerful they may be.

That is why Trinidad and Tobago together with African countries and an overwhelming majority of member States of the United Nations adopted the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) in 2013. The ATT which entered into force on December 24, 2014, aims to regulate, and I need to emphasize not ban, but regulate the international trade in conventional arms, and to prevent their diversion to the illicit trade.

We in the Caribbean, the Group of Latin American and Caribbean region (GRULAC) and African have witnessed the deleterious effects of the illicit trade in small arms and light weapons which have fueled the narcotics trade and other trans-boundary crimes, resulting in human suffering.  Africa also continues to suffer due to the pernicious illicit trade although neither region is a major manufacturer or exporter of conventional arms.

Africa and the Caribbean supported the ATT because we believe that it can contribute to peace and security and reduce human suffering.  To date, 10 African countries are States Parties to the ATT and 26 have signed. The support is tremendous.  Proper implementation is pivoted on the establishment of an independent Secretariat to assist States Parties through international cooperation.

Trinidad and Tobago has offered its candidature to be the host country of the ATT Secretariat against its unstinting commitment to peace and security to achieve sustainable development. We also believe that the geopolitical realities of the world have changed and that there should be equitable geographical distribution in the location of major international institutions to prevent a handful of countries from continuing to enjoy a monopoly in the location of global bodies.

Trinidad and Tobago’s candidature to have the ATT Secretariat located in a region disproportionately affected by the illegal arms trade has been endorsed by CARICOM, the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States, and has garnered the support of other States, including some in Africa.  I am here today to request the support of those States which have not as yet pledged their support for the candidature of Trinidad and Tobago, a fraternal State with historical, cultural and spiritual ties to Africa to be the site of the ATT Secretariat and to vote in favour of this candidacy at the Conference of States Parties to be held in Mexico in August of this year. Globalization must have as a critical component international dispensation in the locality of UN institutions. It cannot be and must not be business as usual in the establishment and location of international institutions, especially of the United Nations.

I humbly entreat you to support Trinidad and Tobago, a State which, as an Observer Member of the AU, identifies with the aspirations of Africa to achieve the type of development which has been the cause of many of our Caribbean Pan-Africanists, including those from Africa. We are the first to honour the memories of those who perished through slavery by declaring 1 August as Emancipation Day.

I am inspired by the new joie de vivre, the new energy that I am witnessing in Africa, that I have personally experienced here in this forum, the ancestral home of many of the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago and the wider Caribbean.

Trinidad and Tobago salutes the vision of the leadership across the continent to transform affirmatively Africa so that it could achieve sustainable development and once more assume leadership in many spheres in the international community. We share your aspirations to achieve the Africa You Want through your Agenda 2063.

All leaders here, however, must remember this message I leave with you: What is required of us as leaders are not standards of perfection but rather fair, just and equitable dispensation of what is owed to all.

I thank you.