Rastafari at the African Union Update
April 9, 2003
Greetings and Rastafari Blessings in the name of H.I.M. Haile Selassie Andenha and H.I.M Woizero Giorgis Empress Menen.
On Februrary 3-4, 2003, I, Ras Nathaniel, Coordinator of the Issembly For Rastafari Iniversal Education (IRIE), attended the African Union (AU)Summit here in Addis Ababa as a journalist for the Rastafari Speaks Newspaper. Following that AU summit, I travelled to Shashemane to inform the Rastafari Community what happened at the AU Summit, and particularly their decision to ammend the AU Constitutive Act to include the African Diaspora. At a meeting of the Jamaican Rastafari Development Community (JRDC) in Shashemane, I informed the Rastafari Community that the AU had held an outreach forum for the African Diaspora prior to the AU Summit. That forum was held in December, 2002, and produced a seventy (70) page document of recommendations for the AU. As the Rastafari Community was not represented at the Forum, I&I main issues concerning Repatriation were omitted. Moreover, the Forum's recommendations were to be discussed in a meeting prior to the next AU summit in Maputo, Mozambique in July, 2003. Therefore, I suggested to the JRDC that we submit a letter with I&I own recommendations TO BE CONSIDERED BEFORE THE MAPUTO SUMMIT, and it was unanimously agreed to do so. Thus, On February 25, IRIE submitted its first letter to the AU on behalf of the Rastafari Family Worldwide. This letter was subsequently followed up with two more letters which were emailed to officials and hand delivered at the AU. The AU, however, did not respond, so I decided to visit the AU to see if the letters reached AU officials.
On Monday, April 7, I, Ras Nathaniel, met briefly with Mr. D.T. Orjiako, Head of the Press and Information Department at the African Union. It was an unscheduled meeting--our paths just happened to cross. Mr. Orjiako recognized me and acknowledged that he had, indeed, received the emails I sent. He did not say whether other officials had received them, nor did he mention if I&I recommendations would be discussed at the meeting before the Maputo Summit. Mr. Orjiako mentioned that "modalities" for inlcuding the African Diaspora had not been determined, but that they would be by next year. I gathered from this that Mr. Orjiako was suggesting that I&I would have to wait until after certain decisions were already made, before we could participate. This, I believe is unacceptable. I&I need to participate in the decision making that will affect I&I.
After meeting with Mr. Orjiako, I then met with Mrs. Seka Frepeau, Senior Documentation Officer at the AU, who arranged for IRIE to have access to the AU archives and library. As a follow-up from a previous meeting, I submitted Mrs. Frepeau with a proposal for internships for four members of the Rastafari Community to assit her in updating the AU's archives. Anyone interested in a three to six month paid internship, transportation and housing included, should download the Repatriation Application from the www.rastaites.com website and indicate "AU Internship" on the application. Nothing has been set yet, but Mrs. Frepeau was very interested. Mrs. Frepeau then explained that one way the Rastafari Community could get its issues "heard" and promoted within the AU, would be to participate in the "Fridays of the Commission of the African Union" program sponsored by the Directorate of Economic Afairs in collaboration with the Conference Services Directorate of the Commission. Mrs. Frepeau then arranged a meeting with the Director, Dr. Rene N'Guettia Kouassi.
On Tuesday, April 8, I met briefly with Dr. Kouassi. The "Fridays of the Commission" program meets the last Friday of every month. According to its program information, the program "in fact constitutes a Meeting-Debate Forum for discussing economic, political and social issues of the moment. The Forum will offer a rare opportunity for staff members of the Commission, African Diplomats of the Permanent Representatives' Committee and the staff of the United Nations system in Addis Ababa to meet and share experience and information on the above mentioned issues." More importantly, "the speaker will be required, one week prior to the meeting, to submit to the Directorate of Economic Affairs a written text of his/her presentation to facilitate translation (into English or French), WIDE DISTRIBUTION AFTER THE MEETING AND POSSIBLE PUBLICATION IN THE AFRICAN UNION NEWSLETTER."
Thus, while IRIE is under no illusions about the African Union's willingness to assist I&I Repatriation effort, IRIE does see an opportunity to sensitize a large segment of the African Union to I&I issue of Repatriation. Participation in this forum would constitute a viable lobbying opportunity. Therefore, at this time, IRIE is preparing a presentation and solicits input from the Rastafari Family Worldwide.
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