Kigali, 17 July 2016

My pleasant and main duty today is to warmly welcome you to Kigali for the 27th Summit of the African Union, which we are honoured to host.

I also thank fellow leaders of Member States, and the Commission, for entrusting Rwanda with this responsibility.

As we begin our deliberations, let us take a moment to reflect together on the meaning and purpose of unity, which is the first principle of our organisation.

The concept of unity is what anchors human diversity in the bedrock of universal values.

Whenever we gather on the basis of what unites us, there is a peaceful solution to every problem. But when people meet as strangers, even small problems are hard to resolve.

Belief in the healing power of unity is the defining virtue of African political culture.

Indeed, in an increasingly divided world, by upholding this principle, Africa has a lot to offer.

The unity of our continent, with an emphasis on integration among other things, should never be subject to preconditions or exceptions, because lasting solutions always involve everyone.

Twenty-two years ago this country was nearly erased, a history that will forever serve as a testament to the consequences of divisionism.

National unity was the starting point for the transformation we have undertaken here in Rwanda, with good progress.

Driven by necessity, Rwandans had to find unconventional solutions to the challenges of reconciliation and development, often through a process of trial-and-error.

We relied first and foremost on our own ideas, efforts, and resources, as well as on the choices of Rwanda’s citizens.

We believe that a Rwandan is just an African from a particular place. The tissue of brotherhood and sisterhood cannot be amputated by lines drawn on a map in another century.

In that spirit, we meet here as the African Union to discuss serious business, beginning with the focus on the rights of Africa’s women.

This matter is on the agenda for good reason. If men and women do not stand in solidarity, then we are going to come up short across the board.

We will also address urgent threats to peace and security, and elect new leadership for our organisation.

Good ideas were discussed in yesterday’s retreat on financing the African Union. We should be the ones to pay for activities in which everyone has a stake.

This puts responsibility and ownership in our hands. We are capable of it, and we were shown how to do so, and I urge us to move forward with the required political will, without delay.

We need to start doing things differently and better.

If Africa’s challenges are treated as routine, it means we have accepted to be held back by them forever.

We must all reject that future.

An important change is the decision to organise this Summit in a way that allows Africa to concentrate on its priorities with fewer distractions in the corridors and lobbies.

In this regard, I wish to thank the Chairperson of the Summit, President Idriss Déby, and the Chairperson of the Commission, Dr Zuma, for the business-like manner in which they have managed this process from the beginning.

There is no doubt that strength comes from relationships with other regions of the world.

Partnerships produce benefits that flow equitably to all parties, when everyone involved has clearly defined their respective interests, objectives, and capabilities.

I am of the view that we should continue to use our Summits to identify the right priorities and outcomes, decide the best way to achieve them, and be ready to do just that.

We might then share our perspectives in an appropriate forum, where we regularly invite strategic partners and regions to meet Africa as a whole and deepen our cooperation.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, Africa is rising, but not as a result of impersonal forces over which we have no control.

Africa is being raised actively, by us, the people of this continent.

Our job is simply to raise Africa even higher.

Unity is not a feel-good slogan. It is a tool for delivering real results in the lives of Africans. Every item on our agenda comes back to them.

I wish to welcome you once again to Rwanda, and wish all of us productive discussions.