Intervention of Hassan Sunnomo, General Secretary of the Organization for the African Trade Union Unity OATUU in the opening session of the WFTU 15th Congress on December 1st, 2005.1 December 2005
I am conveying warm greetings from the Organization for the African Trade Union Unity (OATUU), the only one representing all the trade union trends in Africa and the 25 million African workers in 54 African countries.
This historical WFTU 15th Congress is taking place in Havana, in the heroic Cuba and in the heroic 60th Anniversary of the WFTU foundation.
Congratulations should be accepted for surviving in good and bad times , for overcoming all the challenges we had to face.
Having read the Document on Analysis and Guidance of the 15th Congress, I should say that the majority of the political analysis matches with the positions of my organization.
In this brief meeting, we should give a respond to those issues we are worried about. In this document you are asking if trade union organizations have capacity, means and readiness to play an influential role in adopting governmental and institutional decisions. Our answer is YES, trade unions count with the appropriate capacity , however this capacity can be greatly increased if trade unions carry out their strategy together with other allied ones such as intellectuals, young people, peasants, women, social organizations and civil society.
Regarding a question about if trade unions are prepared to increase efficiency in order to oppose the neo-liberal aggression; our answer is as follows: the trade union movement does not have any other alternative, but to increase efficiency to oppose all types of neo-liberal aggression. At present, it would be a class suicide if we did something in opposite direction.
All the organizations in the world will both promote their activities and increase efficiency of their functions. We categorically reiterate that OATUU’s workers and brothers reject the following:
v All the social and economic policies and programs against the peoples and development lead to an increase of debt and poverty. In addition, the neo-liberal forces are using the WB, the IMF and the WTO to impose their policies in the developing countries.
v We are also opposed to all the policies that deny the sovereignty of nations, as well as their right to determine their social and economic destiny.
v All the hegemonic policies, unilateralism and militarism, no matter where they come from.
Human beings are the first thing to us, so it should be the main issue and the core of all the existing policies in favor of development. Social development should constitute the basis of the economic development.
Let me tell you that we are very proud of Cuba, that you have made a social development to be the basis of the economic one in your country and that’s why today Cuba has conditions to support other countries. Thank you, Cuba.
Consequently, there should be a respect for those trade union rights which constitute a part of human rights. Human rights also include the right to employment, nevertheless when talking about human rights, nobody emphasizes in the right to employment, as a part of them. It is a part of the work we have to undertake now and in the future as trade union organizations, such as: the right to education, the right to healthcare, the right to housing and the right to social security. Besides, we have to add to these individual ones, the rights of the groups, the rights of the communities and the rights of the nations.
Trade unions are morally obliged to defend, promote and protect both individual and collective rights, besides, they should also defend, promote and protect the peoples’ and nation’s social, economic and cultural rights. it is a part of our work.
Trade unions are morally obliged to defend, promote and protect the participation and democracy in our countries. New ideas on democracy are not tolerable.
Let me share some present and future activities of our organization with you, the issues I consider should be included in this Congress debate.
Debt and Development
Since the early 80´s the African countries have been used as “Indian rabbits” by the IMF and the WB to make their neo-liberal experiments , which led to an increase of the debt and a free imposition of the adjustment programs.
After around 20 years, following the African independence process, all the social and economic progress in this continent was completely deleted. Millions of jobs were destroyed and the African countries debt raised from 200 billions USD in 1980 to 340 billions USD in the 90´s.
In spite of paying a debt that cost more than hundreds of thousands dollars, you can read in paragraph 62 of the Document on the Analysis and Guidance of this Congress the following: In 2003 the developed countries transferred 68 400 dollars to the developing countries as an Official Aid to Development. The Third World countries payed 436 billions USD to the developed countries as a payment of debt and interests, but it would be good to ask: who helps whom?, it is said in the document.
Indeed, the developing countries are helping today’s rich countries of the world, then consequently, the position of OATUU and the African countries- a position we want to be supported by this Congress – it is the position of the African and the Third World Countries debt, which has been already paid many times and there is nothing else remaining to pay.
The debt of the African countries and from some of the Third World should be cancelled without any conditions or collectively disowned. In addition, all the financial and cultural assets of the African and the Third World countries was sacked and taken to European and North American museums, therefore, their assets should be repatriated back to their original countries without any prerequisite.
I am going to quote an example. One of the principal Nigerian dictators, in my country, a General that passed away in June 1998, robbed more than 2 billions dollars from the National Treasury and kept in different accounts in Swiss and other European banks. After a fruitful legal litigation, the Nigerian government got a judgment in its favor in the Swiss court.
This Congress should be pronounced in favor of the debt cancellation and the unconditional return of all sacked assets, no matter whether financial or cultural.
So, OATUU together with its interlocutors: the African Employer Confederation and the African governments achieved that the African Unity organized an Extraordinary Summit on Employment and Poverty Relief in Africa through the Tripartite Commission of Social and Labor Matters of the African Unity. This event was held with ILO technical and financial support in Burkina Faso in September, 2005.
The Summit of Heads of States and Governments adopted a historical program of action and follow-up, in which there is a generation of decent jobs placed in the core of all the African policies and economic and social programs. It should be known that ILO adopted a similar program in a meeting held last month.
I think we are facing a challenge now: that our governments and heads of states should act according to what they speak and should also give some priorities to the social and economic development of their countries.
Before ending, I want to thank Cuba, our host, for the support that the government, the workers and the Cuban people has given to the Third World Countries, especially in Africa since January 1st, 1959.Therefore, at OATUU 8th Congress held in Sudan in January, 2004, it was unanimously approved a resolution of support to Cuba in recognition to its position next to the African peoples despite all the difficulties Cuba is facing due to an unjustifiable US embargo against this nation.
I am reiterating in this Congress, the support and solidarity of the African peoples and trade unions to the Revolutionary Cuban people and government, looking forward to strengthening our relations, as well as the friendship between Africa and Cuba.
Our organization and all the African workers wish you a great success in this WFTU 15th Congress.
Long live the unity of the working class!