FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Prime Minister of St. Vincent Visits Ethiopia with Rastafari Delegation for
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia- October 25, 2005-The Prime Minister of St. Vincent, The Honourable Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves, along with a delegation of four key individuals of the Rastafari faith Nyahbinghi House, arrived in Addis Ababa for discussion with the Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of Ethiopia, as well as, with the Rastafari community in Shashamane. Dr. Desta Y. Meghoo-Peddie, the Interim Director of the Africa Diaspora Forum, and member of a volunteer committee of
Rastafarians to the African Union, provides the following report.
At the meetings between Prime Ministers, it was reaffirmed that the Africans in the Caribbean and Ethiopia have historical and spiritual ties. Bi-lateral agreements were signed on Thursday evening between Ethiopia and St. Vincent for travel between the countries without visas. In order to increase travel and build stronger ties, the Prime Minister Dr. Gonsalves spoke about discussions with other CARICOM nations and South American Heads of State to facilitate
flights from the Caribbean and/or Brazil to Africa. The Prime Ministers made commitments to pursue cultural, economic and social exchanges between both countries. To ensure these exchanges were properly implemented, Prime Minister Gonsalves requested an honorary consular from St. Vincent to Ethiopia be appointed. To further strengthen this effort, Dr. Meghoo-Peddie has asked the Prime Minister of St. Vincent, the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs an the African Union to consider supporting a CARICOM office in Addis Ababa to ensure representation of Caribbean nations and to further strengthen the bonds between Africa and the Caribbean.
Considering the role of the Rastafari community in the promotion of Ethiopia and the agitation for such efforts as relaxed rules for travel to Africa, great joy was felt by the delegation and the Rastafari community in Shashamane when the announcement was made that the Prime Minister Meles Zenawi was presenting a bill to the Ethiopian Parliament which would give to individuals of the Rastafari faith the same status as Ethiopian citizens. During the delegation’s visit to the community of pioneer Rastafari in Shashamane, Ethiopia, the Prime
Minister of St. Vincent reiterated his dedication to forward progress of the Rastafari community and his desire to facilitate repatriation efforts of the Rastafari community in the Caribbean.
As a speaker for CARICOM, Prime Minister Dr. Gonsalves has made a bold effort in linking the Diaspora with Africa. He agrees that the Rastafari community must “engage in the process and cannot have one foot in and the other foot out.” In reference to the Diaspora recently being recognized, in principle, as the sixth region of Africa, he also states that the Rastafari community has “played an important role historically and deserves to be at the table.” In view of this
crucial development in inter-African relations, Dr. Gonsalves encourages Rastafarians and Pan-Africanist, in general, to “put aside our differences and come together on the issues we all can agree upon”; in this instance it is African development and repatriation.
Before the delegation’s departure from Ethiopia, Dr. Meghoo-Peddie presented them with a package of information on the foreign investment opportunities, process and regulations in Ethiopia as well as recent information on the African Union's commitment to the Diaspora. As this visit and respective Prime Ministers have set an example for other Caribbean and African nations for bilateral agreements, Dr. Meghoo-Peddie and Dr. Jinmi Adisa, Senior Coordinator for African Union's CSSDCA/CIDO, coordinated a historic meeting between the Prime Minister Gonsalves and Chairman of the African Union, H.E. Professor Alpha Oumar Konare.
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