4 March 2004 Edition

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Speakers from South Africa and the Basque country

Speakers from South Africa and the Basque country

Once again the voices of the Basques, Palestinians and South Africans were present at Sinn Féin's Ard Fheis to talk about solidarity, empathy and freedom.

Pernando Barrena and Esther Agirre travelled from a very troubled Basque Country, as representatives of the banned political organisation Batasuna. However difficult the situation in the Basque Country, Barrena was optimist that the pro-independence movement will advance their goals even while facing the higher levels of depression since Franco's dictatorship.

In his very passionate intervention, Palestine's ambassador to Ireland, Ali Halimeh, denounced the continuous occupation of Palestinian land by the Israeli state in defiance of UN resolutions. Halimeh told delegates how freedom movements around the world have been inspired by Sinn Féin achievements, and referring specifically to the Palestinian case, he pointed out how different ways of fighting can take to a similar aim: in this case, "the achievement of justice".

He said this year has been one of struggle and defiance and warned that no one will be able to stop Palestinians in their struggle for freedom. "We are freedom fighters, my friends. We are fighting in order to achieve our right to establish our own independent state on our national soil in Palestine. We are not occupying Israeli land. They are the ones occupying our land."

Mavivi Myakayaka-Manzini, responsible for the international affairs department of the African National Congress, outlined how the principles driving republican struggle - "national territorial reunification, political independence and sovereignty, the free exercise without external interference of the right to national self-determination, national reconciliation and international relationships with neighbours" — coincide with those pursued by the ANC.

These principles, she said, are now encapsulated in the Freedom Chapter, " a document which guides the ANC and the masses of South Africa in the struggle and reconstruction presently taking place".

Manzini pointed to one of the principles included in the Chapter, that states that "South Africa belong to all who live in it and that no government can claim authority unless it is based on the will of all people.

"It is this shared common vision that has made the people of Ireland and South Africa develop a spirit of solidarity and oneness. We share the same vision, we pursue the same principles and objectives. We are engaged in the same struggle but in different boundaries and contexts."

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