The African union (AU) was a replacement of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) which was established on 25 May 1963 in Addis Ababa and disbanded on 9 July 2002. AU was founded on 26 May 2001 in Ethiopia, and launched on 9 July 2002 in Durban, South Africa.
Organization of African Unity (1963-2002)
The Organization of African Unity (OAU, 1963-2002) was an alliance of independent African nations working to enhance cooperation between the newly decolonized African governments. The alliance had its basis in the Pan-Africanist philosophy encouraging the unity of all peoples of African ancestry, but it also was inspired by ongoing independence struggles as various African nations freed themselves from European colonial rule in the early 1960s.
On May 25, 1963, Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie invited the heads of the 32 independent African nations at the time to convene at his country’s capital, Addis Ababa. The result of this conference was the formation of the OAU, which would grow in membership to include 54 of the 55 African states as members. Morocco was the only state to decline membership.
The OAU’s basic principles included promotion of solidarity among African states, improved quality of life for Africans, a promise to defend the sovereignty of African states, and eradication of colonialism in all its forms. The OAU hoped to achieve these goals through cooperation and peaceful negotiation between its members.
The OAU established various working groups, including the Commission of Mediation, Conciliation and Arbitration, which was designed to aid with the peaceful settlement of disputes between members. The OAU also helped to finance independence movements in those nations still under European rule, thus playing an instrumental role in independence for such states as Zimbabwe in 1980. The OAU further was committed to battling apartheid and white minority rule in states such as South Africa, which joined the organization in 1994.
Ideological differences between the member states often made agreement on a single course of action difficult. The absence of an armed force similar to the United Nations’ peacekeeping contingents left the organization with no means to enforce its edicts. And its unwillingness to intervene in the internal affairs of member nations often meant it would not confront brutal dictatorships such as Idi Amin‘s regime in Uganda or domestic crises such as the Rwandan Genocide, prompting some observers to criticize the OAU as a forum for rhetoric rather than action.
Recognizing many of these shortcomings, the OAU in September 1999 issued the Sirte Declaration, calling for a new body to take its place. On July 9, 2002, this proposal was fulfilled with the creation of the African Union (2002- ), which continues to this day to uphold many of the founding principles of the OAU.
African Union (2002- )
The African Union (AU) is an alliance of 53 African states that aim to advance and integrate Africa as a continent. The Union was created on September 9, 1999 when the Sirte Declaration was put forward by the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which proposed to form a new organization to take its place. On July 9, 2002 the AU was formed, with its headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The AU’s aims are similar to those of the old OAU: protecting individual African states sovereignty; improving the standard of life for Africans; advancing African research in technology and science; and dispelling the vestiges of colonialism in the African continent through empowering both African economies and cultures. The AU, however, has a stronger emphasis on economic and political integration of African states than the OAU, and takes a more active role in settling internal disputes between its member states.
The AU works through various organizations to achieve its goals. The Peace and Security Council (PSC), formed in 2004, works to settle disputes and violations of human rights without violence. For instance, in 2009 the PSC deemed Andry Rajoelina’s ascent to power in Madagascar as unconstitutional, thus suspended Madagascar’s membership in the AU. The PSC also has the power to deploy a military force if instances of crimes against humanity occur in any of the AU member states. To further the economic advancement and integration of African states a program named the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) has been adopted by the AU, which aims to eradicate poverty and promote sustainable economic growth on the African continent. The Pan-African Parliament represents all 53 states and works as the legislative body of the AU, deciding on courses of action based on the key principle of the AU – the development and progress of Africa.
The AU is based upon the idea of Pan-Africanism and the resolution of the negative effects of European colonialism. In this spirit, in October, 2004 the AU organized the First Conference of Intellectuals of Africa and of the Diaspora in Dakar, Senegal. The aim of the conference was to bring together people of African descent from around the world to unite in an effort to celebrate and promote African history and culture, and to discuss the role of Africa in the future.
The AU works to the present day to empower the African continent through economic, political and social integration of the individual states.