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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.
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African Union (AU), formerly (1963–2002) Organization of African Unity, intergovernmental organization, established in 2002, to promote unity and solidarity of African states, to spur economic development, and to promote international cooperation. The African Union (AU) replaced the Organization of African Unity (OAU). The AU’s headquarters are in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The OAU was established on May 25, 1963, and its activities included diplomacy (especially in support of African liberation movements), mediation of boundary conflicts and regional and civil wars, and research in economics and communications. The OAU maintained the “Africa group” at the United Nations (UN) through which many of its efforts at international coordination were channeled. The OAU was instrumental in bringing about the joint cooperation of African states in the work of the Group of 77, which acts as a caucus of developing nations within the UN Conference on Trade and Development.
The principal organ of the OAU was the annual assembly of heads of state and government. Between these summit conferences, policy decisions were in the hands of a council of ministers, composed of foreign ministers of member states.
The major practical achievements of the OAU were mediations in several border disputes, including those of Algeria and Morocco (1963–64) and Kenya and Somalia (1965–67). It monitored events in South Africa and advocated international economic sanctions against that country as long as the official policy of apartheid was in place. In 1993 the OAU created a mechanism to engage in peacemaking and peacekeeping on the continent. In 1998 the OAU sponsored an international panel headed by former Botswanan president Ketumile Masire to investigate the genocide that took place in Rwanda in 1994 its report was released in 2000.
Also in 2000, in a move spearheaded by Libyan leader Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi, it was proposed that the OAU be replaced by a new body, the African Union. The African Union was to be more economic in nature, similar to the European Union, and would contain a central bank, a court of justice, and an all-Africa parliament. A Constitutive Act, which provided for the establishment of the African Union, was ratified by two-thirds of the OAU’s members and came into force on May 26, 2001. After a transition period, the African Union replaced the OAU in July 2002. In 2004 the AU’s Pan-African Parliament was inaugurated, and the organization agreed to create a peacekeeping force, the African Standby Force, of about 15,000 soldiers.
This article was most recently revised and updated by Kenneth Pletcher, Senior Editor.
What the Organization of African Unity Got Right…And Where It Went Wrong
From the very beginning, the Organization of African Unity was a political and economic organizations. That was its first problem. The primary failure of the Organization of African Unity was the lack of a standing military. From the very beginning, the Organization of African Unity was a political and economic organizations. That was its first problem.
Today, the United Nations has proven to be a capable organization only because they are able to carry out mandates with the force of arms. The OAU had no such force to back its resolutions. As a result, the organization was helpless to do all but decry the civil wars in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, the human rights violations of many of the continent’s dictators (who were also members of the organization), and the genocides that were carried out from time to time in member nations – including the genocide in Rwanda.
Pin A woman searches the names of victims of the Rwandan genocide. The African Union was unable to prevent the deaths of more than 800,000 Rwandans.
Without force of arms, the OAU was more of a think tank and a talk-shop than an actual, effective organization. While the vision of the organization was noble, no vision can be achieved in the face of violent opposition without the righteous application of force. Any future organization that should come hereafter would do well to remember that lesson.
Aside from this one failure, the OAU did succeed in unifying Africa to an extent. This is an achievement that few other organizations can claim. By the time that the OAU was transformed into the African Union, 53 of the 54 African nations had joined.
And even without a standing military, according to sources the OAU played a vital role in freeing African nations from colonialism by supplying weapons, training and military bases to colonised nations fighting for independence.
South Africa’s ANC, the ZANU and ZAPU, were all successful due to the support of the OAU. In fact, when white South Africa refused to abolish apartheid, their harbors were closed, they were expelled from the World Health Organization, and South African aircraft were prohibited from flying over the rest of the continent – all thanks to the OAU.
The OAU had also established the African Development Bank, Africa’s answer to the European World Bank. The bank still exists today and makes loans, provides technical assistance, and coordinates the development of regional member countries.
The OAU also founded a number of specialized agencies to address problems on the continent. These agencies, many of which still exist, include
- Pan-African Telecommunications Union (PATU)
- Pan-African Postal Union (PAPU)
- Pan-African News Agency (PANA)
- Union of African National Television and Radio Organizations (URTNA)
- Union of African Railways (UAR)
- Organisation of African Trade Union Unity (OATUU)
- Supreme Council for Sports in Africa
It was these successes that would serve as inspiration for Malcolm X’s Organization of African-American Unity.
About the African Union
The African Union (AU) is a continental body consisting of the 55 member states that make up the countries of the African Continent. It was officially launched in 2002 as a successor to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU, 1963-1999).
In May 1963, 32 Heads of independent African States met in Addis Ababa Ethiopia to sign the Charter creating Africa’s first post-independence continental institution, The Organisation of African Unity (OAU). The OAU was the manifestation of the pan-African vision for an Africa that was united, free and in control of its own destiny and this was solemnised in the OAU Charter in which the founding fathers recognised that freedom, equality, justice and dignity were essential objectives for the achievement of the legitimate aspirations of the African peoples and that there was a need to promote understanding among Africa’s peoples and foster cooperation among African states in response to the aspirations of Africans for brother-hood and solidarity, in a larger unity transcending ethnic and national Differences. The guiding philosophy was that of Pan-Africanism which centred on African socialism and promoted African unity, the communal characteristic and practices of African communities, and a drive to embrace Africa’s culture and common heritage
The main objectives of the OAU were to rid the continent of the remaining vestiges of colonisation and apartheid to promote unity and solidarity amongst African States to coordinate and intensify cooperation for development to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States and to promote international cooperation. The OAU Charter spelled out the purpose of the Organisation namely:
- To promote the unity and solidarity of the African States
- To coordinate and intensify their cooperation and efforts to achieve a better life for the peoples of Africa
- To defend their sovereignty, their territorial integrity and independence
- To eradicate all forms of colonialism from Africa and
- To promote international cooperation, having due regard to the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Through the OAU Coordinating Committee for the Liberation of Africa, the Continent worked and spoke as one with undivided determination in forging an international consensus in support of the liberation struggle and the fight against apartheid. The OAU had provided an effective forum that enabled all Member States to adopt coordinated positions on matters of common concern to the continent in international fora and defend the interests of Africa effectively.
On 9.9.1999, the Heads of State and Government of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) issued the Sirte Declaration calling for the establishment of an African Union, with a view, to accelerating the process of integration in the continent to enable Africa to play its rightful role in the global economy while addressing multifaceted social, economic and political problems compounded as they were by certain negative aspects of globalisation.
The launch of the African Union:
The African Union (AU) was officially launched in July 2002 in Durban, South Africa, following a decision in September 1999 by its predecessor, the OAU to create a new continental organisation to build on its work. The decision to re-launch Africa’s pan-African organisation was the outcome of a consensus by African leaders that in order to realise Africa’s potential, there was a need to refocus attention from the fight for decolonisation and ridding the continent of apartheid, which had been the focus of the OAU, towards increased cooperation and integration of African states to drive Africa’s growth and economic development.
The AU is guided by its vision of “An Integrated, Prosperous and Peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena.”
- Achieve greater unity and solidarity between African countries and their the people
- Defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of its Member States
- Accelerate the political and socio-economic integration of the continent
- Promote and defend African common positions on issues of interest to the continent and its peoples
- Encourage international cooperation
- Promote peace, security, and stability on the continent
- Promote democratic principles and institutions, popular participation and good governance
- Promote and protect human and peoples’ rights in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other relevant human rights instruments
- Establish the necessary conditions which enable the continent to play its rightful role in the global economy and in international negotiations
- Promote sustainable development at the economic, social and cultural levels as well as the integration of African economies
- Promote cooperation in all fields of human activity to raise the living standards of African peoples
- Coordinate and harmonise the policies between the existing and future Regional Economic Communities for the gradual attainment of the objectives of the Union
- Advance the development of the continent by promoting research in all fields, in particular in science and technology
- Work with relevant international partners in the eradication of preventable diseases and the promotion of good health on the continent.
- Ensure the effective participation of women in decision-making, particularly in the political, economic and socio-cultural areas
- Develop and promote common policies on trade, defence and foreign relations to ensure the defence of the Continent and the strengthening of its negotiating positions
- Invite and encourage the full participation of the African Diaspora as an important part of our Continent, in the building of the African Union.
The work of the AU is implemented through several principal decision making organs:- The Assembly of Heads of State and Government, the Executive Council, the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC), Specialised Technical Committees (STCs), the Peace and Security Council and The African Union Commission. The AU structure promotes participation of African citizens and civil society through the Pan-African Parliament and the Economic, Social & Cultural Council (ECOSOCC).
Organs that handle judicial and legal matters as well as human rights issues include:- African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR), AU Commission on International Law (AUCIL), AU Advisory Board on Corruption (AUABC) and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. The AU is also working towards the establishment of continental financial institutions (The African Central Bank, The African Investment Bank and the African Monetary Fund)
The Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and the African Peer Review Mechanism are also key bodies that that constitute the structure of the African Union.
To ensure the realisation of its objectives and the attainment of the Pan African Vision of an integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, Agenda 2063 was developed as a strategic framework for Africa’s long term socio-economic and integrative transformation. Agenda 2063 calls for greater collaboration and support for African led initiatives to ensure the achievement of the aspirations of African people.
Africa Freedom Day: The birth and history of the OAU you should know
As we commemorate Africa Freedom Day, this archive article, from our July 2002 print edition, looks back at how the OAU was born, some of its achievements (particularly in the liberation struggle), and the unfinished business on the economic front.
The signing of the charter of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) in Addis Ababa on 25 May 1963 was the culmination of years of efforts by African leaders, in which President Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Emperor Haile Selassie of Ethiopia played prominent roles.
Ghana’s first president, Kwame Nkrumah, was a passionate believer in African unity, and a living link with the historic Pan-African movement which had promoted solidarity among people of African descent everywhere against colonialism and racism.
Earlier Pan-Africanists had identified with Ethiopia as a historic African state that remained independent except for the Italian occupation of 1936-41, which aroused their strong protests.
Pan-Africanism inevitably changed when the greater part of Africa became independent between 1957 and 1963. The Diaspora, previously prominent in the promotion of Pan-Africanism, no longer played such a role. At the same time, ideas of African solidarity and unity extended to the whole continent, not just sub-Saharan Africa. Notably, there was support for the Algerian war of independence against France, which ended in 1962.
Prominent in the minds of those seeking greater unity was the continued subjection of millions of Africans to colonial or white settler rule in the Portuguese colonies, in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), in South Africa and in South-West Africa (now Namibia). A few British and French colonies were not yet independent in 1963, but they became so in the next few years.
On the need to seek those fellow Africans’ liberation, there was a general basic agreement in principle. But on how already independent African countries should progress further, there was disagreement.
Some states with a more radical approach to foreign policy adopted the Casablanca Charter on 7 January 1961, at a meeting in that Moroccan city. They included, notably, Ghana under Nkrumah, Guinea under President Ahmed Sékou Touré – who had led Guinea into independence from France in opposition to the programme set out by President Charles de Gaulle in 1958 – and Egypt under President Gamal Abdel Nasser.
On the other hand, a meeting in Monrovia on 8-12 May 1961, led to the formation of the Monrovia Group of more conservative states, pro-Western at the time of the Cold War, and cautious about moves towards unity. Some other leaders were independent of both these groups, such as President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, whose radicalism resembled Nkrumah’s but who advocated moves towards unity within regions as a first step. Nkrumah came to be isolated in his call for an early continental government.
Even other Casablanca Group members did not support Nkrumah on this, and in fact it was largely through discussions between Sékou Touré and Emperor Haile Selassie that the gap between the two main blocs was bridged and the creation of the OAU became possible.
In practice this meant that the OAU Charter did not reflect Nkrumah’s ideas, and created a grouping of sovereign states. The seven fundamental principles enshrined in the Charter were:
• The sovereign equality of all member states. • Respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each state. • The inalienable right to independent existence of each state. • Peaceful settlement of disputes by negotiation, mediation, conciliation, and arbitration • Unreserved condemnation of political assassination in all its forms as well as of subversive activities on the part of neighbouring states or any other state. • Absolute dedication to the total emancipation of African territories which are still dependent. • Non-alignment with regard to all power blocs.
The Emperor Haile Selassie, speaking during the formation of the OAU on May 25, 1963 in Addis Ababa. (AFP Photos)
The OAU was throughout an alliance of governments, and the principle of “non-interference” was for long applied strictly. Nkrumah continued after 1963 to follow an alternative approach, seeking unity among peoples rather than governments, on the lines of the All African People’s Conference in Accra in 1958.
Thus his government gave asylum and aid to not only African freedom fighters, but also to political activists opposing some independent governments, such as those of Cameroon and Niger. This caused a serious crisis at the time of the OAU summit held in Accra in 1965.
Today that dispute is largely forgotten and the memory of Nkrumah is revered everywhere. But the OAU continued as an alliance of governments and a defender of their sovereignty.
The OAU rapidly became a part of the African scene, with its annual summits held sometimes in Addis Ababa, sometimes in other capitals. Although its powers were limited, it did make an impact as an expression of a common African outlook on several subjects, including the end of colonial and settler rule.
OAU and liberation
The day of triumph – when South Africa, under majority rule with Nelson Mandela as president, joined the OAU in 1994 – was scarcely imaginable back in 1963. The apartheid regime seemed as solid as a rock then, and there was also the extension of South African white supremacist rule over South-West Africa, while the white settler regime in Southern Rhodesia was as determined to hold on to power as the Portuguese colonial rulers were in Angola, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau, Cape Verde and São Tomé et Príncipe.
But even against what seemed heavy odds, the OAU and its member states went beyond encouraging words in supporting resistance in those countries. It created the OAU Liberation Committee, based in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, to channel assistance. Individual African states provided rear bases and training for guerrillas, notably Tanzania and Zambia. On the diplomatic front, in response to Britain’s failure to take effective action against Prime Minister Ian Smith’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence in Rhodesia, the OAU called on all member states to break off diplomatic relations with Britain in 1965. Only a minority of states actually implemented this resolution on this and other occasions African states were divided, as sovereign states have a right to be, and the OAU could not force any to abide by a resolution. But this did not mean the Organisation was totally ineffective. In 1971, the OAU effectively put a stop to moves by President Félix HouphouëtBoigny of Côte d’Ivoire and Prime Minister Kofi Abrefa Busia of Ghana to start a “dialogue” with South Africa.
On Rhodesia, differing views on diplomatic relations with Britain did not prevent an overall commitment to helping African resistance. President Hastings Banda of Malawi rejected general African policy towards Rhodesia, South Africa and the Portuguese colonies with impunity but in the long run this did not save the white regimes.
In 1974-75, a revolution in Portugal was followed by independence for all the Portuguese territories. Regrettably, independence came in the midst of civil war in Angola, and at first, African states were evenly divided between supporters and opponents of the People’s Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) government headed by President Agostinho Neto.
The situation was changed by South Africa’s intervention against the MPLA, and before long the OAU was on the side of the MPLA government as part of the liberation struggle.
In this case, as in others, there were always some African states breaking ranks, openly or secretly some broke international sanctions against Rhodesia and the OAU’s own 1968 resolution in favour of sanctions against South Africa. But the white supremacists always knew that Africa was generally against them. They did not succeed in winning acceptance of their policies through “dialogue” – though the OAU did not reject dialogue altogether, and accepted the principle of it in the Lusaka Manifesto in 1969.
Eventually, Rhodesia became the independent state of Zimbabwe under black majority rule in 1980, and joined the OAU with Robert Mugabe as prime minister and later president.
In 1990, in the face of African resistance within the country, international sanctions, and world hostility, the South African regime granted independence to South-West Africa as Namibia (under President Sam Nujoma), and later it released Nelson Mandela from 27 years of prison, lifted the ban on the African National Congress (ANC), began the process which ended the white supremacist regime in South Africa and brought in the democratically-elected multiracial government in 1994.
Following that, a special OAU mini-summit was held in Arusha in Tanzania on 15 August 1994, which voted to end the mandate of the OAU Liberation Committee. With the unifying campaign for the liberation of the whole continent now completed, what could replace it as a focus of united efforts among OAU members? The new leaders of South Africa suggested an answer, agreed by many others. The first foreign minister under Mandela, Alfred Nzo, said: “The main challenge now of the OAU is to get into the next struggle which is one of economic development.”
He was echoing what Mandela had said at the 1993 OAU summit in Cairo, Egypt, and what should be the OAU’s preoccupation now: “All of us know the brutal reality of a continent awash with hungry children, plagued by wars that devour human lives, confronted by millions of refugees and displaced people, economies in crisis, and by disproved theories and broken dreams.”
Lagos Plan of Action and APPER
In fact, those who suggested that after the end of the struggle against colonial rule and white settler regimes the OAU should concentrate on Africa’s pressing economic problems, were doubtless aware that the Organisation had been paying attention to them for many years.
Economic cooperation had been among its aims from the beginning, and it took many initiatives in the economic field.
In April 1980, the first OAU Economic Summit was held in Lagos, and adopted the Lagos Plan of Action.
Five years later, the 21st OAU summit in 1985 issued a declaration on the economic situation in Africa which included (a) a programme of measures for accelerated implementation of the Lagos Plan (b) special action for improvement of the food situation in Africa (c) the rehabilitation of agricultural development and (d) measures for a common platform for action at the sub-regional, continental and international levels.
To this declaration was appended Africa’s Priority Programme for Economic Recovery (APPER), a five-year programme for the years 1986 to 1990. APPER was elaborated in a submission to a special session of the United Nations General Assembly on Africa’s economic and social crisis. The African countries estimated that full implementation of APPER would cost $128bn, of which $82bn would be mobilised from within Africa, with the rest coming from external sources. Besides providing financial aid, the international community was called upon to assist Africa by improving its trade possibilities and easing its debt burden, which was already a major concern for African states then and has remained so.
It should be noted that while the Lagos Plan of Action and APPER reflected the common aspirations of African states, they did not impose binding commitments on individual states (nor, of course, on aid donors).
The OAU was not a forum for reaching binding, detailed agreements on any economic measures to be applied by African states. It never had any such power, nor, for that matter, does the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA), founded in 1958 and based, like the OAU, in Addis Ababa.
UNECA has contributed much to African economic cooperation through research, statistics, conferences, etc, but it is not a body that can lay down economic cooperation or concerted economic policies for the continent, and neither was the OAU.
Whatever progress was made in that direction was, and has been, achieved by regional organisations such as ECOWAS in West Africa, and SADC in Southern Africa.
The Abuja Treaty
Much more progress in that direction, leading ultimately to the economic union of the whole continent, was agreed among all OAU members when, during the 27th OAU summit in Abuja (2-6 June 1991), they signed the Abuja Treaty on the African Economic Community (AEC).
This laid down detailed stages for economic integration, first at the level of the existing regional groupings, and later at the continental level, to involve, eventually, not only free trade but also a common currency. The target date set for the effective creation of the AEC was 2025. Now the African Union, which took over from the OAU in 2002, has to pursue and hasten the programme laid down in the Abuja Treaty.
AContrary to widespread belief, the Constitutive Act of 2000 setting up the African Union does not provide for an immediate creation of a political union. However, it does provide for an African Parliament, which was already provided for in the Abuja Treaty. Economically, the aim is to speed up, if possible, the programme of greater regional integration.
History of the University
Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife is one of three Universities established in Nigeria between 1961 and 1962 as a result of the report submitted to the Federal Government in September, 1960, by a Commission it appointed in April 1959 under the Chairmanship of Sir Eric Ashby, Master of Clare College, Cambridge, to survey the needs of post-secondary and higher education in Nigeria over the next twenty years. On 8th June, 1961 the Law providing for the establishment of the Provisional Council of the University was formally inaugurated under the Chairmanship of Chief Rotimi Williams.
On 11th June, 1970, an Edict known as the University of Ife edict, 1970 was promulgated by the Government of the Western State to replace the Provisional Council Law of 8th June, 1961. This Edict has since been amended by the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife (Amended) Edict No. 112 of 1975 (Transitional Provisions) Decree No.
23 of 1975. This new Decree effected a takeover of the Obafemi Awolowo University by the Federal Military Government and established a Provisional Council as an interim governing body of the University which shall subject to the general direction of the Head of the Federal Government, control the policies and finances of the University and manage its affairs. This Provisional Council has since been replaced by a Governing Council.
The University started with five Faculties – Agriculture, Arts, Economics and Social studies (now Social Sciences), Law and Science. Six new Faculties have since been added, namely the Faculty of Education (established on 1st October, 1967), the Faculty of Pharmacy (established on 1st October, 1969), the Faculties Technology and Health Sciences (now College of Health Sciences) (both established on 1st October, 1960), Faculty of Administration with effect from 1st October 1979) and Faculty of Environmental Design and Management (established on April 6, 1982).
In 1992, the University established a collegiate system with five Colleges. The system did not function effectively and was abandoned after two years. However, the Postgraduate College and the College of Health Sciences were retained. The College of Health Sciences now comprises of the Faculties of Basic Medical Sciences, Clinical Sciences and Dentistry.
The following other Institutes and major units exist in the University:
- The Adeyemi College of Education located in Ondo
- The Institute of Agricultural Research and Training, Ibadan The Natural History Museum
- The Institute of Ecology and Environmental Studies The Centre for Gender and social Policy Studies
- The Centre for Industrial Research and Development The Institute of Public Health
- The Institute of Cultural Studies
- The Technology Planning and Development Unit The Computer Centre
- The Drug Research and Production Unit
- The Equipment Maintenance and Development Centre The Central Technological Laboratory Workshop
- The Central Science Laboratory The Distance Learning Centre
Finally, some other agencies over which the University has no direct, or, in some cases limited control, have premises within the University.
- The Regional Centre for Training in Aerospace Surveys
- The National central for Technology Management
- The Centre for Energy Research and Development
The African Regional Centre for Space Science and Education in English. The student population has rising steadily from 244 in 1962/63 to over 30,000 at present.
Today In History: Exactly 57 Years Ago Today, The OAU Is Established After Instrumental Efforts By Dr Kwame Nkrumah
The Organisation of African Unity (OAU), established on 25 May 1963, was the culmination of a number of diverse and far-reaching historical currents and political trends both on the African continent and abroad.
Of particular import to the ideological formation of the OAU was the late 19th century Pan-Africanist movement which emerged in the United States of America (USA) among Black American intellectuals such as Martin Delany and Alexander Crummel, who drew similarities between Africans and Black Americans.
The sentiment among these intellectuals centered on the belief that in order for black civilization to prosper, it was necessary to establish their own nation free from the USA where they would be able to pursue self-determination with dignity.
The ad hoc and wavering Pan-Africanist train of thought began to consolidate itself through the scholarship of W.E.B. Du Bois, a staunch advocate of African culture and history, who propounded the idea that colonialism lay at the heart of Africa’s economic, political, and social problems.
Building on this, Marcus Garvey, a Black nationalist, further urged the return of Africans to the continent, which he attempted to facilitate through the establishment of a shipping company, the Black Star Line, aimed at transporting Black Africans back to Africa. This venture was unsuccessful due to obstruction by both the US and British authorities concerned with the future of their colonies.
On the continent itself, a number of prominent intellectuals and heads of state such as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Julius Nyerere of Kenya, Sékou Touré of Guinea, and Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia took up the cause of advancing the Pan-African ideal.
A series of Pan-African Congresses were convened to further the interests of African peoples and discuss methods to achieve unification, and at the fifth Congress held in Manchester, England, and attended by Nkrumah, among others, a number of significant aspirations and concerns were voiced. The Congress advocated for the “complete independence of the African continent and total rejection of colonialism and exploitation in all its forms,” and called for the unification of Africa through regional blocs and the adoption of democracy.
It was these concerns that had formed the basis of Ghana’s post-independence foreign policy, and Kwame Nkrumah categorically linked Ghana’s independence to the continent’s own, recognizing that “the independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked up with the total liberation of the continent.”
Nkrumah, therefore, established a series of conferences hosted in Accra between 1958 and 1960 with the aims of assisting countries still under colonial rule, fostering cultural and economic ties between countries, and considering the issue of world peace.
The vision of a United States of Africa was, per contra, not supported by all, and not as radically as Nkrumah, Sékou Touré of Guinea and Modibo Keita of Mali would have preferred it. Despite a common vision, differing ideological commitments and diverging opinions regarding strategy and structuring of a continental organization soon divided and obstructed the pursuit of unity.
Thus, between 22 and 25 May 1963, delegates from 32 African countries convened in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa to establish the Organisation for African Unity (OAU), intended to form the continental base for pan-Africanism but resulting in a watered-down compromise between competing ideological blocs.
At the outset, then, complete unification seemed unattainable. The divisions rendered the construction of a union government based on a consensus of structural, military, and political institutions untenable. The OAU was thus founded with the intention that the organization would proceed, incrementally, with unification until the eventual goal of a Union of African States was realized.
Ø Effectively addressing the new social, political and economic realities in Africa and the world
Ø Fulfilling the peoples’ aspirations for greater unity in conforming with the objectives of the OAU Charter and the Treaty establishing the African Economic Community
Ø Revitalising the Continental Organisation to play a more active role in addressing the needs of the people
Ø Eliminating the scourge of conflicts
Ø Meeting global challenges and
Ø Harnessing the human and natural resources of the continent to improve living conditions.
To achieve these aims, they decided to:
“Establish an African Union in conformity with the ultimate objectives of the Charter of our Continental Organisation and the provisions of the Treaty establishing the African Economic Community.”
Objectives of the AU
In general, the African Union objectives are different and more comprehensive than those of the OAU. The OAU has served its mission and was due for replacement by a structure geared towards addressing the current needs of the continent.
The aims of the OAU were:
Ø To promote the unity and solidarity of African States
Ø To coordinate and intensify their cooperation and efforts to achieve a better life for the peoples of Africa
Ø To defend their sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence
Ø To eradicate all forms of colonialism from Africa and
Ø To promote international cooperation.
Comparatively, the objectives of the African Union, as contained in the Constitutive Act, are to:
Ø Achieve greater unity and solidarity between the African countries and the peoples of Africa
Ø Defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of its member states
Ø Accelerate the political and socio-economic integration of the continent
Ø Promote and defend African common position on issues of interest to the continent and its peoples
Ø Encourage international cooperation, taking due account of the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Ø Promote peace, security, and stability on the continent
Ø Promote democratic principles and institutions, popular participation and good governance
Ø Promote and protect human peoples’ rights in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other relevant human rights instruments
Ø Establish the necessary conditions which enable the continent to play its rightful role in the global economy and in international negotiations
Ø Promote sustainable development at the economic, social and cultural levels as well as the integration of African economies
Ø Promote cooperation in all fields of human activity to raise the living standards of African peoples
Ø Coordinate and harmonise the policies between the existing and future Regional Economic Communities for the gradual attainment of the objectives of the Union
Ø Advance the development of the continent by promoting research in all fields, in particular in science and technology and
Ø Work with relevant international partners in the eradication of preventable diseases and the promotion of good health on the continent.
Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) 1965
The Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU) was founded by Malcolm X, John Henrik Clarke, and other black nationalist leaders on June 24, 1964 in Harlem, New York. Formed shortly after his break with the Nation of Islam, the OAAU was a secular institution that sought to unify 22 million non-Muslim African Americans with the people of the African Continent. The OAAU was modeled after the Organization of African Unity (OAU), a coalition of 53 African nations working to provide a unified political voice for the continent. In the coalition spirit of the OAU, Malcolm X sought to reconnect African Americans with their African heritage, establish economic independence, and promote African American self-determination. He also sought OAAU representation on the OAU.
The OAAU was designed to encompass all peoples of African origin in the Western hemisphere, as well those on the African continent. Malcolm X insisted that progress for African Americans was intimately tied to progress in Africa, and outlined a platform of five fronts for this progress called “The Basic Unity Program.” This program called for Restoration, Reorientation, Education, Economic Security, and Self-Defense as a means of promoting Pan-African unity and interests. With a strong focus on education as the primary means of repairing the damages of slavery, economic discrimination, and physical violence directed towards African Americans, the OAAU hoped to foster pan-African consciousness. Among the more controversial positions taken by the OAAU was the suggestion that leaders of African states held more legitimate political power for African Americans than did the American government.
At the founding conference, Malcolm X stressed the importance of escaping terms like “negro,” “integration,” or “emancipation,” insisting that such language was inherently pejorative and antithetical to the ideology of the OAAU. The OAAU called for African American-run institutions within the black community as well as increased participation in mainstream politics. In order to keep the OAAU strictly in African American hands, Malcolm X insisted that there be no monetary donations from non-African sources. The organization also refused membership to whites.
After Malcolm X was assassinated in the Audubon Ballroom on February 19, 1965, the fledgling movement died. Malcolm’s half-sister Ella Collins took over the OAAU, but without his charismatic leadership, most members deserted the organization. Nonetheless the OAAU became the inspiration for hundreds of “black power” groups that emerged during the next decade.