The present African Union (AU) succeeded the Organization of African Unity (OAU), formed in May 1963. The OAU was a compromise between African Statesmen who wanted the political Union of all independent African States and those who preferred functional cooperation.
The main objectives of the OAU were: to rid the continent of the remaining vestiges of colonisation and apartheid; to promote unity and solidarity among African States; to coordinate and intensify cooperation for development; to safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of member States; and to promote international cooperation within the UN framework. It is an example of contemporary regional integration.
Apart from the lack of a common culture and language, a crucial problem was the need for an effective leadership in the search for unity in diversity within the OAU. Despite these drawbacks, what did the OAU achieve?
African countries, in their search for unity and economic and social development under the OAU, took various initiatives and made great progress in many areas preparing for the present AU. These include:
– The Lagos Plan of Action and the Final Act of Lagos (1980), incorporating programmes and strategies for self reliant development and cooperation among African countries.
– The African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (Nairobi 1981), and the Grand Bay Declaration and Plan of Action on Human Rights: two instruments adopted by the OAU to promote human and people’s rights in the continent. The Human Rights Charter led to the establishment of the African Human Rights Commission located in Banjul, Gambia.
– Africa’s Priority Programme for Economic Recovery (APPER) of 1985, an emergency programme addressing the development crisis of the 1980s, following the protracted drought and famine that had engulfed the continent and the crippling effects of Africa’s external debt.
– The OAU Declaration on the Political and Socio-Economic Situation in Africa (1990), underscored Africa’s resolve to seize the initiative, to decide its destiny, and to address the challenges to peace, democracy, and security.
– The Charter on Popular Participation adopted in 1990, a testimony to the OAU’s renewed determination to place the African citizen at the centre of development and decision making.
– The treaty establishing the African Economic Community (AEC) in 1991, commonly known as the Abuja Treaty. It seeks to create the AEC through six stages culminating in an African Common Market using the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) as building blocks. The Treaty was first implemented in 1994.
– The Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, and Resolution (1993), a practical expression of the determination of the African leadership to find solutions to conflicts, promote peace, security, and stability in Africa.
– The Cairo Agenda for Action (1995), a programme to relaunch Africa’s political, economic, and social development.
– African Common Position on Africa’s External Debt Crisis (1997), a strategy to address the continent’s external debt crisis.
– The Algiers Decision on Unconstitutional Changes of Government (1999) and the Lome Declaration on the Framework for an OAU Response to Unconstitutional Changes (2000).
– The 2000 Solemn Declaration of the Conference on Security, Stability, Development, and Cooperation, establishing the fundamental principles to promote democracy and good governance in the continent.
– The Constitutive Act of the AU adopted in 2000 at the Lome Summit (Togo), which entered into force in 2001. Above all,
– The New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD), adopted as an AU programme at the Lusaka Summit in 2001.
This list is not exhaustive. It only represents some very positive strides taken by the OAU, which later became the AU. The OAU has achieved a lot as a bloc in uniting the continent. While the OAU’s major strength was its ability to decolonise the continent with the rise of the pan-African movement, the AU has a mandate to preserve that independence and sue for peace as the continent braises with many conflicts. (M.T.I.)