The Founding of the Organisation of African Unity – Ras Hein

The Founding of the Organisation of African Unity

A tribute to the founders of the African Union on the 60th Anniversary of the OAU – by Ras Hein

This year marks the 60th Anniversary of the existence of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) which was founded on 25th May 1963 in Africa Hall, on that day 32 representatives of independent nations of Africa signed the OAU Charter in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Currently, the membership is 55 countries with Morocco becoming a member in 2017. The advent of the OAU was the buildup of historical currents, over centuries, of radical uprisings against slavery and anti-colonial resistance by Africans, on the continent and in the Diaspora, a deeply rooted struggle against imperial subjection and dehumanisation.

The African Union (AU) was founded in 2001, in the reshaping of the OAU, to continue with the same mandate of the OAU Charter now that Africa has entered a postcolonial state system that is still fragmented. The OAU was mainly formed with the intent to liberate countries in Africa that were still under the yoke of political colonialism and white oppression. Following the end of colonialism and white oppression in Southern Africa, the OAU refocused its objectives to promote economic and social development, it is now known as the AU.

“An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in global arena.” – African Union

Without the concept of Pan-Africanism, there would be no AU.

Pan-African, the term is coined by Henry Sylvester Williams who organised the London Pan-African conference in July 1900. Pan-Africanism represents the complexities and dynamics of black intellectual thought, an ideology with multiple currents, it embraces the holistic cultural, historical, spiritual, political, artistic, scientific and other philosophical legacies of Africans from antiquity to the contemporary. In its highest expression and at its essential theoretical core, Pan-Africanism is a supremely logical treaty on radical black decolonisation.

The founding fathers of the AU and the pioneering thinkers of Pan-Africanism had genuine hopes and visions for the continent. As the new generation, we must remember them on the 54th Anniversary of the AU.

Excellent reference points to help us better understand the trends on the African political landscape are the Pan-African Congress movement (PAC) of W.E.B Du Bois who hosted 4 congresses between 1919 and 1921 in Europe. In 1945, the fifth PAC was held in England, organised by trade unionists and radical African nationalist students. Present as students were Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana and Jomo Kenyatta of Kenya, both became the first presidents of their independent countries.

Ghana achieved independence in 1957, it is the first country that achieved independence from colonial rule in Africa, in 1958 the All-African People’s Congress was convened in Accra, and this was the first Pan-African meeting on African Soil. The conference in Ghana was attended by Frantz Fanon of Algeria and Patrice Lumumba of Congo.

In the 1961 United Nations General Assembly, the then Ethiopian Foreign Minister, Ketema Yifru, proposed the creation of a regional organisation of African States and he also voiced Ethiopia’s commitment to the total eradication of colonialism from the continent. Ketema Yifru also was a key African diplomat in bringing the Casablanca and Monrovia groups together to become founding member states of the OAU on 26 May 1963.

These are some of the key diplomatic occurrences that contributed towards the establishment of the AU.

The AU is the highest intracontinental forum we have, despite its shortcomings, it represents the hopes and visions of the people.

It is better to have the skeleton of a dream than to be completely without foundations that give directions and building blocks. This is the part where I am supposed to elaborate on the enemies of African Unity: neocolonialism, economic imperialism, the Washington consensus, the Bretton Woods institutions and structural adjustment programmes and all that African political economy theory stuff, but hopefully, this essay has inspired you to do some private research on Pan-African political philosophy.

We understand the effects of donor-funded, externally instigated, military coups on the decolonisation process, and how political instability that benefits the globalist capitalist class, has delayed the economic and social coordination, integration and unity of the African continent. There are declassified files that prove the involvement of Western government agencies in the fueling of dissidence and teleguiding regime change in Africa. Wikileaks has provided such evidence.

As Pan-Africanist thinkers and doers, we must be conscious of these realities when working in the international development field, whether we work in the private, public or non-profit sector.

In 2015, under the chairmanship of President R.G Mugabe, the AU adopted Agenda 2063, it is a policy framework that articulates the political and economic vision of the AU. It is the responsibility of both Governments and civil society, throughout the African continent to implement projects that actualise the Agenda 2063 programme. The content of the Agenda 2063 framework must be mainstreamed to make grassroots communities and activists aware of the concepts and plans, this would facilitate a Pan-African development paradigm discourse within the global African society. Agenda 2063 is a frame of theoretical reference towards celebrating the centenary of the OAU in the year 2063 a hundred years after the establishment of the OAU in 1963. Here is a Link, if you wish to acquaint yourself with this strategic framework, that speaks of a statecraft ideology ratified by all member states of the AU, to implement accelerated social and economic transformation on the continent

As agents of the African Renaissance it is our duty to mainstream Agenda 2063 and commit ourselves to achieving the 7 Aspirations as outlined: (1) A prosperous Africa based on inclusive growth and sustainable development. (2) An integrated continent, politically united and based on the ideals of Pan-Africanism and the vision of Africa’s Renaissance. (3) An Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and the rule of law. (4) A peaceful and secure Africa. (5) An Africa with a strong cultural identity, common heritage, shared values and ethics. (6) An Africa whose development is people-driven, relying on the potential of African people, especially its women and youth, and caring for children. (7) Africa as a strong, united and influential global player and partner.

The performance of the AU must be viewed in a larger historical perspective.

As an international institution belonging to Africa, employing a global perspective to a continental viewpoint, the AU since its inception has been tasked with reversing the historical trend of colonisation. There is a need for mass ideological orientation towards a Pan-African development paradigm that will accelerate the unification of Africa. Only by attempting to grasp the theoretical nitty-gritty will one see the bigger picture, otherwise we will continue to base our opinions on the shadows on the wall.

The Pan-African decolonisation process is an emancipatory and enlightenment movement that requires constant expansion in theory, to subvert agencies of division while completing the unfinished business of uniting the African continent

“Our objective is African union now. There is no time to waste. We must unite now or perish.” — Kwame Nkrumah”


About the Author:

Ras Hein Scheepers is a grassroots civil society leader. He is the programme coordinator for RUNN SA and a research assistant for RUNN International. He has over 10 years of grassroots-based experience in producing and activating project-based upliftment initiatives and social movements. He is an NYRI ambassador (pilot intake) and currently volunteering for Activate Change Drivers network as a keyboard/digital activist. He is a trained community development practitioner through Activate’s ACC course and is currently a student of International Relations at the University of South Africa. He has an impactful track record of public innovation with regard to arts education, nonprofit platforms, pro-cannabis policy reforms and heritage preservation.

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