The Founding of the Organisation of African Unity

A tribute to the founders of the African Union on 54th Anniversary of the OAU

This year marks the 54th Anniversary of the existence of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) which was founded on 25th May 1963 in Africa Hall, 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, a deeply rooted struggle against imperial subjection.

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 African Union (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 since antiquity to the contemporary. In its supreme form and at its essential 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.

An excellent reference point to help us better understand the trends on the African political landscape is 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, 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 regional organisation of African States and he also voiced Ethiopia’s commitment to the total eradication of colonialism from the continent.

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

AU is highest intracontinental forum we have, despite the 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 affects of donor funded, externally instigated, military coups on the decolonisation process, and how political instability that benefits international capitalist class, have delayed the economic and social coordination, integration and unity of the African continent. There is 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 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.

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 international institution belonging to Africa, the AU since 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-gritties will one see the bigger picture, otherwise we will continue to base our opinions on the shadows on the wall.

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

Photo credit: iask Ideas

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