by Otemuyiwa Bamidele
Published on: Jan 14, 2003
Type: Opinions

The African Union was carved out of a previously existing organisation called the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). The OAU was established on 25 May 1963 in Addis Ababa, on signature of the OAU charter by representatives of 32 governments. A further 21 states have joined gradually over the years, with South Africa becoming the 53rd member in 1994. The charter later had to be changed to meet up with the challenges of a constantly changing world and a growing realisation that the need for greater efficiency and effectivity of the Organisation required urgent action.
A summit was held in Sirte, Algiers on the 9th of September,1999 to address the issue. The theme of the summit was “Strengthening OAU capacity to enable it to meet the challenges of the new millennium.” This Summit concluded on 9 September 1999 with the Sirte Declaration aimed at:

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.

It is of critical importance that member States are active in the design and implementation of the African Union. In this way it will foster a sense of ownership and Member States will be able to address those aspects of the day-to-day functioning of the organisation which will streamline the implementation of decisions.

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