Organisation of African Unity

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Organisation of African Unity
Organisation de l'Unité Africaine

Capital n/a a
Government Not specified
 •  1963–1964 Kifle Wodajo
 •  1964–1972 Diallo Telli
 •  1972–1974 Nzo Ekangaki
 •  1974–1978 William Eteki
 •  1978–1983 Edem Kodjo
 •  1983–1985 Peter Onu
 •  1985–1989 Ide Oumarou
 •  1989–2001 Salim Ahmed Salim
 •  2001–2002 Amara Essy
 •  Charter 25 May 1963
 •  Disbanded 9 July 2002
a Headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

The Organisation of African Unity (OAU; French: Organisation de l'unité africaine (OUA)) was established on 25 May 1963 in Addis Ababa, with 32 signatory governments.[1] It was disbanded on 9 July 2002 by its last chairperson, South African President Thabo Mbeki, and replaced by the African Union (AU).


The OAU had the following primary aims:

  • To co-ordinate and intensify the co-operation of African states in order to achieve a better life for the people of Africa.[1]
  • To defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of African states.
  • The OAU was also dedicated to the eradication of all forms of colonialism and white minority rule as, when it was established, there were several states that had not yet won their independence or were white minority-ruled. South Africa and Angola were two such countries. The OAU proposed two ways of ridding the continent of colonialism and white minority rule. Firstly, it would defend the interests of independent countries and help to pursue the independence those of still-colonised ones. Secondly, it would remain neutral in terms of world affairs, preventing its members from being controlled once more by outside powers.

A Liberation Committee was established to aid independence movements and look after the interests of already-independent states. The OAU also aimed to stay neutral in terms of global politics, which would prevent them from being controlled once more by outside forces – an especial danger with the Cold War.

Part of a series on the
History of the
African Union

The OAU had other aims, too:

  • Ensure that all Africans enjoyed human rights.
  • Raise the living standards of all Africans.
  • Settle arguments and disputes between members – not through fighting but rather peaceful and diplomatic negotiation.

Soon after achieving independence, a number of African states expressed a growing desire for more unity within the continent. Not everyone was agreed on how this unity could be achieved, however, and two opinionated groups emerged in this respect:

Some of the initial discussions took place at Sanniquellie, Liberia. The dispute was eventually resolved when Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie I invited the two groups to Addis Ababa, where the OAU and its headquarters were subsequently established. The Charter of the Organisation was signed by 32 independent African states.

At the time of the OAU's disbanding, 53 out of the 54 African states were members; Morocco left on 12 November 1984 following the admission of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic as the government of Western Sahara in 1982.

The organisation was widely derided as a bureaucratic "talking shop" with little power. It struggled to enforce its decisions, and its lack of armed force made intervention exceedingly difficult. Civil wars in Nigeria and Angola continued unabated for years, and the OAU could do nothing to stop them.

The policy of non-interference in the affairs of member states also limited the effectiveness of the OAU. Thus, when human rights were violated, as in Uganda under Idi Amin in the 1970s, the OAU was powerless to stop them.

The Organisation was praised by Ghanaian former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan for bringing Africans together. Nevertheless, in its 39 years of existence, critics argue that the OAU did little to protect the rights and liberties of African citizens from their own political leaders, often dubbing it as a "Dictators' Club"[2] or "Dictator's Trade Union".

The OAU was, however, successful in some respects. Many of its members were members of the UN, too, and they stood together within the latter organisation to safeguard African interests – especially in respect of lingering colonialism. Its pursuit of African unity, therefore, was in some ways successful.

Total unity was difficult to achieve, however, as the OAU was largely divided. The former French colonies, still dependent on France, had formed the Monrovia Group, and there was a further split between those that supported the USA and those that supported the USSR in the Cold War of ideologies. The pro-Socialist faction was led by Kwame Nkrumah, while Félix Houphouët-Boigny of the Ivory Coast led the pro-capitalists. Because of these divisions, it was difficult for the OAU to take action against states involved in internal conflicts because it could rarely reach an agreement on what was to be done.

The OAU did, however, play a pivotal role in eradicating colonialism and white minority rule in Africa. It gave weapons, training and military bases to rebel groups fighting white minority and colonial rule. Groups such as the ANC and PAC, fighting apartheid, and ZANU and ZAPU, fighting to topple the government of Rhodesia, were aided in their endeavours by the OAU. African harbours were closed to the South African government, and South African aircraft were prohibited from flying over the rest of the continent. The UN was convinced by the OAU to expel South Africa from bodies such as the World Health Organisation.

The OAU also worked with the UN to ease refugee problems. It set up the African Development Bank for economic projects intended to make Africa financially stronger. Although all African countries eventually won their independence, it remained difficult for them to become totally independent of their former colonisers. There was often continued reliance on the former colonial powers for economic aid, which often came with strings attached: loans had to be paid back at high interest-rates, and goods had to be sold to the aiders at low rates.

The USA and USSR intervened in post-colonial Africa in pursuit of their own objectives. Help was sometimes provided in the form of technology and aid-workers. While useful, such external assistance was often perceived[who?] as not necessarily in the best interests of the former colonies. Despite the fight to keep "Westerners" (Colonialists) out of African affairs,the OAU has failed to achieve to meet goals set up to advocate African affairs. The Organisation still heavily depends on Western help (Military and Economic) to intervene in African affairs despite African leaders displeasure dealing with the international community especially Western Countries.

Autonomous specialised agencies, working under the auspices of the OAU, were:

List of Chairpersons

List of Secretaries-general

OAU Summits

Egypt´s president Nasser at the Cairo summit 1964
Map of the African Union with Suspended States.svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
the African Union

It includes ordinary and extraordinary summits.

  • Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) : 22–25 May 1963
  • Cairo (Egypt) : 17–21 July 1964.
  • Accra (Ghana) : 21–26 October 1965.
  • Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) : 5–9 November 1966.
  • Kinshasa (Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly Zaire) : 11–14 September 1967.
  • Algiers (Algeria) : 13–16 September 1968.
  • Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) : 6–10 September 1969.
  • Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) : 1–3 September 1970.
  • Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) : 21–23 June 1971.
  • Rabat (Morocco) : 12–15 June 1972.
  • Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) : 27–28 May 1973.
  • Somalia (Mogadishu) : 1974
  • Kampala (Uganda) : 28 July – 1 August 1975.
  • Port Louis (Mauritius) : 2–6 July 1976.
  • Libreville (Gabon) : 2–5 July 1977.
  • Khartoum (Sudan) : 18–22 July 1978.
  • Monrovia (Liberia) : 17–20 July 1979.
  • Freetown (Sierra Leone) : 1–4 July 1980.
  • Nairobi (Kenya) : 24–27 June. 1981.
  • Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) : 6–12 June 1983.
  • Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) : 12–15 November 1984.
  • Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) : 18–20 July 1985.
  • Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) : 28–30 July 1986.
  • Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) : 27–29 July. 1987.
  • Addis Ababa (Ethiopia), Extraordinary Summit: October 1987.
  • Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) : 25–28 May 1988.
  • Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) : 24–26 July 1989.
  • Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) : 9–11 July 1990.
  • Abuja (Nigeria) : 3–5 July 1991.
  • Dakar (Senegal) : 29 June – 1 July 1992.
  • Cairo (Egypt) : 28–30 June 1993.
  • Tunis (Tunisia) : 13–15 June 1994.
  • Addis Ababa (Ethiopia) : 26–28 June 1995.
  • Yaoundé (Cameroon) : 8–10 June 1996.
  • Harare (Zimbabwe) : 2–4 June 1997.
  • Ouagadougou (Burkina Faso) : 8–10 June 1998.
  • Algiers (Algeria) : 12–14 July 1999.
  • Sirte (Libya), Extraordinary Summit : 6–9 September 1999.
  • Lomé (Togo) : 10–12 July 2000.
  • Lusaka (Zambia) : 9–11 July 2001, the last OAU summit.

OAU members by date of admission (53 states)

  • 25 May 1963:
Algeria, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo (Brazzaville), Congo (Léopoldville).[3] Dahomey,[4] Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast,[5] Liberia, Libya, Madagascar,[6] Mali, Mauritania,[7] Morocco,[8] Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somali Republic,[9] The Sudan, Tanganyika,[10] Togo,[11] Tunisia, Uganda, Upper Volta,[12] Zanzibar[10]
  • 13 December 1963: Kenya
  • 13 July 1964: Malawi
  • 16 December 1964: Zambia
  • October 1965: The Gambia
  • 31 October 1966: Botswana, Lesotho
  • August 1968: Mauritius
  • 24 September 1968: Swaziland
  • 12 October 1968: Equatorial Guinea
  • 19 November 1973: Guinea-Bissau
  • 11 February 1975: Angola
  • 18 July 1975: Cape Verde, Comoros, Mozambique, São Tomé and Príncipe
  • 29 June 1976: Seychelles
  • 27 June 1977: Djibouti
  • June 1980: Zimbabwe
  • 22 February 1982: Sahrawi Republic (Western Sahara)
  • June 1990: Namibia
  • 24 May 1993: Eritrea
  • 6 June 1994: South Africa

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1
  3. 1966-71 and from 1997 Congo (Kinshasa); 1971–97 Zaire.
  4. From 1975 Benin.
  5. From 1985 Côte d'Ivoire.
  6. Suspended December 2001 – 10 July 2003.
  7. Suspended 4 August 2005.
  8. Withdrew 12 November 1984.
  9. See Article 1 of Law No. 20 of 23 August 1963, ratification of the Charter of OAU by the Somali Republic,
  10. 10.0 10.1 Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged 26 April 1964 to form the United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, which was renamed Tanzania 1 November 1964.
  11. Suspended from 25 February 2005.
  12. From 1984 Burkina Faso.
  13. African Parliamentary Union

Further reading