Organisation of African Unity

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Organisation of African Unity

Organisation de l'Unité Africaine
Flag of the Organization of African Unity (1970-2002).svg
Emblem of the African Union.svg
Organization of African Unity Map.svg
Capitaln/a a
Kifle Wodajo
Diallo Telli
Nzo Ekangaki
William Eteki
Edem Kodjo
Peter Onu
Ide Oumarou
Salim Ahmed Salim
Amara Essy
25 May[ citation needed ] 1963
9 July 2002
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Blank.png Casablanca Group
Blank.png Monrovia Group
African Union Flag of the Organization of African Unity (1970-2002).svg
a Headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

The Organisation of African Unity (OAU; French : Organisation de l'unité africaine (OUA)) was an intergovernmental organization established on 25 May 1963 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, with 32 signatory governments. [1] One of the main heads for OAU's establishment was Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana. It was disbanded on 9 July 2002 by its last chairperson, South African President Thabo Mbeki, and replaced by the African Union (AU). Some of the key aims of the OAU were to encourage political and economic integration among member states, and to eradicate colonialism and neo-colonialism from the African continent. Although it achieved some success, there were also differences of opinion as to how that was going to be achieved.



The OAU was founded in May 1963 [2] in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, by 32 African states with the main aim of bringing the African nations together and resolve the issues within the continent. [2] Its first ever conference was held on 1 May 1963 [3] in Addis Ababa. [3] [2] At that conference, the late Gambian historian—and one of the leading Gambian nationalists and Pan-Africanists at the time—Alieu Ebrima Cham Joof delivered a speech in front of the member states, in which he said:

"It is barely 75 years when the European Powers sat round the table in Germany each holding a dagger to carve up Africa for its own benefit.… Your success will inspire and speed up the freedom and total independence of the African continent and eradicate imperialism and colonialism from the continent and eventually neo-colonialism from the globe… Your failure, which no true African in Africa is praying for, will prolong our struggle with bitterness and disappointment. I therefore adjure that you ignore any suggestion outside Africa and holding that the present civilization, which some of the big powered are boasting of, sprang up from Africa, and realising that the entire world has something earthly to learn from Africa, you would endeavour your utmost to come to agreement, save Africa from the clutches of neo-colonialism and resurrect African dignity, manhood and national stability." [3]


The OAU had the following primary aims:

Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie with President of Egypt Gamal Abdel Nasser in Addis Ababa for the Organisation of African Unity summit, 1963. Selassie and Nasser, 1963.jpg
Emperor of Ethiopia Haile Selassie with President of Egypt Gamal Abdel Nasser in Addis Ababa for the Organisation of African Unity summit, 1963.

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:

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.

Criticism and praises

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" [5] 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 United States and those that supported the USSR in the Cold War of ideologies. The pro-Socialist faction was led by Ghana's 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 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 Organization.

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. 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 at 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 Nasser at African Summit 1964 Cairo.jpg
Egypt's president Nasser at the Cairo summit 1964
Map of the African Union.svg
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
the African Union
Host CityHost CountryDate
Addis Ababa Flag of Ethiopia (1897-1936; 1941-1974).svg  Ethiopia 2225 May 1963
Cairo Flag of the United Arab Republic.svg  Egypt 1721 July 1964
Accra Ghana flag 1964.svg  Ghana 2126 October 1965
Addis AbabaFlag of Ethiopia (1897-1936; 1941-1974).svg  Ethiopia 59 November 1966
Kinshasa Flag of Congo-Kinshasa (1966-1971).svg  Democratic Republic of the Congo 1114 September 1967
AlgiersFlag of Algeria.svg  Algeria 1316 September 1968
Addis AbabaFlag of Ethiopia (1897-1936; 1941-1974).svg  Ethiopia 610 September 1969
Addis AbabaFlag of Ethiopia (1897-1936; 1941-1974).svg  Ethiopia 13 September 1970
Addis AbabaFlag of Ethiopia (1897-1936; 1941-1974).svg  Ethiopia 2123 June 1971
Rabat Flag of Morocco.svg  Morocco 1215 June 1972
Addis AbabaFlag of Ethiopia (1897-1936; 1941-1974).svg  Ethiopia 2728 May 1973
Mogadishu Flag of Somalia.svg  Somalia 1974
Kampala Flag of Uganda.svg  Uganda 28 July1 August 1975
Port Louis Flag of Mauritius.svg  Mauritius 26 July 1976
Libreville Flag of Gabon.svg  Gabon 25 July 1977
Khartoum Flag of Sudan.svg  Sudan 1822 July 1978
Monrovia Flag of Liberia.svg  Liberia 1720 July 1979
Freetown Flag of Sierra Leone.svg  Sierra Leone 14 July 1980
Nairobi Flag of Kenya.svg  Kenya 2427 June 1981
Addis AbabaFlag of Ethiopia (1987-1991).svg  Ethiopia 612 June 1983
Addis AbabaFlag of Ethiopia (1987-1991).svg  Ethiopia 1215 November 1984
Addis AbabaFlag of Ethiopia (1987-1991).svg  Ethiopia 1820 July 1985
Addis AbabaFlag of Ethiopia (1987-1991).svg  Ethiopia 2830 July 1986
Addis AbabaFlag of Ethiopia (1987-1991).svg  Ethiopia 2729 July- 1987
Addis AbabaFlag of Ethiopia (1987-1991).svg  Ethiopia Extraordinary Summit: October 1987
Addis AbabaFlag of Ethiopia (1987-1991).svg  Ethiopia 2528 May 1988
Addis AbabaFlag of Ethiopia (1987-1991).svg  Ethiopia 2426 July 1989
Addis AbabaFlag of Ethiopia (1987-1991).svg  Ethiopia 911 July 1990
Abuja Flag of Nigeria.svg  Nigeria 35 July 1991
Dakar Flag of Senegal.svg  Senegal 29 June 1 July 1992
CairoFlag of Egypt.svg  Egypt 2830 June 1993
Tunis Flag of Tunisia.svg  Tunisia 1315 June 1994
Addis AbabaFlag of Ethiopia.svg  Ethiopia 2628 June 1995
Yaoundé Flag of Cameroon.svg  Cameroon 810 June 1996
Harare Flag of Zimbabwe.svg  Zimbabwe 24 June 1997
Ouagadougou Flag of Burkina Faso.svg  Burkina Faso 810 June 1998
Algiers Flag of Algeria.svg  Algeria 1214 July 1999
Sirte Flag of Libya (1977-2011).svg  Libya Extraordinary Summit 69 September 1999
Lomé Flag of Togo.svg  Togo 1012 July 2000
Lusaka Flag of Zambia.svg  Zambia 911 July 2001, the last OAU summit

OAU members by date of admission (53 states)

25 May 1963Flag of Algeria.svg  Algeria
Flag of Burundi (1962-1966).svg  Burundi
Flag of Cameroon (1961-1975).svg  Cameroon
Flag of the Central African Republic.svg  Central African Republic
Flag of Chad.svg  Chad
Flag of the Republic of the Congo.svg  Congo
Flag of Congo-Leopoldville (1960-1963).svg  DR Congo 1971–97 Zaire
Flag of Benin.svg  Dahomey From 1975 Benin
Flag of the United Arab Republic.svg  Egypt
Flag of Ethiopia (1897-1936; 1941-1974).svg  Ethiopia
Flag of Gabon.svg  Gabon
Flag of Ghana.svg  Ghana
Flag of Guinea.svg  Guinea
Flag of Cote d'Ivoire.svg  Ivory Coast From 1985 Côte d'Ivoire
Flag of Liberia.svg  Liberia
Flag of Libya.svg  Libya
Flag of Madagascar.svg  Madagascar
Flag of Mali.svg  Mali
Flag of Mauritania (1959-2017).svg  Mauritania
Flag of Morocco.svg  Morocco Withdrew 12 November 1984, protesting the membership of Western Sahara. However, Morocco rejoined the African Union in January 2017, 33 years after its withdrawal. [6]
Flag of Niger.svg  Niger
Flag of Nigeria.svg  Nigeria
Flag of Rwanda (1962-2001).svg  Rwanda
Flag of Senegal.svg  Senegal
Flag of Sierra Leone.svg  Sierra Leone
Flag of Somalia.svg  Somalia
Flag of Sudan (1956-1970).svg  Sudan
Flag of Tanganyika (1961-1964).svg  Tanganyika Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged 26 April 1964 to form the United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, which was renamed Tanzania 1 November 1964.
Flag of Togo.svg  Togo
Flag of Tunisia.svg  Tunisia
Flag of Uganda.svg  Uganda
Flag of Upper Volta.svg  Upper Volta From 1984 Burkina Faso
Flag of Zanzibar.svg  Zanzibar Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged 26 April 1964 to form the United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, which was renamed Tanzania 1 November 1964.
13 December 1963Flag of Kenya.svg  Kenya
13 July 1964Flag of Malawi.svg  Malawi
16 December 1964Flag of Zambia.svg  Zambia
October 1965Flag of The Gambia.svg  Gambia
31 October 1966Flag of Botswana.svg  Botswana
Flag of Lesotho (1966-1987).svg  Lesotho
August 1968Flag of Mauritius.svg  Mauritius
24 September 1968Flag of Eswatini.svg  Swaziland
12 October 1968Flag of Equatorial Guinea.svg  Equatorial Guinea
19 November 1973Flag of Guinea-Bissau.svg  Guinea-Bissau
11 February 1975Flag of Angola.svg  Angola
18 July 1975Flag of Cape Verde (1975-1992).svg  Cape Verde
Flag of Comoros (1975-1978).svg  Comoros
Flag of Mozambique (1975-1983).svg  Mozambique
Flag of Sao Tome and Principe.svg  São Tomé and Príncipe
29 June 1976Flag of the Seychelles.svg  Seychelles
27 June 1977Flag of Djibouti.svg  Djibouti
1 June 1980Flag of Zimbabwe.svg  Zimbabwe
22 February 1982Flag of the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.svg  Western Sahara
3 June 1990Flag of Namibia.svg  Namibia
24 May 1993Flag of Eritrea.svg  Eritrea
6 June 1994Flag of South Africa.svg  South Africa

See also

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Further reading