The Evolution of the Organization of African Union (OAU)

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The organization of African union was formed in the month of May, in the year 1963, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. It was a union created by 32 sovereign African nations, which had legitimate anticipations and visions for Africa. Each country would have wished to have the meeting established at their home country, but they chose Ethiopia due to the thriving efforts of the late Ketema Yifru, who was recognized by the media as having played a greater role in the formation of the union. Ketema was the foreign minister of Ethiopia during that time. However, the formation of the OAU had been accompanied by shuttled diplomacy, closed door negotiations, and tireless efforts. This indicates the challenges that were involved in its formation. There was a fierce diplomatic battle as majority of the African countries did not want the union to be formed (Murithi, 69-82).

Evolution of OAU

The Organization of African Union was formed in order to reinforce the continent of Africa and to make it less susceptible to exterior pressure. Kwame Nkrumah, who was at that time the president of Ghana, believed that unity in the continent of Africa was essential. In order to exercise his words, Nkrumah commenced an association that stressed the instant union of the African continent. After Nkrumah’s presentation on the idea of African unison, a division was formed that triggered the onset of the movement. Some countries like Ghana, Guinea, and Mali believed in the organization of the African union, and therefore went on to form the Casablanca group which included the transitional administration of Algeria and Morocco. Consequently, a Monrovia group consisting of 24 members, acknowledged as the conformists joined to oppose the unity of the African continent. The members included Togo, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Liberia, Nigeria, and many others who believed that the union of Africa was of no use to the citizens. The contest between the opposing and proposing members was in a way believed to create war between the countries (Murithi, 69-82).
The opposing groups came together in may, 1963 with a common agenda of forming the union they had at first rejected. Many people wondered as to how such contesting groups would unite to form OAU. Others suggested that the union was due to the great respect they had on Emperor Haile Selassie of Addis Ababa. A greater number fed the public with untrue stories concerning the issue of the Organization of the African union. Consequently, Haile Selassie invited the two groups to his office and made efforts to resolve the conflicts between the Monrovia bloc and the Casablanca bloc. After the conflicts were resolved, Addis Ababa was made the OAUs headquarters (Murithi, 69-82).

Challenges of the Evolution of the Organization

The evolution of the African union was accompanied by numerous challenges, some of which have been mentioned earlier in this context. The challenges began before the formation of the organization. During the process of the organizations initial steps, 54 countries were expected to unite to the formation of the OAU. Morocco threatened to leave the organization and did so after the union commenced its activities. It became the only country in Africa that did not participate in African unity. This led to the loss of some power in the organization since morocco was believed to be a well established country during those times (Selassie, 61-67).

For the evolutionary process of the organization to occur, it needed a strong military since war had begun in Eritrea in efforts to oppose the formation of the organization (Selassie, 61-67). The conflict was not easy to be resolved due to the lack of a strong military and the struggle to enforce the organizations decisions. Civil wars in Nigeria and Angola continued for many years, but the Organization of African Union did not have the necessary requirements, such as tools of war to fight and help relieve the war. Certain strategies laid by member states minimized the chances of the effectiveness of the OAU. For example, when human rights were violated in Uganda by Idi Amin, the OAU was powerless to end the violation. These conditions made it difficult for OAU to attain its objectives.

Although the OAU was intended to protect the rights of its citizens, it was unable to accomplish the majority of its objectives. This was facilitated by the political action of leaders, who dubbed the organization as a club of dictators. As a result of the branding of the organization by its contesters, total unity was not easy to achieve, which led to delayed action of its objectives. However, those who sided with the organization wanted it to perform, not putting into consideration the challenges that it was experiencing (Selassie, 61-67). This condition led to misunderstanding by various nations that had proposed its evolution. Continued misunderstanding again led to the division of the OAU. The French colonies, who were dependant on France, formed the Monrovia group. The group further divided, forming one that supported USA and another that supported the USSR in the cold war of thoughts. Due to the division, OAU was unable to reach the groups in order to find a solution to the conflicts (Murithi, 69-82).

Challenges of the OAU continued to exist in the Sub-Saharan Africa, where food deficiency was a general term for over many years. The OAU, which is entitled to give aid to the citizens of its member countries, had been reluctant in its operations. Studies conducted in the African continent on the effectiveness of the OAU indicated that the organization had done very little. The organization that claimed the lives of many residents of Africa during the cold war and First World War was not working to fulfill its promises to African citizens. This created a very bad image for the organization and led to ignorance by some member countries, even in matters of developing the African continent. The bad image of the Organization of African Union led to insignificant economic growth in many parts of Africa (Selassie, 61-67). In his research on the development of the Africa continent brought about by the OAU, Murithi discovers that Africa has for long experienced a series of violence, with an example of Somalia and Darfur (69-82). Sierra Leone and Liberia were subject to prolonged war aiming to stop the processes of OAU.

Somalia, which has a history of war, did not want to engage in the union, since its intentions of violence would be depicted by the OAU. Although Somalia did not end its unity with the organization, its involvement led to interruption of the many responsibilities of the organization as affirmed by Murithi, (69-82). The conflict witnessed in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1990s led to the interruption of the OAU. Mozambique informed the UN on the conflict, leading to dissolution of the war. Since the evolution of the OAU, developments in the African continent have been hindered by the excessive battles witnessed. The security of the majority countries in Africa rose from bad to worse. It is a common condition that a country comprised of wars cannot progress, since much is lost in the process of war. Some people come in to steal from individuals who had a lot of wealth, and the companies that participated much in the development of the country’s economy as witnessed in Somalia (Selassie, 61-67).

With the evolution of OAU, many countries have been left behind in terms of development. This particularly as a result of the financial crisis brought about by the series of war. A number of studies conducted in the areas of war indicated that over 3 million lives had been lost due to the war and 160 million Africans were living as refugees in foreign countries. The death figure was raised by the issues of conflict in Rwanda and Burundi. These conflicting countries fought to oppose the organization that they thought made no progress to Africa. Other studies indicated that the evolution of the organization brought calamities to Africa, since many of the African refugees in foreign countries were mistreated. This was because such countries had not signed the treaty for the African union. The refugees in Tanzania, Libya, Egypt, Malawi and many African countries were reported to be mistreated by police officers. The organization of African union targeted to provide peace to the African continent, was contrasted by the numerous battles that rose thereafter (Murithi, 69-82).

Achievements of the Organization

Besides the many challenges faced by the evolution of the OAU, the organization was successful in a number of aspects. Many of the members of the organization were members of the United Nations, (UN). Due to this unity with the UN, they involved the latter on the issues arising in the African continent. This led to UN’s intervention resulting in stoppage of the conflicts. This is reflected in the case where Mozambique informed the UN on the war in the Democratic Republic of Congo. However, OAU was successful in its pursuit of African unity. This was reflected by the numerous numbers of African countries that joined to form the OAU (Saenz, 203-225).
OAU also played a vital role in eradication of colonialism and white marginal regulation in Africa. It gave weapons, trained military and gave the military the basis to rebel groups against white minority and colonial regulation. The OAU gave aid to groups such as ANC and PAC, which were fighting apartheid, and ZANU and ZAPU fighting to overthrow the administration of Rhodesia. The African ports were closed to the South African government, and South African aircraft was forbidden from flying to the rest of the continent. The OAU convinced the UN on the issue and South Africa was expelled from unions such as the World Health Organization (WHO). The OAU also worked with the UN to solve the refugee problems. The refugees’ were brought back to their country and those mistreating them were severely punished (Selassie, 61-67).

Through the union built by UN and the OAU, the African development bank was created. Its formation aided in improvement of the financial system of many countries in the Africa continent. Even though majority of African countries later became independent, they still relied on their former colonizers for financial aid through the African Development Bank. The formation of the African development bank created a channel of financial help to the countries that urgently needed help, although the chances of reliance were reduced. The USA and USSR intervened in times of security matters, providing hope of lessened disputes in the continent. The help, which was guaranteed in the form of education to the military, helped to minimize conflicts in Africa, which was an operation carried out by the OAU (Saenz, 203-225).

The Organization of the African Union gained numerous specialized agencies, which improved its performance. Some of the agencies included the Pan-African Telecommunications Union (PATU), which improved the communication networks in the African continent. Good communication network is believed to improve the working conditions and relations among the parties involved (Murithi, 69-82). This served to improve the activities of the OAU, leading to contentment in the countries that doubted its work. The formation of the Pan-African Postal Union (PAPU) also helped to improve postal services in the African continent. The link brought about by mailing, provided an improved system of coordination amid African countries.

The Pan-African News Agency (PANA) helped to relay information on the proceedings of the OAU and other related news to the African citizens. Studies have indicated that the news agency was among the commonly used agencies during that time. African citizens wanted to be informed on the acts going on in Africa. This was related to the news on war, proceedings of the OAU and the steps taken by their governments in matters of development to their specific countries. This channel was also used to relay information to the UN in the case of conflicts and war. The UN would thereby act immediately, bringing a solution to the incident. OAUs creation of the Union of African National Television and Radio Organizations (URTNA) paved the way for enhanced methods of relaying information. It also created job opportunities to numerous individuals, hence boosting their economic status (Saenz, 203-225).

One of the main achievements of the OAU was realized when it formed the Union of the African Railways (UAR). The union would facilitate transportation across African countries. This improved trade activities since any commodity, regardless of its weight would be ferried to the area of auction. The union also improved commercial activities, thereby boosting the financial system of the specific countries involved. The OAU contributed a lot to the economic status of various countries in the African continent (Murithi, 69-82). Some of the objectives of OAU were fulfilled. These include achievement of greater unity and solidarity amid African countries and their natives, encouragement of global unity, taking into account the charter of the UN and the collective affirmation of human rights, among others. The OAU charter, which was amended on the day when OAU was formed, stated how the operations of the organization would be carried out. The charter would accomplish its operations through the assembly of heads of state and the government, the council of ministers, the general secretariat, and the commission of mediation, conciliation and arbitration (Murithi, 69-82).

In order to prevent complications in the OAU, summit decisions made in the organization were established in the mechanism of conflict prevention, management and resolution. The operations of the assembly, council and relative individuals are directed by the OAU rules of procedure. This indicates that the OAU officials are not allowed to carry out activities as they wish. They have to follow some specific programs in order to exercise their intentions. Compared to the previous works of the OAU that is before the formation of the summits and the rules of procedures, the people were not contended with the works of the organization, until the rules were brought in. This always led to conflicts and dissolution of the treaty, as witnessed in some countries like Morocco (Selassie, 61-67). The OAU made immense progress after the institution of the laws governing its operations.

The entry into power of the Abuja treaty establishing the African Economic Community (AEC) in 1994 provided another option of operation for the OAU. These legal instruments enabled accurate functioning of the organization. The need to incorporate political actions of the OAU with the economic and developmental issues as articulated in the Abuja treaty was established. The constitutive act of the organization was adopted after the Lome summit of the OAU in 2000. The corporation was intended to evolve from the OAU and the AEC into one unified institution, which was named the African union (AU). The strategies of the OAU were different from those of the AU as depicted in the constitutive act in the following ways. First, AU aimed to attain greater unity and solidarity amid African countries and the natives of African continent (Murithi, 69-82).

AU also aimed at defending the independence, protective integrity and freedom of its member states. It also targeted to accelerate the political and socio-economic integration of the continent, promote and protect African common positions on subjects of interest to the continent and its inhabitants, promote global unity, taking reasonable account of the charter of the UN and the universal affirmation of human rights, encourage peace, security, and stability on the continent, enhance democratic principles and institutions, encourage known participation and good leadership, establish the required conditions which enable the continent to play its rightful responsibility in the international economy and in the global negotiations, enhance unity in all fields of human activity to raise the living standards of the African citizens, coordinate and harmonize the strategies amid the current and future regional economic societies for the gradual achievement of the objectives of the union, among others. The African union formulated its own objectives, neglecting the existing objectives of the OAU, since they believed that the previous ones had never been exercised (Saenz, 203-225).

Future Prospective of the Organization

The Constitutive Act makes stipulation for a well established intermediary era which will guarantee a smooth and continued evolution of the OAU and AEC into the African Union. The constitutive act is intended to replace the charter of the OAU. It will enter into power 30 days after approval by two-thirds of the 53 members of the organization, thereby replacing the OAU charter of 1963. However, the charter shall operate for an intermediary period of one year, or the period that will be set by the assembly, for the purpose of enabling the OAU/AEC to carry out the necessary actions regarding the decentralization of its assets and liabilities to the AU (Saenz, 203-225).
The adoption of the constitutive act is reflected as the first step in an ongoing process to modernize and rationalize the existing organizational structure of the African continent. By doing so, the AU will be pertinent to the demands of the 21st century and to achieve the eventual goal of total African unity. The AU should build on the successes of the OAU, since its inauguration has developed into the political and financial turning point of Africa. The Lome summit acknowledged security, stability, development and unity in Africa in a conference held in the year 2000. It also indicated that the various activities carried out by the OAU/AEC should help to consolidate the operation of the organization in the areas of harmony, safety, steadiness, progress and unity. The summit should also provide policy development meetings for the amplification and improvement of common values within the main policy organs of the African union (Saenz, 203-225).

Studies indicate that the operations of the African union can be kept alive through additional efforts from donors and well wishers. Donor countries should increase official development aid in line with their commitments and beneficiaries. Private foreign investors are expected to help incorporate the continent into their industrialized, commercial and economic strategies. The African development Bank Group should persist in finding its mission of helping expansion labors on the African continent (Saenz, 203-225).


The evolution of the organization is noted to have been accompanied by a long chain of challenges. The challenges which persisted, affected the lives of numerous persons through death and colonization. It has been noted that numerous citizens would leave their countries in fear of war and end up being mistreated in the countries they left for. The countries in which war persisted experienced an economic downturn, leading to delayed economic activities, hence more calamities in the subject of food deficiency. The evolution of the African union has been noted to succeed in a number of ways. The constitutive act was amended leading to the formation of the AU, which provided many opportunities for the Africans. The Act is currently working on its operations to provide a continent that is secure and independent.

Works Cited

Murithi, Tim. “The African Union’s Evolving Role in Peace Operations: The African Union Mission in Burundi, the African Union Mission in Sudan and the African Union Mission in Somalia.” African Security Studies 17.1 (2008): 69-82.
Saenz, Paul. “The Organization of African Unity in the Subordinate African Regional System.” African Studies Review 13.2 (1970): 203-225.
Selassie, Bereket Habte. “The OAU and Regional Conflicts: Focus on the Eritrean War.” Africa Today 35.3/4 (1988): 61-67.