OAU – AU at 50: Accomplishments and Draw Backs of the African Union By Lanre Olagunju



To properly analyze how well the OAU has done in the last 50 years, the benchmark for such examination should be based on how well or how close it has come to achieving its set goals and objectives in the last five decades.


In the addressof Dr Kwame Nkrumah at the founding of the OAU, he stated that “For us, it is a simple matter of grasping with certainty our heritage by using the political might of unity” He went further to emphasize that “all we need to do is develop with our united strength the enormous resources of our continent. Not one of us working singly and individually can successfully attain the fullest development. Only a united Africa functioning under a union government can forcefully mobilise the material and moral resources of our separate countries and apply them efficiently and energetically to bring a rapid change in the conditions of our people. Unite we must.”


The conscious struggle to unite Africa’s independent states coupled with the aim of eradicating all forms of colonialism inspired the Organization of African Unity (OAU) among other reasons. The OAU kicked off In May 1963 In Addis Ababa with 32 signatories of the OAU Charter, signed by different government representatives from African states. But over the years, 22 other nations joined the union.


Though, at the dissolution of the OAU, the union had 53 states. The only African state that wasn’t a member of the union was Morocco, since she left on the 12th of November 1984, basically because the Moroccan government opposed the membership of the Western Sahara as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. But even at that, Morocco still has a special status with the AU, and enjoys benefits available to other AU states.


The concept of launching the AU was initiated by former Libyan head of state; Muammar al-Gaddafi, on the 9th of September 1999, which led to its official launch in Durban in 2012. At this point, the OAU, to a great extent has achieved the decolonization of African nations with the exception of South Africa.


Of all the achievements of the African Union, its involvement in the eradication of colonialism in Africa can’t be ignored or underestimated. As at when the OAU was established, several states were yet to gain independence, while countries like South Africa and Angola were under the ordeal of minority rule.

The OAU ensured the eradication of colonialism by forming a liberation committee, which was established to defend and aid the interest of Independence movements while it looked after that of states that were already fee from colonial rule.

In putting an end to colonialism and minority rule in Africa, the OAU got involved in training and giving weapons and military bases to colonized nations battling for independence. The OAU assisted groups like the ANC and PAC who were involved in fighting apartheid and those struggling for the independence of Southern Rhodesia.

To strengthen democracy in Africa, the AU sends election observers to monitor election processes in African nations, and this to a great extent goes a long way in laying a strong foundation towards building transparent and accountable democracy in Africa.


In serving as a means of check and balance, the AU, in August 2005, suspended Mauritania from all its organizational activities due to a coup. After the country conducted an election in 2007, which was widely acclaimed to be the first, well conducted and accepted election in the history of the country its membership was restored. However the AU didn’t hesitate to suspend Mauritania again when another coup in August 2008 overthrew the elected government.


That aside, the AU has done a lot in bringing Africans together in the last fifty years. Many of the AU members are also members of the UN and they must be commended for representing and protecting the African interest and unity.


The AU works with the UN as well to assuage war refugees of their problems. Considering the deep involvement and support of the AU in the apartheid that South Africa suffered, essentially how the AU placed an embargo on South African aircrafts from flying over African nations. The UN had to expel the South African government from international agencies like the World Health Organization (WHO).


In African states going through civil war, the AU intervenes to foster peace by deploying peacekeeping soldiers. In 2003, soldiers from South Africa, Ethiopia and Mozambique were used to oversee the execution of agreements in Burundi, just like troops were equally sent to Sudan and Somalia to put situation in control. 


However, Dr. Eric Reeves and other critics have said that the African Union forces are largely incapacitated to intervene and install peace due to the lack of funds, which inhibits the forces from tackling their assignment head on. Lack of funds has scornfully reduced the supposed super power to a toothless bulldog.  

It was Salim Ahmed Salim, who lamented in his speech at the OAU Summit in Senegal in 1993that “many times, we have looked around for the OAU to intervene constructivelyin a conflict situation only to find that it is not there, and when present, to realizethat it is not adequately equipped to be decisively helpful”


African leaders should note that lack of funds has the potential of exposing the continent to the danger of “re-colonization” of some sort, considering that more than 90 percent of the AU budget comes from non-Africans. Since many African countries still wallow in the anguish of poverty, smart western nations use the bait of funding to regain their control over Africa, as funds don’t come without conditions.


As an advocate who hasn’t lost optimism in Africa, I’m quite hopeful that if African leaders gather enough political will and financial resources within an enabling environment, Africa will someday soon become truly great, independent and united.


Lanre Olagunju is a regular contributor to the Voice of Liberty Africa Project and a prize winner with African Liberty. Though he holds a degree in hydrology, his passion for advocacy and writing lured him into getting a professional diploma in Journalism from the American College of Journalism. Lanre advocates on several international platforms for the prosperity and absolute well being of the African continent.

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