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African Union (AU) – History of the Mission


The African Union (AU) is a continental organization comprised of the 55 member states representing the nations of the African Continent.

It was formally inaugurated in 2002 as a successor to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which existed from 1963 to 1999.

Historical Background the African Union (AU):

In May 1963, leaders from 32 independent African States convened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to sign the Charter establishing the Organisation of African Unity (OAU).

The OAU was conceived as a post-independence continental institution, embodying the pan-African vision for a united, free, and self-determined Africa.

The OAU Charter emphasized key principles such as freedom, equality, justice, and dignity as essential objectives for realizing the legitimate aspirations of the African people.

The founding fathers acknowledged the need to foster understanding among African peoples, promote cooperation among African states, and unite beyond ethnic and national differences.

The guiding philosophy of the OAU was rooted in Pan-Africanism, emphasizing African socialism, unity, communal practices, and the embrace of Africa’s culture and common heritage.

Main Objectives of the OAU:

The OAU’s primary goals were outlined in its Charter:

  1. Promote the unity and solidarity of African States.
  2. Coordinate and intensify cooperation to achieve a better life for the peoples of Africa.
  3. Defend sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence of Member States.
  4. Eradicate all forms of colonialism from Africa.
  5. Promote international cooperation, aligning with the United Nations Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Through the OAU Coordinating Committee for the Liberation of Africa, the continent spoke with a unified voice, forging international consensus in support of the liberation struggle and the fight against apartheid.

The OAU served as an effective forum for Member States to adopt coordinated positions on matters of common concern and effectively defend Africa’s interests in international fora.

On September 9, 1999, the Heads of State and Government of the OAU issued the Sirte Declaration, advocating for the establishment of the African Union.

This initiative aimed to accelerate the process of continental integration, enabling Africa to assume its rightful role in the global economy while addressing multifaceted social, economic, and political challenges exacerbated by certain negative aspects of globalization.

ALSO READ: The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS): Aim, Objectives & Fundamental Principles

The Inauguration of the African Union:

Officially launched in July 2002 in Durban, South Africa, the African Union (AU) emerged as a continental organization following a decision in September 1999 by its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), to establish a new entity to build upon its legacy.

The motivation behind re-launching the pan-African organization was a consensus among African leaders that, to unlock Africa’s potential, there needed to be a shift from the OAU’s focus on decolonization and combating apartheid towards increased cooperation and integration among African states to drive economic growth and development.

Vision and Aims of the AU:

Guided by its vision of “An Integrated, Prosperous, and Peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in the global arena,” the AU outlines its objectives in the Constitutive Act and the Protocol on Amendments to the Constitutive Act. These aims include:

  1. Achieving greater unity and solidarity among African countries and their people.
  2. Defending the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence of Member States.
  3. Accelerating political and socio-economic integration of the continent.
  4. Promoting and defending African common positions on issues of interest to the continent and its peoples.
  5. Encouraging international cooperation.
  6. Promoting peace, security, and stability on the continent.
  7. Promoting democratic principles, institutions, popular participation, and good governance.
  8. Promoting and protecting human and peoples’ rights in accordance with relevant human rights instruments.
  9. Establishing conditions for the continent to play its rightful role in the global economy and international negotiations.
  10. Promoting sustainable development at the economic, social, and cultural levels.
  11. Promoting cooperation in all fields to raise the living standards of African peoples.
  12. Coordinating and harmonizing policies among Regional Economic Communities.
  13. Advancing development by promoting research, particularly in science and technology.
  14. Collaborating with international partners in eradicating preventable diseases and promoting good health on the continent.
  15. Ensuring the effective participation of women in decision-making.
  16. Developing and promoting common policies on trade, defense, and foreign relations.
  17. Encouraging the full participation of the African Diaspora in building the African Union.

AU Decision-Making Organs:

The AU’s work is implemented through various decision-making organs, including the Assembly of Heads of State and Government, the Executive Council, the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC), Specialized Technical Committees (STCs), the Peace and Security Council, and the African Union Commission.

The AU structure emphasizes the participation of African citizens and civil society through the Pan-African Parliament and the Economic, Social & Cultural Council (ECOSOCC).

Judicial and Legal Organs:

For judicial and legal matters, as well as human rights issues, the AU has organs like the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR), AU Commission on International Law (AUCIL), AU Advisory Board on Corruption (AUABC), and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child.

Continental Financial Institutions and Regional Bodies:

The AU is also working towards the establishment of continental financial institutions, including The African Central Bank, The African Investment Bank, and the African Monetary Fund. The Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and the African Peer Review Mechanism are additional key bodies within the AU’s structure.

Agenda 2063:

To ensure the realization of its objectives and the Pan African Vision, Agenda 2063 was developed as a strategic framework for Africa’s long-term socio-economic and integrative transformation. This agenda calls for greater collaboration and support for African-led initiatives to achieve the aspirations of African people.



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