African Union: an Overview

Topics: African Union, Africa, Thabo Mbeki Pages: 7 (2376 words) Published: May 20, 2013
The African Union (AU) succeeded the Organization of African Unity (OAU), which was formed in 1963. The OAU was a product of a compromise of African statesmen who wanted political union of all independent African states and those who preferred functional cooperation as a building block towards the construction of an African socio-psychological community.

The OAU was then transformed to AU in Sirte, Libya in 2001 with African leaders aiming to harmonize the economic and political policies of all African nations in order to improve pan-African welfare, and provide Africans with a solid voice in international affairs. The question today is: Has the AU achieved these objectives?  

To my view, there are lots of positives that can be pointed from the bloc, but I have pessimism that Africa will one day become a truly independent and united continent as were the dreams of the OAU founding fathers. I am not surprised that some people are questioning the achievability of OAU founding fathers' ideas. I do not want to liken pan-Africanists such as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Ahmed Ben Bella of Algeria and Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, just to list a few, to the great philosopher, Karl Marx, whose ideas are a mere critique of the status quo but offering little practical solutions to societal problems.  

While the OAU achieved its endeavor to liberate other African states, it was deemed too weak in its bid to make the continent realize pan-African dreams. The problem is lack of financial capacity due to the dependency theory [Africans depending on former colonizers on exploration of the continent's resources] that has made the continent unable to transform itself into a truly independent block. The main problem though has been inability by African states to refuse to dance to the tune of the former colonizer’s ‘divide and rule tactics.' As a result, divisions have rocked the continent to the extent that it is now difficult for African leaders to sing from the same hymn book in pursuit of pan-African objectives.  

When the AU was then established, its supporters believed that it would have a stronger charter than the OAU, would be better funded, and would have the "teeth" that the OAU lacked, including the power to create a common African Parliament, a Central Bank, a common African currency and an International Court of Justice (Steinberg 2001). It was hoped that the AU would have the authority and ability to achieve economic and political integration among member states, as well as work towards a common defense, foreign and communications policy: national boundaries would be blurred, armies merged, and a single passport introduced (Ibid).

Before I dwell on the problems of the AU, let me start with their achievements first. The bloc has achieved a lot in uniting the continent. While the OAU’s major strength was its ability to decolonize the continent, the AU has a mandate to preserve that independence and advocate for peace. The continent has many areas where civil wars are raging, but the AU is doing a lot in trying to restore peace in those troubled spots. For example, the organization has peacekeepers in Somalia and Darfur to monitor situations in those areas.

First and foremost, the move from a Secretariat to a Commission is one of the major innovations of the AU Constitutive Act, embodying the will to make a qualitative jump forward towards more integration. The AUC has been conceived as a collegial institution independent from Member States, which has the competence to represent the Union. It also plays the role of coordination and harmonization of activities and of implementation of inter-African cooperation, which was previously carried out by intergovernmental institutions (the OAU Assembly and the Council of Ministers). In certain policy areas, the Commission proved that it was in a position to offer real added value to Member States.

The AU has...
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