Organisation of African Unity

Organisation of African Unity
Organisation de l'Unité Africaine
Flag of the Organisation for African Unity Emblem of the Organisation for African Unity
Flag Emblem
Capital n/a a
Government Not specified
   1963–1964 Kifle Wodajo
  1964–1972 Diallo Telli
  1972–1974 Nzo Ekangaki
  1974–1978 William Eteki
  1978–1983 Edem Kodjo
  1983–1985 Peter Onu
  1985–1989 Ide Oumarou
  1989–2001 Salim Ahmed Salim
  2001–2002 Amara Essy
   Charter 25 May 1963
   Disbanded 9 July 2002
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Casablanca Group
African Union
a Headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

The Organisation of African Unity (OAU; French: Organisation de l'unité africaine (OUA)) was established on 25 May 1963 in Addis Ababa, with 32 signatory governments.[1] It was disbanded on 9 July 2002 by its last chairperson, South African President Thabo Mbeki, and replaced by the African Union (AU).


The OAU had the following primary aims:

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.

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"[2] 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 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 Organisation.

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. While useful, such external assistance was often perceived as not necessarily in the best interests of the former colonies. 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 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
This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of
the African Union

It includes ordinary and extraordinary summits.

OAU members by date of admission (53 states)

  Indicates no longer member
Date Countries Notes
25 May 1963  Algeria
 Central African Republic
 Democratic Republic of the Congo 1971–97 Zaire
 Benin Dahomey before 1975
 Ivory Coast From 1985 Côte d'Ivoire
 Mauritania Suspended 4 August 2005
 Morocco Withdrew 12 November 1984 protesting the membership of Western Sahara
 Sierra Leone
 Tanganyika Tanganyika and Zanzibar merged 26 April 1964 to form the United Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, which was renamed Tanzania 1 November 1964.
 Upper Volta From 1984 Burkina Faso.
 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 1963  Kenya
13 July 1964  Malawi
16 December 1964  Zambia
October 1965  Gambia
31 October 1966  Botswana
August 1968  Mauritius
24 September 1968  Swaziland
12 October 1968  Equatorial Guinea
19 November 1973  Guinea-Bissau
11 February 1975  Angola
18 July 1975  Cape Verde
 São Tomé and Príncipe
29 June 1976  Seychelles
27 June 1977  Djibouti
June 1980  Zimbabwe
22 February 1982  Western Sahara
June 1990  Namibia
24 May 1993  Eritrea
6 June 1994  South Africa

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Organisation of African Unity.


  1. 1 2
  3. African Parliamentary Union

Further reading

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