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Role of the African Union (A.U), formerly
Organisation of African Unity (O.A.U)

An international organization is an organization with an international membership, scope, or
presence. Some may take membership on continental or regional basis. International
Organizations can be further divided into two: International Nongovernment Organizations
and International government organizations.

African union is an intergovernmental organization consisting of 53 African states. All

members are from Africa since the charter does not permit non-African states to join It was
established on July 9, 2002 as a successor to the Organization of African Unity (OAU). The
main administrative capital of the African Union is in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. During the
February 2009 Union meeting headed by Libyan leader Gaddafi, its current chairperson it
was resolved that the African Union Commission would become the African Union
Authority1. The main administrative capital of the African Union is in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia,
where the African Union Commission is headquartered. Other AU structures are hosted by
different member states: for example, the African Commission on Human and Peoples'
Rights is based in Banjul, The Gambia; and the NEPAD and APRM Secretariats as well as
the Pan-African Parliament are in Midrand, South Africa.

The Heads of State and Government of the Assembly of the African Union met for the
inaugural session of the African Union in Durban, South Africa on July 10, 2002. There, they
adopted the Durban Declaration in Tribute to the Organization of African Union on the
Occasion of the Launching of the African Union. The 53 African states who composed the
OAU are now members of the new inter-governmental organization, the AU, modelled after
the European Union (EU). It is headquartered in Ethiopia. The African Union was launched
in Durban on 9 July 2002, its first chairperson, South African Thabo Mbeki at the first
session of the Assembly of the African Union.

The only African country that is not a member of the African Union is Morocco, which left
the AU's predecessor, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), in 1984, when many of the
other member countries supported the Sahrawi nationalist Polisario Front's Sahrawi Arab
Democratic Republic. The most important decisions of the AU are made by the Assembly of
the African Union, a twice-yearly meeting of the heads of state and government of its
member states.

In general, the African Union objectives as contained in the Constitutive Act are slightly
different and more comprehensive than those of the OAU.

African Union has been instrumental in fighting all forms racism and minority rule on the
African continent .O.A.U is credited for contributions to the end of apartheid rule in south
Africa.. It gave weapons, training in guerilla Warfare tactics and military bases to fighting
Group such ANC and PAC, fighting apartheid in southAfrica2. Organisation of African
Unity mobilized members states in bringing together resources to fight Apartheid.

Decolonization of the African continent. O.A.U played a pivotal role in eradicating

colonialism rule Africa. It gave weapons, training and military bases to colonized nations
fighting for independence or majority rule. Groups such as the, fighting, ZANU and ZAP ,
fighting for the independence of Southern Rhodesia , were aided in their endeavors by the
OAU3.African Union when still O.A.U through O.A.U co-coordinating committee for the
Liberation of Africa, organized diplomatic support and channeled financial,millitary and
logistic aid to liberation movemnets that led their respective countries to indepepndence.
Through an O.A.U fund, international support was channeled to liberate areas in Guinea
Bissau, Angola and Mozambique

Promote peace, security, and stability on the continent. The A.U through its body Peace and
Security Council (PSC) maintained and kept peace on the African continent .the Peace and
Security Council was proposed at the Lusaka Summit in 2001 and established in 2004 under
a protocol to the Constitutive Act adopted by the AU Assembly in July 2002. The protocol
defines the PSC as a collective security and early warning arrangement to facilitate timely
and effective response to conflict and crisis situations in Africa. Other responsibilities
conferred to the PSC by the protocol include prevention, management and resolution of

Peacekeeping missions. African Union deployed in Sudan for peacekeeping in the Darfur
conflict, before the mission was handed over to the United Nations on 1 January 2008
UNAMID. The AU recently also sent a peacekeeping mission to Somalia of which the
peacekeeping troops are from Uganda and Burundi. A.U has undertaken peacekeeping
missions in Somalia called African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISON), African Union
Mission in Sudan (AMIS, and the African Union-United Nations, Hybrid Operation in Darfur

To this end, the African Union has sent several thousand of their pledged 12,000 troops to
Darfur to help protect civilians from the genocide being carried out by the Janjaweed militia.
However, the AU is drastically under-financed and is requesting financial assistance from the
international community in order to complete its intended mission.

Preventing and combating terrorism role. Terrorism has always been a threat to security in
Africa The period after September 11th when Twin towers were and Pentagon were attacked
by terrorists can be characterised as the terrorism moment in world history that every actor in
international relations – the state, regional, continental and international as well as civil
society organisations has been mobilised to combat what, apparently has been conceived as a
common security threat to humanity. It was not until the beginning of the 1990s that terrorism
Wikipedia website resource .
was actually put on the agenda of the OAU. The Constitutive Act of the AU provides a basis
for preventing and combating terrorism. Article 4(o) calls for “respect for the sanctity of
human life, condemnation and rejection of impunity and political assassination, acts of
terrorism and subversive activities.

Arms control and disarmament role. stopping the Proliferation of weapons of mass
destruction. South Africa has actively participated in the activities of the OAU since its
admission as a member, and was instrumental in initiating the African Nuclear Weapons Free
Zone Treaty (the Treaty of Pelindaba). It also played a significant role in placing the issue of
non-proliferation of landmines and small arms on the agenda of the OAU. At the 1998
Summit in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, South Africa was requested to act as the co-
ordinator of the countries of the Indian Ocean Region for the OAU’s efforts to find a
sustainable solution to the problems in the Comoros.

O.A.U/African Union Formulates and implements of treaties, protocols and conventions

targeting the continent’s crucial problems in human rights,trade ,agriculture, economic
concerns, maritime transport,postal union services,telecommunication ,governance to
mention but a few.some of the treaties and protocols include: Pan-African Postal Union
Convention Signed on 17 January 1980, entered into force on 1 July 1980..Pan African
Telecommunications Union Convention Signed on 7 December 1977. South Africa deposited
its instrument of accession to the PATU Convention on 30 June 1999.Convention for the
Elimination of Mercenaries in Africa Adopted on 3 July 1977, . Constitution of the
Association of African Trade Promotion Organisations Adopted on 18 January 1974 not yet
entered into force, Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in
Africa Adopted on 10 September 1969 and entered into force on 20th June 1974. South Africa
ratified the convention on 15 December 1995 and deposited its Instrument of Ratification on
15 January 1996. All these have played specialised roles in the member states. However some
of the treaties and protocols have ended only being talked about but little implementation
which renders African Union toothless.

O.A.U restructured its self to meet the new challenges of the 21th century by becoming
African Union. The Constitutive Act was to replace the Charter of the OAU. The Constitutive
Act will enter into force thirty days after ratification by two-thirds of the 53 Member States of
the OAU, replacing the OAU Charter of 1963.The adoption of the Constitutive Act should be
seen as the first step in an ongoing process to streamline and rationalise the existing
organisational framework of the Continent, in so doing making the African Union relevant to
the demands of the 21st Century and to achieve the ultimate goal of complete African unity.
The African Union would build on the successes of the OAU, which, since its inception, has
developed into the political and economic fulcrum of Africa.

To accelerate the political landscape of the continent. The African Union is made up of both
political and administrative bodies. The highest decision-making organ of the African Union
is the Assembly, made up of all the heads of state or government of member states of the AU.
The Assembly is currently chaired by Muammar al-Gaddafi, leader of Libya, elected at the
tenth ordinary meeting of the Assembly in January 2009. The AU also has a representative
body, the Pan African Parliament, which consists of 265 members elected by the national
parliaments of the AU member states. The current president of the Pan African Parliament is
Idriss Ndele Moussa. Other political institutions of the AU include the Executive Council
made up of foreign ministers, which prepares decisions for the Assembly ; the Permanent
Representatives Committee, made up of the ambassadors to Addis Ababa of AU member

Conflicts, post-conflict peace building and developing common defence policies. The PSC
has fifteen members elected on a regional basis by the Assembly. Similar in intent and
operation to the United Nations Security Council.

Civil society role. The AU has adopted a number of important new documents establishing
norms at continental level, to supplement those already in force before it was created. These
include the African Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (2003) and the
African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (2007), as well as the New
Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and its associated Declaration on
Democracy, Political, Economic and Corporate Governance. (AU treaties available at:

Promoting and supporting constitutional rule in Africa. Already the OAU/AU has resolved
thatunconstitutional transfers of power will not be recognised. Standards for constitutional
rule need to be set and continually raised. African Union on a number of occasions has come
out to condemn unconstitutional acts like military coups, rule by decrees denial of elections
and all forms of undermining rule of law. it has even at times imposed sanctions and
restrictions on culprits or unpopular regimes. For example In response to the death of
Gnassingbé Eyadéma, President of Togo, on 5 February 2005, AU leaders described the
naming of his son Faure Gnassingbé the successor as a military coup. Togo's constitution
calls for the speaker of parliament to succeed the president in the event of his death. By law,
the parliament speaker must call national elections to choose a new president within sixty
days. The AU's protest forced Gnassingbé to hold elections. Under heavy allegations of
election fraud, he was officially elected President on 4 May 2005.

Promotion of African culture .O.A.U was instrumental in promotion African cultural

practices and heritage through organizing festivals for music, dance, drama and art
.O.A.U staged 1st African Cultuiral Festival (Algiers August 1969 and first
Workshop on African Folklore,Dance and music in Mogadiscio Somalia October
1970 .the first panafrica festival took place in Algiers,Algeria in 1969.never before had
African culture and Arts given such a briliant dis[play of theirr richies,variety which
portrayed sense of purpose to Africans

Bringing together member states to discuss problems facing the continent there with
counterparts through the general assembly, the Pan-African Parliament and other
commitees to discuss Africa problems and offer solutions.

Promote and defend African common positions on issues of interest to the continent and its
peoples through Encourage international cooperation, taking due account of the Charter of
the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; Promote democratic
principles and institutions, popular participation and good governance overseeing
elections;Promote and protect human peoples’ rights in accordance with the African Charter
on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other relevant human rights instruments; Establish the
necessary conditions which enable the continent to play its rightful role in the global
economy and in international negotiations; Promote cooperation in all fields of human
activity to raise the living standards of African peoples; Coordinate and harmonise the
policies between the existing and future Regional Economic Communities for the gradual
attainment of the objectives of the Union;

Promote sustainable development at the economic, social and cultural levels as well as the
integration of African economies; due of O.A.U efforts , African countries have been able to
harmonise their policies with regard to international financial institutions like IMF, World
bank, consequently their claims of poor terms of trade ,full participation in new international
monetary system have been dealt with,

Advance the development of the continent by promoting research in all fields, in particular in
science and technology; and Work with relevant international partners in the eradication of
preventable diseases and the promotion of good health on the continent.

Promotion of unity and cooperation among African states. the O.A.U is on record for
advancement of the policy of non-alignment with regard to conflicting blocks of western
and eastern which checked on source of conflicts and misunderstanding that would divide
people and states within the African union. Further more in proclaiming the O.A.U principles
and objectives,the founding fathers of the organisation thought of unity that cuts across
ethnics, religion and national differences.

.Management of boundary conflicts. in ten years of existence, O.A.U was confronted with a
number of boundary and conflicts in North, east and central Africa .through the O.A.U
machinery and efforts ,these conflicts were settled in the true spirit of solidarity while
respecting aspect of solidarity ,non interference and military intervention.

Specialized roles .Through the specialized African Union departments and committees, alot
has been achieved and done on the African continent.these include African Accounting
Council; African Bureau for Educational Sciences; African Civil Aviation Commission;
Pan-African News Agency; Pan-African Postal Union; Pan-African Railways Union;
Pan-African Telecommunications Union;Supreme Council for Sports in Africa.

Defence of Member states’ sovereignty and territory integrity. African Union formerly O.A.U
helped prevent successions while maintaining the cohesion of its membership for example in
Nigeria during a civil war that shock the federal republic of Nigeria ,O.A.U supported side
of unity and provided appropriate machinery, a consultative committee that helped prevent a
secession. O.A.U also helped check on imperialism in Congo(Democratic Republic Of
Congo )which threatened its supply of strategic raw materials. also O.A.U condemned the
Israeli aggression and demanded the withdrawal of Israelis troops from all occupied Arab
territories. through the O.A.U, African countries have proclaimed their permanent
sovereignty over their natural resources, just as they are pressing a modification of
international law with regard to the continental shelf and territorial waters.

Peacekeeping missions. African Union deployed in Sudan for peacekeeping in the Darfur
conflict, before the mission was handed over to the United Nations on 1 January 2008
UNAMID .The AU recently also sent a peacekeeping mission to Somalia of which the
peacekeeping troops are from Uganda and Burundi.

It is also the first study to pay attention to the OAU's role in the political psychology of state
elites, which comes to the fore in the areas of OAU co-operation discussed in this book: the
OAU's internal functioning; the former struggle against apartheid and colonialism; conflict
management; and the OAU's role in representing collective African viewpoints in global

To promote and defend African common positions on issues of interest to the continent and
its peoples. Action in favour and protection of African refugees due to conflict and
persecution. By 1968, a bureau of placement and education of African refugees has
been in operation at O.AU headquarters. Many African were provided with
educational and job opportunities .also a convention governing aspects of the refugee
problems in Africa was adopted by O.A.U heads of State in September this
convention, a refugee status and right of asylum are recognized by all independent
African states

Contributed to the Fields of education, environment and health .in these fields O.A.U may be
credited with pre-investment studies, scientific investigations on plant protection,
soils, Animal health, pilot projects in the field earth science like geology and weather
.in the field of health, preventive medicine and public health measures are being
applied all over Africa in conjunction with other international agencies like World
Health Organization.African Union preeseccer O.A.U advocated for scheme of
equivalent degree that all African universities can allow students from universities in
Africa freely.

O.A.U has achieved almost every objective but current African Union may not bear enough
fruits because of the leadership and selfish leadership of Libyan President colonel Warmer
Gadaffi. He is a wealthy leader who can buy poor majority of African states to do whatever
he wants to do.


The OAU protected the interests of African heads of state without addressing the real
problems that plagued the continent which is the same thing Africa Union inherited , a club
of dictators that use their influence to maintain unpopular regimes and poor governance of
seating governments. Given the absence of real mechanisms for enforcement in the hands of
Institutions, much of the work for the foreseeable future must consist in developing
consensus, thereby promoting the subjective conditions for a possible peace and security
The challenge for Africa Union is confronting the call for ‘thinking the unthinkable’ and
being Creative, efficient and swift in responding to these challenges. Even if Other regions
like Europe provide lessons.
Africa has to develop its own collective institutions through its own political will and
member states. slogan ‘African solutions to African problems’ does not mean that Africa is
an island untouched by global forces, but is a call for African ownership and originality in
these matters.

1. "Africa rejects Madagascar 'coup'" 20 March 2009 Link accessed 20/03/09
3. Martin Ewi and Kwesi Aning Feature , Assessing the Role of the African Union in
Preventing and Combating Terrorism in Africa, Published in Africa Security Review Vol
15 No 3