Organization of African Unity (OAU)
becomes the African Union (AU)
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, modeled after the European
Union (EU). It is headquartered in Ethiopia.
The decision to transform the OAU into the new AU was announced at the
final summit meeting of the OAU in July 2001. The OAU was originally
established in 1963 to promote unity, solidarity and international
cooperation among the newly independent African states. During the
past four decades, however, the old organization struggled to achieve
its stated goal of "a better life for the people of Africa," and
instead was hindered by internal conflict and self-serving heads of
state. According to some critics, the OAU protected the interests of
African heads of state without addressing the real problems that
plagued the continent.
The AU was first proposed in 1999 by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi as
a more effective institution for increasing prosperity throughout the
region. In general, it is hoped that the new AU will have the
authority and the ability to achieve true economic and political
integration among its member states by promoting democratic values,
defending human rights and providing a forum for internal and regional
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
|African Union Websites and
|Organization of African Unity
(from the African Union website).
News "African Union replaces dictators' club" (6/8/2002).
News "United States of Africa?" (7/11/2000).
CNN.com "End senseless wars, urges Mbeki" (7/9/2002).
CNN.com "OAU's questionable purpose and prospects" (7/9/01).
CNN.com "African leaders elect OUA boss" (7/10/01).
The New York Times "African Bloc Hoping to Do Better as the
'Africa Union' " (7/12/01).
The New York Times Opinion: "A New African Union" (7/13/01).
Written July 23, 2001. Last updated Feb 21, 2006.