Organization of African Unity (OAU) / African Union (AU)

CONTACT DETAILS

Roosevelt Street (Old Airport Area), W21K19, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Mail: PO Box 3243, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Tel: 09 251 151 7700
Fax: 09 251 151 7844
Telex: 21046


HISTORY AND PRESENT STATUS

The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was established on 25 May 1963 in Addis Ababa, on signature of the OAU Charter by representatives of 32 governments. A further 21 states have joined gradually over the years, with South Africa becoming the 53rd member on 23 May 1994.

The OAU aims to promote the unity and solidarity of African States; co-ordinate and intensify their co-operation and efforts to achieve a better life for the peoples of Africa; defend their sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence; eradicate all forms of colonialism from Africa; promote international co-operation, giving due regard to the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and co-ordinate and harmonise members’ political, diplomatic, economic, educational, cultural, health, welfare, scientific, technical and defence policies.

Since the entry into force of the Abuja Treaty establishing the African Economic Community (AEC) in May 1994, the OAU has been operating on the basis of two legal instruments. For this reason the OAU is officially referred to as the OAU/AEC.

The OAU has the following Specialised Agencies:

• 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.


It had become evident and accepted as early as 1979, when the Committee on the Review of the Charter was established that a need existed to amend the OAU Charter in order to streamline the Organisation to gear it more accurately for the challenges of a changing world. However, despite numerous meetings the Charter Review Committee did not manage to formulate substantive amendments. The result of this was threefold:

• The Charter was "amended" by being augmented through ad hoc decisions of Summit such as the Cairo Declaration Establishing the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution, etc;

• A growing realisation that the need for greater efficiency and effectivity of the Organisation required urgent action; and

• The need to integrate the political activities of the OAU with the economic and developmental issues as articulated in the Abuja Treaty.

An Extraordinary Summit of the OAU held in Sirte, Libya on 9 September 1999 called for the establishment of an African Union in conformity with the ultimate objectives of the OAU Charter and the provisions of the Treaty establishing the African Economic Community. Following this, the Constitutive Act of the African Union was adopted during the Lomé Summit of the OAU on 11 July 2000. The Union will evolve from the OAU and the AEC into one unified institution.

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

• Achieve greater unity and solidarity between African countries and the peoples of Africa;
• Defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of its Member States;
• Accelerate the political and socio-economic integration of the continent;
• Promote and defend African common positions on issues of interest to the continent and its peoples;
• Encourage international cooperation, taking due account of the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;
• Promote peace, security, and stability on the continent;
• Promote democratic principles and institutions, popular participation and good governance;
• 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 sustainable development at the economic, social and cultural levels as well as the integration of African economies;
• 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;
• 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.


The Constitutive Act makes provision for a defined transitional period which will ensure a smooth and gradual transition of the OAU and AEC into the Union. Constitutive Act 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. However, the Charter shall remain operative for a transitional period of one year or such further period as may be determined by the Assembly, for the purpose of enabling the OAU/AEC to undertake the necessary measures regarding the devolution of its assets and liabilities to the African Union and all matters relating thereto.

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.

The Lomé Summit in 2000 also acknowledged the Conference on Security, Stability, Development and Cooperation in Africa (CSSDCA) as creating a synergy between the various activities currently undertaken by the OAU/AEC, which therefore should help to consolidate the work of the OAU/AEC in the areas of peace, security, stability, development and co-operation. In this regard, the CSSDCA should provide a policy development forum for the elaboration and advancement of common values within the main policy organs of the OAU/AEC.


OTHER DEPARTMENTS AND COOPERATING ORGANISATIONS

• All government departments.

RELEVANT TREATIES/PROTOCOLS ETC

OAU Charter
The OAU Charter was adopted on 23 May 1963. South Africa was admitted to the OAU on 23 May 1994 and the OAU Charter became binding on South Africa on that same date.

Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community (Abuja Treaty)
Adopted on 3 June 1991, entered into force on 12 May 1994. South Africa signed the treaty on 10 October 1997 and Parliament ratified it on 2 November 2000. The Instrument of Ratification was signed on 2 February 2001.

Constitutive Act of the African Union
Opened for signature on 11 July 2000 at the OAU/AEC Summit in Lomé. South Africa signed the Act on 8 September 2000 and Parliament ratified it on 27 February 2001. The Instrument of Ratification was signed on 3 March 2001.

General Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the Organisation of African Unity
Adopted on 25 October 1965, entered into force on 25 October 1965.

Additional Protocol on the Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the Organisation of African Unity
Adopted in June 1980. Not yet entered into force.

Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism
Adopted on 13 July 1999, not yet entered into force. South Africa signed the convention on 13 July 1999.

African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child
Adopted on 11 July 1990, not yet entered into force. South Africa signed the charter on 10 October 1997 and deposited its Instrument of Accession on 21 January 2001.

African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Adopted on 27 June 1981, entered into force on 21 October 1986. South Africa signed and ratified the charter on 9 July 1996.

Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Adopted on 10 June 1998, not yet entered into force. Signed by South Africa on 9 June 1998.

African Nuclear Weapons Free-Zone Treaty (The Treaty of Pelindaba)
Opened for signature on 11 April 1996, not yet entered into force. South Africa signed the treaty on 11 April 1996 and ratified it on 13 March 1998.

African Maritime Transport Charter
Adopted on 15 December 1995, not yet entered into force.

Bamako Convention on the Ban of the Import into Africa and the Control of Transboundary
Movement and Management of Hazardous Wastes within Africa
Adopted in January 1991, entered into force on 22 April 1998.

Agreement for the Establishment of the African Rehabilitation Institute (ARI)
Adopted in June 1981, amended agreement adopted on 30 October 1989, entered into force on 2 December 1991.

Convention for the Establishment of the African Centre for Fertiliser Development
Adopted in February 1981, not yet entered into force.

Pan-African Postal Union Convention
Signed on 17 January 1980, entered into force on 1 July 1980. South Africa acceded to the PAPU Convention on 23 February 1999 and deposited its Instrument of Accession on 12 April 1999.

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 Mercenarism in Africa
Adopted on 3 July 1977, entered into force on 22 April 1985.

Cultural Charter for Africa
Adopted on 5 July 1976, entered into force on 19 September 1990.

Inter-African Convention establishing an African Technical Co-operation Programme
Adopted on 1 August 1975, not yet entered into force.

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, entered into force on 20 June 1974. South Africa ratified the convention on 15 December 1995 and deposited its Instrument of Ratification on 15 January 1996.

Constitution of the African Civil Aviation Commission
Signed on 17 January 1969, entered into force on 15 March 1972. South Africa ratified the constitution on 17 January 1996 and deposited its Instrument of Ratification on 8 March 1996.

African Convention on the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (Algiers Convention)
Signed on 15 September 1968, entered into force on 16 June 1969.

Phyto-Sanitary Convention for Africa
Adopted on 13 September 1967. Not yet entered into force.


GENERAL COMMENTS

South Africa attended its first Assembly of Heads of State and Government (OAU Summit) in Tunis from 13-15 May 1994. In March 1995, South Africa established an embassy in Addis Ababa.

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.

President Mbeki signed the Constitutive Act of the African Union on 8 September 2000 in New York. The Act was ratified by the South African Parliament on 27 February 2001.

South Africa becomes a member of the OAU Troika with effect from July 2001, for a period of three years. In July 2002 South Africa will assume the chair of the OAU when it hosts the 38th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government (OAU Summit). This Summit is expected to be the first dedicated African Union Summit. Consequently President Mbeki is likely to be the first leader to preside over the new Union.

The Bi-annual Conference on Security, Stability, Development and Cooperation (CSSDCA) Standing Conference of Heads of State and Government will coincide with the 2002 African Union Summit.

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