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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 conflict.

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.

African Union Websites and Documents
Organization of African Unity
  • AU News (from the African Union website).
  • BBC News "African Union replaces dictators' club" (6/8/2002).
  • BBC 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).
Other Resources

Written July 23, 2001. Last updated Feb 21, 2006.

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