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“… Until the ignoble and unhappy regimes that hold our brothers in Angola, in Mozambique and in South Africa in sub-human bondage have been toppled and destroyed … until all Africans stand up and speak as free beings, equal in the eyes of all men, as they are in the eyes of heaven; until that day, the African continent will not know peace.” Haile Selassie I
In October 1963, following the founding of the Organization of African Unity in Addis Ababa, His Majesty, Haile Selassie I, addressed the League of Nations in New York City in the presence of several African heads of state. The Emperor mentioned the primary purpose for the establishment of the largest international organization in the World, which is liberating the entire continent from colonization and sub-human treatment.
The OAU had managed to completely eradicate all forms of colonization on the continent, which was the primary objective of establishment. Besides ending colonial rule, the organization played a pivotal and critical role in ending apartheid in South Africa, thereby making the Republic of South Africa its 53rd member state. It was also founded with the aim of promoting unity and development, increasing cooperation among member states and defending the territorial sovereignty of member states.
As a result, the organization sat in mediation to resolve several border issues and internal disputes throughout the continent. Even though the Organization had accomplished some of its purposes of establishment, critics argue that the OAU did little to protect the rights and liberties of African citizens from their own political leaders. Some labeled the organization as a ‘toothless dog,’ because it remained powerless when it came down to actual and immediate implementation of policies and decisions agreed upon by the general assembly. The organization also had little influence on international forums and stages.
The Organization of African Unity (OAU) was renamed and restructured with modified functions and objectives in the mid-1990s. The heads of state and government of the OAU agreed on the Sirte declaration in Libya. After various discussions, the African Union Commission (AUC) was established in Durban, South Africa. Unlike the purposes of the OAU, one of the goals of the AUC is to ultimately establish a common African currency and banking institutions. Besides this ultimate economic objective, the African Union was established to meet global challenges, revitalize the continental organization to play a more active role in addressing the needs of its people and to effectively address new social, political and economic realities in Africa and in the world.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of one of the largest international organization in the World, the African Union Commission, the then Organization of African Unity (OAU).
It is a unique time for Africa. The Continent and the Organization have gone through a lot in the past 50 years. This anniversary is an opportunity to celebrate the accomplishments of the AUC and also to look back at its errors and weaknesses to enhance its significance on the continent and on the international stage.
When I personally think about the significance of the African Union Commission, it becomes a question of whether the organization has the influence to make things happen or not. Africa is and has always been a continent endowed with amazing natural resources. On the contrary, it is also a continent smitten and stricken by the yoke of deep poverty. Political instability and social unrest have been the dominant features and manifestations of the continent.
I believe the 50th anniversary of the African Union Commission should mark the beginning of a new era where Africa’s resources are fairly and justly distributed to all of its citizens. Poverty and political instability must no longer be associated with the continent. The African Union Commission should play a critical role to promote and facilitate the cooperation of member states in political, social, economic and defense policies. The executive power of the AUC must be enhanced to maintain peace and order throughout the continent.
One of the obvious weaknesses of both the OAU and AUC was not being able to effectively execute agreements and policies of the general assembly. It is one thing to agree on a certain agenda, but it is entirely another thing to actually realize the agreements and effectively implement them on the ground. Since this is the dawn of a new age for the Continent, the AUC must make sure all agreements, policies and strategies ratified and agreed upon by the general assembly and during other sessions, are practically implemented and on time. If this is the case, the significance of the African Union Commission would be huge on the Continent and abroad. The AUC should act as a microphone to magnify the voice of the Continent in the international arena. The influence of Africa would be much more if the AUC effectively mobilizes and promotes the cooperation of member states.
In conclusion, the 50th anniversary of the AU must be celebrated with a vow to redeem the name of the continent of Africa. The negative image and reputation of the continent must be re-painted and re-written and the AU should continue to play a significant role to maintain peace and security, promote cultural and economic cooperation and resolve conflicts peacefully.
“…And we must look into ourselves, into the depth of our souls. We must become something we have never been and for which our education and experience and environment have ill-prepared us. We must become bigger than we have been: more courageous, greater in spirit, larger in outlook. We must become members of a new race, overcoming petty prejudice, owing our ultimate allegiance not to nations but to our fellow men within the human community.”
Haile Selassie I