WORLD FEDERALIST MOVEMENT
BACKGROUND PAPER ON AFRICAN UNION*
By Natalie Steinberg October 24, 2001
* Views expressed in this paper do not necessarily reflect the views of the World
Federalist Movement or its member organizations. To see more publications of the World
Federalist Movement, please go to http://www.wfm.org/WFM_NEWS/wfmpubs.html .
At its final meeting in July 2001, the Organization of African Unity announced its
decision to transform from OAU to AU in the upcoming year. The transition will be lead
by the newly elected interim head, Amara Essy, Ivory Coast’s former foreign minister.
The 53 African states who currently compose the OAU will be members of the new
intergovernmental organization - the African Union, which will be loosely modeled after
the European Union and will be headquartered in Ethiopia.
The AU will replace the OAU, which was established in 1963 to promote unity, solidarity
and international cooperation among the newly independent African states. It provided
both practical resources and political backing for countries in their struggle against
colonialism and helped to mobilize the battle against the apartheid regime in South
Africa. However, during the past four decades the OAU has been hindered by internal
conflict and self-serving heads of state. According to most critics, the OAU has protected
the interests of African heads of state without addressing the real problems. Because of
the OAU’s tradition of non-interference in the internal affairs of its member states, it has
proved of limited use across a continent of constant conflict and widespread government
corruption. It has done little to address Africa’s economies or to combat AIDS and other
disease plaguing the continent.
The African Union was proposed by the Libyan leader Moammar Al Qaddafi as a more
effective institution for increasing prosperity in Africa. The AU was formally established
in September 2001, in Sirte. The AU’s...