Organization of African Unity
(OAU) / African Union (AU)
Roosevelt Street (Old Airport Area), W21K19, Addis
Mail: PO Box 3243, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Tel: 09 251 151 7700
Fax: 09 251 151 7844
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
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,
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
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
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
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
Coordinate and harmonise the policies between
the existing and future Regional Economic Communities
for the gradual attainment of the objectives of
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Bamako Convention on the Ban of the Import into
Africa and the Control of Transboundary
Movement and Management of Hazardous Wastes within
Adopted in January 1991, entered into force on 22
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
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
Adopted on 3 July 1977, entered into force on 22
Cultural Charter for Africa
Adopted on 5 July 1976, entered into force on 19
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
Adopted on 18 January 1974, not yet entered into
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
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 OAUs efforts to
find a sustainable solution to the problems in the
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.