THE AFRICAN UNION (AU)
African Union is the organization of African countries which originally started on 9th September 1999. The constitutive act of African Union was adopted and entered into force in 2000 at the Lome summit in Togo.
In 2001 the African countries put down the plan for the implementation of the Union in Lusaka. Afterward they held the first assembly of heads of states for AU members in Durban where Thabo Mbeki of South Africa became the first Chair person.
Its headquarters is in Addis Ababa- Ethiopia (James, 2005: 173). The Union comprises fifty four countries in Africa except Morocco, which had rejoined the Organisation of African Union after a 33-year absence.
In 1984, Morocco left the O. A. U after the body decided to recognize the independence of Western Sahara, also known as Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR), and admitted it as a member state. Morocco has long contended that the territory is under its control.
Background of African Union (AU)
Before going in depth of African Union let first revisit the background of it. Before the formation of the African Union Africa continent had unity which referred to as Organization of African Unity (OAU) which was an organization of independent African states which was formed on 25th May, 1963. Haile Salasie of Ethiopia was the first Chairperson of the Organization.
The former OAU had the following objectives:-
1. Enhance or foster unity among African states.
2. Coordinate cooperation and efforts to bring better life for African people.
3. Defend sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of the African states.
4. To eliminate all forms of colonialism in Africa.
5. To promote International co-operation in the line with UN and Universal declaration of Human rights.
6. To eradicate the operation of neo-colonialism through establishing a new form of independency economy.
With the above objectives however, few achievements were attained in almost five decades which include facilitation of unity among the African or the African continent, succeeded in eradication of colonialism and firmly fight with apartheid policy in Mozambique, Angola, Namibia, Botswana, Angola, Zimbabwe and South Africa respectively.
That means, few among of many were attained in such period because African continent continued to suffer socio-economic and political problems like extreme poverty, dependence to the donors, World financial institution and so forth, political instability coupled with civil war and coup d’état, lack of democracy and presence of dictators who abused human rights like Saad Bale (Somalia) Mongtsu Mariam (Ethiopia) Idd Amin Dada (Uganda), Samuel Doe (Liberia) just mention a few.
Besides the above problems and impediments the O. A. U had number of weakness which led its failure in attainment of her goals like.
1. Failure to punish dictators who violated human rights in Africa.
2. Failure to intervene in many civil wars in Rwanda and Burundi, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
3. Failure to detect Rwanda mass killing (genocide) which consequently led the killing of many Tutsi in 1994.
4. Failure to eradicate poverty and up lifting the standard of living of the Africans.
5. Failure to form the army, and court of justice and henceforth Africa continued to depend on International organs such as UN court of Justice at the Hague and security council under UN.
With the above problems and failure there was a need to drift from organization of African Union to the formation of the African Union. That Union was designed to eliminate the failure and problems which O. A. U failed to solve.
But the formation of the AU was the process which started with African Nationalists leaders such as Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana), J. K. Nyerere (Tanzania) and super headed by Libya head of state Muamar Ghadafi who called the formation of the African Union and afterward the United States of Africa (USA).
Thus, the formation of African Union drifted from Organization of African Unity (O. A. U) and had the following objectives.
Reasons for transforming from O. A. U into AU
The OAU was formed purposely for the aim of liberation to the extent that the pace of development became very slow leading to prevalence of poverty among the member states. Therefore, the organization was more political rather than economic.
OAU had a limited power to solve all the problems in the continent due to the
Objectives / goals of the African Union
Before the formation of the AU a lot of targets were put in place as follows:-
1. To promote sustainable development at the economic, social and cultural level as well as the integration of African economies.
2. To promote sustainable development at the economic, social and cultural levels as well as the integration of African economies
3. To advance the development of the continent by promoting research in all fields
4. To coordinate and harmonize the politics between the existing and future regional economic community for the gradual attainment of the objectives of the union
5. To work with relevant international partners in the elimination of preventable disease such as malaria and HIV/AIDS and promotion of health on the continent
6. To achieve greater unity and solidarity between the African countries and people themselves
7. To promote democratic principles and institutions, promotion participation of many and good governance
8. To encourage international co-operation in the line with charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human rights.
9. To promote peace, security and stability in Africa.
10. To promote Co-operation in all field of human activity and raise the living standard of African peoples.
11. To coordinate and harmonize policies between the existing and the future Regional Economic Communities and the gradual achievement of an objectives of AU.
12. To enhance development of the continent through promoting research in agriculture, science and technology, tourism just to mention a few.
Organs/ Structure of the Union
The AU organization has got almost ten (10) organs which include the following:-
The assembly of Heads of States
This is a supreme organ of the union which is the most important decision making body of the union. It is composed of heads of states from the member countries. Members’ meets annually in ordinary session, the decision made by this organ should be accepted by two thirds (2/3) of the member states.
It is headed by the chairman who stays in the post for one year, on which various presidents of Africa have been the chairpersons of the union.
The functions of the organ include:
- Deciding on common policies for the union
- Considering applications of membership
- Deciding on conflict resolution
- Appointing the judges of the African court of justice
- Taking decisions on reports and recommendation of other organs of the unions
- Adoption of budget for the union.
The Executive council.
This is the organ composed by the Ministers of foreign Affairs of the member states.
It is accountable to the assembly. The council is responsible for the implementation of the objectives set by the assembly of heads of states based on the matters such as foreign trades, social security, food, agriculture transport and communication.
These meets twice annually. It also has to meet in extra ordinary session at the request of any member state and upon approval of 2/3 of all members. It prepares the materials for the assembly to discuss and approve.
The permanent Representative committee
The committee is comprised of ambassadors to the AU and has the responsibility of preparing the work for the executive council. It prepares the work of Executive council .It acts also on instructions of Executive council. It may set up sub – committee or groups as it sees necessary.
It works as the secretariat of the Union .The organ composed of the chairman, his deputes, the commissioners and other staffs. The Assembly is responsible to provide the functions and regulation. The chairperson of the commission since 2005 was Alpha Oumar Konare of Mali. Its functions include dealing with day to day activities of the Union, compiling files, scheduling timetable for the meetings and setting Agenda.
The specialized Technical Committees
- The Committee on Rural Economy and Agriculture matter.
- The Committee on monetary and financial affairs.
- The Committee on Trade, Customs and Immigration matters.
- The Committee on Industry, Science and Technology, Energy Natural Resources and Environment.
- The Committee on transport, Communication and TourisfarfetchednessCFCsDCFxdecision taken by the organization of the Union and coordinate the projects and programs of the Union.
The Pan – African parliament
This is established in order to provide a chance for full participating of African people in the development and economic integration of the continent. The first speaker since its formation had been Gertrude Mongela of Tanzania. Its functions include making laws for the union.
The African court of justice
When it is fully established its functions and composition will be given by the union. Its functions include interpretation of laws to the Union, Coordination of human rights protection and so forth.
The Economic and Socio – cultural Council
This is an advisory organ which is made up of professional groups of the member states. Its function has to be given out by the assembly.
The peace and Security Council
It is a body which deals with peace keeping and conflicts settlements in the member states?
The Financial Institution
The union intends to have the Africa financial institution which would provide soft loan and sponsor various projects such as dam construction and roads. Some banks which have established by the Union include African Monetary Fund, Africa Investment Bank and Africa Development Bank.
Achievements of the African Union
Some achievements have attained since formation, these includes the following:-
1. Formation of Africa Union army, the AU Army has participated fully in peace keeping process in Darfur (Sudan), Somalia and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
2. Conflicts have resolved through arbitration, reconciliation and resolutions. For example the Conflicts which emerged in Kenya after 2007 general election and that of Zimbabwe were solved by some dignitaries of Africa Union (AU) .Conflicts in Sierra Leone and Liberia also were resolved.
3. Efforts have been exerted on some socio-economic problems which ruin the African Status, these include among of many, environmental problems like Global warming, soil erosion, desertification and loss of biodiversity. But also have tried to eradicate some diseases such as Malaria and HIV / AIDS.
4. Unity and solidarity among of Africans have been enhanced under African Union (AU) .This because (AU) Works with other regional Cooperation such as SADC, EAC, ECOWAS, and COMESA. Thus, Africans are easily unified through their regional co operations.
5. The Africa financial Institutions have been providing credit to AU Members. The money from these institutions is used in various developmental projects such as roads construction, Irrigation Schemes and Industries, The financial assistance has been provided with some banks like African Central Bank, African Investment Bank and African Investment Banks.
6. It has formed the African Court of justice which will administer the Observance of Human rights and punish such leaders who will violate the human rights.
7. It has lessened the operation of neo- colonialism. Through having a union for the whole continent it has paved the way to the Africans to speak in international arena with same voice .The Union has drawn an attention of belonging and identity to Africans against exploiters of our resources; as well as the spirit of independence economy has been drawn through formation of AU.
Besides of its achievements the Union is still constrained with number of problems which are to be solved by Africans themselves.
Problems which threaten future success of AU
There are many problems which are still inflicting the African Union as follows:
1. Diseases, diseases especially HIV/ AIDS and some tropical diseases like Malaria, typhoid kills many people. This causes the loss of man power beside government spends a lot of money in preventing, vaccination and curing of these diseases.
2. Political instabilities in Africa .Africa continent is ruined with political instability for example many Coup d’état have occurred several time in African countries such as Ghana, Nigeria and Liberia but also a good number of civil wars have occurred in Somalia , Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi, DRC and Uganda .
3. Poor transport and Communication, there is poor infrastructure in Africa whereby roads, railway and water ways, are not interconnected among of African states, beside there are no linkage in telecommunication service. This hinders proper utilization of resources and poor movement of capital people and goods
4. Corruption among of African leaders, There have been many incidents on mismanagement of public money and signing unfair contracts by government officials .The head of states in Africa who had engaged on corruption were Fredrick Chiluba of Zambia and Mabutu Seseko of Zaire
5. Poverty, many Africans suffers from absolute poverty, beside poverty also affects many governments in Africa, thus they do depends on donors and many lacks fund to run different activities. But also many people in Africa are very poor consequently they cannot access to basic need, their standard of living also suffer.
6. Unfavorable economic relationship between African countries and developed nations still makes African countries fall behind than what is required in economic and social development; they export primary products to the world market and sell them at lower price which in turn cannot develop the AU members. All these problems threaten future success of AU
7. Neo- colonialism, the western nations and world financial institutions like International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank still interfere in many of Internal affairs of the African Countries .Besides, African countries have continuously depending on western nation in turn conditions and decisions have been done by western nations.
8. Low level of science and technology. This is also hindrances factor for success of African Union. Poor science and technology leads to poor utilization of resources such as wildlife, land and water. Besides poor investment in infrastructure, Irrigation schemes, health service, Small and Medium Industries and telecommunications. This leads to poor exportation and imbalanced International trade.
9. With these problems the future prospects and well being of African nations explicitly depends on efforts enforced by the Africans themselves. It will in need of commitments and readiness among the African nations themselves.