The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) (re-named the African Union in 2002), was established on May25 1963 by the independence-era African leaders as the outward expression of the desire of the people of Africa for true political and economic independence. The OAU provided a body for the African leaders to discuss common African problems and a forum for resolving contentious issues facing the continent. The 53 members contain some of the poorest countries in the world. Some pan African proponents such as Nkrumah and Gaddafi called for a “United States of Africa”. The Pan African vision has as its basic premise that we the people of African descent throughout the globe constitute a common cultural and political community by virtue of our origin in Africa and common racial, social and economic oppression. It further maintains that political, economic and cultural unity is essential among all Africans, to bring about effective action for the liberation and progress of the African peoples and nations
A failed venture by all accounts. There is a marked reluctance of ruling elites to cede sovereignty to a central authority and integration. Sovereignty makes a life of privilege possible by giving African rulers and their collaborators privileges and advantages unavailable to anyone else: management and direction of foreign aid; income from movement of goods within jurisdictions and between them, through tariffs and licenses; borrowing and taxation powers. Unrivalled opportunities for corruption. Sacrificing independent statehood would almost certainly would be not entered into freely by various ruling classes.
The OAU’s inability to prevent the genocide in Rwanda in April 1994, stop the collapse of Somalia state and the Eritrean/Ethiopian wars were all clear manifestations of its impotence. The OAU could not intervene military but the present AU is indeed exercising that power, mostly as a paid proxy force for Western nations’ interests rather than a truly independent entity, acting on humanitarian reasons.
What difference has the AU made to the lives of the ordinary Africans? It is envisaged that an African common parliament, court of justice, central bank and currency will be established in the next few years, like in the EU. Through the parliament and court of justice, it is hoped that the continent's people will have greater say in the running of the affairs of the continent while the court of justice will promote respect for human rights by ensuring that violators of human rights and perpetrators of crimes like genocide are punished. Furthermore, it is expected that by establishing an African common market, currency and central bank, obstacles to the economic integration of the continent will be dismantled thus paving way for economic prosperity and higher living standards for the poverty-ridden peoples.
It will be no more successful than the now defunct OAU in uniting the continent and developing its economy. This is essentially because the same old, rotten capitalist economic system remains intact. If the European Union cannot guarantee decent living for workers of Europe, how then can the weaker African Union be expected to liberate Africans from endemic poverty and misery? Only by the African working class and peasants organizing and struggling to overthrow capitalism by putting the continent's resources under common ownership and with full democratic control and management by the working people themselves, will it be possible to end exploitation and use of the resources of the continent for the needs of its peoples. Africans in the various countries on the continent need to build independent workers’ parties aiming to establish socialism and the unity desired will be in the form of a world socialist movement, not just continental unity but a global union.