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Monday, November 3, 1997 Published at 18:44 GMT

Special Report: Africa at 40

The Organisation of African Unity

The OAU aims to improve the quality of life of all Africans

One body, more than any other, has established itself as the collective voice of Africa in the post-colonial era.

The Organisation of African Unity has striven to promote unity and peace on a continent whose recent history has been scarred by wars, military coups and tribal conflicts.

Thirty nations signed the charter which established the OAU in 1963.

Today there are 50 member states. Almost every African country has joined. Morocco resigned in protest in 1985 after 26 countries recognised Western Sahara.

The original OAU charter declared five objectives:

  • To promote unity across the continent

  • To coordinate efforts to improve the life of the African people

  • To defend African sovereignty

  • To promote international cooperation

  • To eradicate colonialism

    In pursuit of this last goal the OAU established a Liberation Committee to aid independence movements in their struggle against colonial powers.

    From its inception, the OAU campaigned for an end to the institutionalised racial discrimination of apartheid.

    [ image: The OAU has a policy of not intervening in the internal affairs of member states]
    The OAU has a policy of not intervening in the internal affairs of member states
    In the 1980s it was sharply critical of America, Britain and other countries that refused to introduce economic sanctions against South Africa.

    Over the years it has also protested at racial discrimination suffered by other members of the African diaspora - such as black Americans.

    Some observers have argued that the OAU has too little power to be effective.

    Non-intervention in the internal affairs of member states is among the the group's guiding principles.

    However, other commentators argue that the OAU was a necessary compromise to preserve unity between countries who wanted a strongly federal Africa and those who sought a looser grouping of nations.

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    Special Report Contents

    Africa at 40
    All Blacks on tour
    US elections
    Paisley by election