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Monday, 15 July, 2002, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
African Union: What are its prospects?
The newly created African Union's first summit has opened in Durban, South Africa.

The 53-member group replaces the 39 year old Organisation of African Unity (OAU).

Unlike the OAU, the African Union will have the right to intervene in the affairs of member states, in cases of genocide and war crimes.

It also aims to replicate the success of the European Union in bringing together Africa's economies.

What effect will the African Union have on the future development of the continent? Will it do things better than the OAU?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

Your reaction

I've always thought that in order to bring more growth and development in Africa, the stimulus for economic growth and development must originate internally. Breaking down those political barriers to internal trade and creating an institution that can serve as a true watchdog for human rights is certainly a step in the right direction. It is my most sincere hope, though, that the AU will have more bite than its predecessor the OAU.
Keith Durden, USA

I believe that this newly born union should focus on economic developments

Abdullah Hussein, Kuala-Lumpur
Personally I believe that this newly born union should focus on economic developments rather then intervene in the affairs of member states, and borrowing western style of justice and democracy. The AU can't be like EU where their member countries are culturally and ethnically united but nevertheless AU should try to be like ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) where there are different cultures and beliefs yet have common interest.
Abdullah Hussein, Kuala-Lumpur, Malaysia

If Africans start thinking what is best for the future generations and stop blaming the past, I am sure AU will be successful. I think OAU deserves some credit. It's always easy to blame somebody. Think positive. Let the past go. If Africans really understand what unity mean, they may find the solution before they create more problems.
Andrew, USA

I would like the dictators who were part of OAU to vacate office now that it does not exist any longer and let the new AU receive some credibility from rest of the world since their presence there could just mean to world leaders as old wine in new container
Umeh Vincent, Nigeria

It is something that all Africans need to embrace

George Mutua, Kenya
The creation of the AU is at best symbolic and at worst substantial. However, the idea of African Union has been planted, and it is something that all Africans need to embrace. For sure, our current leaders are too despotic and corrupt to govern their countries and unite Africa but future leaders can build on the idea and change the destiny of our continent.
George Mutua, Kenya

The AU will only succeed if the continent's political leaders refrain from self gratification and try to truly uplift the people they are supposed to serve. The comment on democracy in Africa "one man, one vote, once..." should fall away as true democratic elections are held where the will of the people cannot be questioned. Old men who hang on to power as political leaders should be pensioned off at 65 like the rest of us!
Bill Richards, South Africa

Those who think that the AU can easily emulate the EU are grossly mistaken. Unfortunately many AU leaders cannot let multi-party democracies exist, and they also squander our resources and hide them in EU countries. The differences are sharp enough and too difficult to emulate.
Chidi Nwamadi, Nigeria (writing from Jerusalem)

This whole idea of an African Union sounds very childish to me

Divine, Scotland/Nigeria
I find it very shameful that African leaders spend sleepless nights trying emulate Europe. It is also very ironical that we are trying very hard to unite African nations that are themselves diabolically plagued by internal divisions. If we think we can ever have an organisation like the EU, we are probably having a long dream. This whole idea of an African Union sounds very childish to me.
Divine, Scotland/Nigeria

The newly formed African Union will undoubtedly be more effective, more vigorous and more progressive than its predecessor the OAU. The plight of Africa has been prolonged and persisted by its self-appointed dictator leaders through the OAU, who did next to nothing in improving lives of the inhabitants of the continent.
Addis Zena, Ethiopia

Africa will survive by the grace of God. Au revoir OAU, Vive AU!
Cheick B. Traore, USA

Dropping "O" from the old, passive and fruitless organisation is unlikely to produce any change for ordinary citizens who long most for peace for their ordinary lives. The first indicator i.e. democracy is the only key to any success.
Wency Gate, UK

The AU is an unworkable monstrosity created to keep despots in power for longer than they merit. It is a union of presidents who will come to the rescue of their peers even when the electorate no longer wants them - the Gaddafis, Mugabes, Mois, Oma Bongos. Unless there is a clear charter to promote good governance, individual freedoms within member states which can be enforced, Africa can kiss progress and prosperity goodbye for keeps.
Muzambiringa, Zimbabwe

It is quite ignorant to say that the OAU is a 'dictators' club or a 'disaster'. With the exception of a few countries, most African leaders are democratically elected, and rule their country with free press that would have been unheard off decades ago. Gone are the days when parliament or the people would do whatever a president says, as seen in Zambia, then Malawi, where presidential third term bids were thwarted.
Mambu Kawa, Sierra Leone

Leaders should make a difference in their own country before they do anything for Africa

Tullu Oromo, USA
Leaders should make a difference in their own country before they do anything for Africa. Change should start from their home country. For me, they are bunch of dictators who do not have any clue about human dignity and respect for their country. Most of the African leaders spend a lot of money on military hardware instead of feeding their own people. I can not see this leaders doing good things for Africa while I see them harming their own people and country.
Tullu Oromo, Minneapolis, USA

The OAU accomplished its goal of decolonization in 30 short years. Given the forces that operated against it, the OAU must be congratulated. To be a success, the AU must elevate the status of the African woman and eradicate conflict, disease, poverty and illiteracy.
A.B. Dukuly, USA

The inauguration of AU in Durban South Africa marks the beginning of a new Africa. With at least 40 years of experience of OAU the African people have something to compare and hold their leaders accountable if they do not deliver. We need to give time to AU and with South Africa at the Chair, I am confident that within the next 15 to 25 years every African should walk with their chests high. We all need to participate in the AU economic and governance revolution and stop pointing figures at our leaders.
Asukile R Mwandemele, Tanzania

There must be representation for the indigenous peoples and languages and regions of Africa

Alex Naughton, UK
Turning Africa around will take many decades but the continent has great potential. They will need to develop their economies more, stop corruption, clamp down on wars and undemocratic states, and develop their transport infrastructure. The AU must not repeat the mistakes of the previous OAU. The continent is so big they may have to divide it into regions and have regional AU offices for Southern Africa, Central Africa, East Africa, West Africa and North Africa perhaps. An African Parliament, Court of Justice and Central Bank seem sensible but must be set up properly. They must try to avoid the excessive bureaucracy that as occurred with the European Union. The Peace and Security Council I expect will have a very important role to play. However there must be representation for the indigenous peoples and languages and regions of Africa somewhere in the organisation. The African Union is the first good sign of hope for the continent in generations but it has a very huge task ahead which will take many decades. I wish it well and hope it succeeds.
Alex Naughton, UK

Its pathetic that many Africans are not optimistic over the AU. In my humble view Africa will never be the same after this. But to really change Africa there is an urgent need to remove all the colonial boundaries so that Africa to be one. For its through unity that Africa can negotiate with the outside world as an equal partner.
Mwaniki Gachuba III, Kenyan in Sweden

The AU can succeed only if it is structured in the image of the EU

Paul Eyabi, Cameroon
The AU can succeed only if it is structured in the image of the EU both in concept and practice. Member states must be obliged to embrace good governance and its affiliates like multiparty democracy, Free and Fair Elections, Financial accountability, The rule of law etc. There must be no bending corners; All the good practices of the EU that have led to its success so far, must be borrowed by the AU in absolute terms and implemented taking into consideration local realities.
Paul Eyabi, Cameroon/USA

We all know that the OAU failed Africa, but I think we should give the new AU a chance to prove itself. Even though most of the leaders of the AU are reminants of the OAU, we as Africans need to give the AU a chance to clean house by intervening into any country that has a government that are currently abusing their powers and human rights. Also put a stop and not recognize any government that comes into power with force by overthrowing an elected government.
Korpo Morlu Mends-cole, Liberia/USA

A cornerstone for success in this bold venture, is to have an absolutely free press that is assured absolute protection to do their work in every African country. This will support credibility and better universal support.
E Daniels, Canada

I believe that Au can only be sucessful if all the leaders can put a limit to the number of years they can lead ( maximum 10 years). This is the only way out of the mess the whole continent is in. This way corruption, brutality, dictatorship can be brought to a minimum. Surely, this will give way to development, respect for human rights and good governance.
Jaitehkaba, Gambian in US

Credibility should not be the first casualty of the new entity

Bruce Namakando, New York, USA
Unlike the OAU the AU should not abuse language by promising what it cannot deliver. Credibility should not be the first casualty of the new entity. Best wishes, Durban!
Bruce Namakando, Tarrytown, New York, USA

If the political ideology of the African Union is well articulated and well implemented, then the AU ideology can help to heal the tribal, ethnic, religious and colonial divisions (francophone and anglophone) that have prevented Africa from achieving unity.
Nsambila Cecilio Mbolela, Zambian/Chicago-USA

Give me a break! It's waste of time and money. People still suffer. No progress forward at all. It's a place where the unpatriotic, heartless, careless, selfish, dictators of Africa come to party and show off how much they stole from the people they are supposed to serve and protect.
AbdiFatah, Somalia

We have a lot of resources

Mbena Shukrani, Tanzania
I am very pessimistic that the African Union will succeed. This is because our leaders usually do not deal with common people's needs. It will continue to be a club of probably democratic leaders but not a union of people from Africa. We have a lot of resources. If we pool them together and use them appropriately, Africa can develop with or without very little assistance from rich countries.
Mbena Shukrani, Tanzania

The most important thing for AU members to do is to find a stable new home for the organisation. They have to select a country that has at best, peace stability, democracy, law and order, in its history. A country where the AU resides will be helpful in shaping a good organisation but if we keep the AU in Ethiopia where bravery, brutality, and mistreatment is custom don't expect changes. You don't rebuild a house in the same place where its destroyers are residing.
Kuma Gemechu, USA

...OAU and the AU? The same picture with a different frame. The people of Africa are again left with a cadre of liars, thieves, and political hacks whose only interest is self, tribe, and money...
Mark Lewis, USA

I believe the African Union will do things the same way as the OAU

Yusuf Mohamed, USA
The OAU represented 40 years of disaster in Africa. Its creation was a true tragedy for the continent. Certainly it is not going to be missed. I believe the new African Union, which is replacing the OUA will follow the same path. First and foremost, it is being created by some of the most brutal regimes in African history. Ethiopia, where the headquarters of the new Union will be based, is in the same cycle of civil war and famine that has been afflicting it during the entire reign of the OAU. Almost all of the leaders who have gathered in Durban are carryovers from the OAU and do not believe in popular elections. I believe the African Union will do things the same way as the OAU, which is another tragedy for the continent.
Yusuf Mohamed, USA

There they are, a bunch of tyrants, crooks, and buffoons - a truly pathetic bunch, whose determination to remain in power at any cost for its own sake, can only keep our indignant and helpless people in perpetual misery.
UE, Nigeria/UK

This plan for African Union sounds good and sound. However, we must realise that Africa cannot be compared with the Europium Union. While Europe has a common history, Africa does not. Many of the nations who will be members of the AU are in armed conflict with each other. This will probably be a typical African organisation that achieves nothing.
Ayuub Rajes, Somalia

The formation of the AU is the beginning of hope

Jackson K. George Jr, USA
The OAU has outlived its usefulness. It failed Africa and the formation of the AU is the beginning of hope. After 30 years of existence, the OAU has left Africa in ruin.
Jackson K. George Jr, Liberian/Minnesota USA

The OAU, in my humble opinion, was not able to achieve much at all. It provided a fantastic opportunity for African leaders to demonstrate their leadership, but soon enough disintegrated into the morass of politically motivated bigotry that has plagued Africa ever since it was re-programmed by Europe's colonials to serve European global interests.
M. Kapasi, Tanzania

How can the new AU do anything different? The OAU was made up of "dictator" states, and the new one consists of the new "dictators". Without political will and real power to intervene into any AU state, the organisation is useless. The only real leader is Africa with integrity is Nelson Mandela.
Ken Johnson, USA

The historic summit should create a new African Union.

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See also:

09 Jul 02 | Africa
08 Jul 02 | Africa
24 Jun 02 | Business
25 Jun 02 | Business
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