African Union

2007 Schools Wikipedia Selection. Related subjects: Politics and government

African Union
Flag of the African Union, formerly used by the OAU Emblem of the African Union
( Flag) ( Emblem)
Anthem: Let Us All Unite and Celebrate Together
Location of the African Union
Capital Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Membership 53 member states
Official languages The languages of Africa, as well as Arabic, English, French, and Portuguese
- As Organisation of African Unity
- As AU

- May 25, 1963
- July 9, 2002
Chairman of the African Union Denis Sassou-Nguesso
Chairman of the Commission Alpha Oumar Konaré

 - Total

1st if ranked

29,797,500 km2


 - Total (2005)
 - Density

3rd if ranked

850 million
25.7 people/km²

GDP (2003)

 - Total
 - Total
 - GDP/head
 - GDP/head

16th if ranked

  US$1.515 trillion (PPP)
  $0.514 trillion (Nominal)
  $1,896 (PPP)
  $643 (Nominal)

Currencies Each member state has its own currency.
Time zone UTC -1 to UTC +4
Internet TLD Not standardized.
Calling Codes Not standardized.
Note 1: Some member states have other official languages.

Note 2: Rank if the AU's members are counted as a single country (other organisations are not counted in this way).

Note 3: Each member state has its own calling code beginning with +2.

Life in the African Union
Flag of the African Union

  • Citizenship
  • Culture
  • Demographics
  • Economy
  • Education
  • Enlargement
  • Foreign relations
  • Geography
  • History
  • Languages
  • Military
  • Politics
  • Sport
  • Statistics

The African Union (AU) is an organisation consisting of fifty-three African states. Established in 2001, the AU was formed as a successor to the amalgamated African Economic Community (AEC) and the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). Eventually, the AU aims to have a single currency and a single integrated defence force, as well as other institutions of state, including a cabinet for the AU Head of State. The purpose of the union is to help secure Africa's democracy, human rights, and a sustainable economy, especially by bringing an end to intra-African conflict and creating an effective common market.


The AU is governed by the AU Assembly of Heads of State and the Pan-African Parliament, which are both assisted by the AU Commission which constitutes one of the secretariats of the Pan African Parliament. The current President of the Pan African Parliament, Gertrude Mongella, is the Head of State of African Union. Denis Sassou-Nguesso, president of the AU state of the Republic of the Congo is the Chair of the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government. Alpha Oumar Konare is the current Chairman of the African Union Commission, which serves as the Secretariat of the Pan African Parliament and a civil service of the African Union.

The AU covers the entire continent except for Morocco, which opposes the membership of Western Sahara as the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. However, Morocco has a special status within the AU and benefits from the services available to all AU states from the institutions of the AU, such as the African Development Bank. Moroccan delegates also participate at important AU functions, and negotiations continue to try to resolve the conflict with the Polisario Front in Tindouf, Algeria and parts of Western Sahara.

The AU's first military intervention in a member state was the May 2003 deployment of a peacekeeping force of soldiers from South Africa, Ethiopia, and Mozambique to Burundi to oversee the implementation of the various agreements. AU troops are also deployed in Sudan for peacekeeping in the Darfur conflict. In 1994 the OAU wasn't aware of the situation of the country and only provided some humanitarian help to the conflict.

History of the African Union

The historical foundations of the African Union originated in the Union of African States, an early confederation that was established by Kwame Nkrumah in the 1960s, as well as subsequent attempts to unite Africa, including the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which was established on May 25, 1963, and the African Economic Community in 1981. Critics argued that the OAU in particular did little to protect the rights and liberties of African citizens from their own political leaders, often dubbing it the "Dictators' Club".

The idea of creating the AU was revived in the mid-1990s as a result of the efforts of the African Unification Front. The heads of state and government of the OAU issued the Sirte Declaration on September 9, 1999, calling for the establishment of an African Union. The Declaration was followed by summits at Lomé in 2000, when the Constitutive Act of the African Union was adopted, and at Lusaka in 2001, when the plan for the implementation of the African Union was adopted.

The African Union was launched in Durban on July 9, 2002, by its first president, South African Thabo Mbeki, at the first session of the Assembly of the African Union. The second session of the Assembly was in Maputo in 2003, and the third session in Addis Ababa on July 6, 2004.

Its Constitutive Act declares that it shall "invite and encourage the full participation of the African diaspora as an important part of our Continent, in the building of the African Union". The African Union Government has defined the African diaspora as "[consisting] of people of African origin living outside the continent, irrespective of their citizenship and nationality and who are willing to contribute to the development of the continent and the building of the African Union".


Map of the African Union.
Map of the African Union.

The African Union has fifty-three members, embracing the whole of Africa except Mauritania (membership suspended) and Morocco (see below).

Current members

Flag of Algeria Algeria
Flag of Angola Angola
Flag of Benin Benin
Flag of Botswana Botswana
Flag of Burkina Faso Burkina Faso
Flag of Burundi Burundi
Flag of Cameroon Cameroon
Flag of Cape Verde Cape Verde
Flag of Central African Republic Central African Republic
Flag of Chad Chad
Flag of Comoros Comoros
Flag of Democratic Republic of the Congo Democratic Republic of the Congo
Flag of Republic of the Congo Republic of the Congo
Flag of Côte d'Ivoire Côte d'Ivoire
Flag of Djibouti Djibouti
Flag of Egypt Egypt
Flag of Equatorial Guinea Equatorial Guinea
Flag of Eritrea Eritrea

Flag of Ethiopia Ethiopia
Flag of Gabon Gabon
Flag of The Gambia Gambia
Flag of Ghana Ghana
Flag of Guinea Guinea
Flag of Guinea-Bissau Guinea-Bissau
Flag of Kenya Kenya
Flag of Lesotho Lesotho
Flag of Liberia Liberia
Flag of Libya Libya
Flag of Madagascar Madagascar
Flag of Malawi Malawi
Flag of Mali Mali
Flag of Mauritius Mauritius
Flag of Mozambique Mozambique
Flag of Namibia Namibia
Flag of Niger Niger is two-thirds desert, and its misleading name, which means flowing water refers to the great river: The Niger. [[Niger Niger is two-thirds desert, and its misleading name, which means flowing water refers to the great river: The Niger.|Niger]]

Flag of Nigeria Nigeria
Flag of Rwanda Rwanda
Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic Western Sahara ( SADR)
Flag of São Tomé and Príncipe São Tomé and Príncipe
Flag of Senegal Senegal
Flag of Seychelles Seychelles
Flag of Sierra Leone Sierra Leone
Flag of Somalia Somalia
Flag of South Africa South Africa
Flag of Sudan Sudan
Flag of Swaziland Swaziland
Flag of Tanzania Tanzania
Flag of Togo Togo
Flag of Tunisia Tunisia
Flag of Uganda Uganda
Flag of Zambia Zambia
Flag of Zimbabwe Zimbabwe

Suspended members 
Flag of Mauritania Mauritania currently suspended following a coup d'état.
Former members 
Flag of Morocco Morocco left predecessor organisation in 1984.

Morocco's withdrawal

The only African state which is not a member of the African Union is Morocco which chose to leave the AU's predecessor, the OAU, in 1984 when the other African countries supported the Sahrawi nationalist Polisario Front's Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic.  Some countries have since retracted their support for the Sahrawi Republic.


No. Host city/country Date
1st Durban South Africa 9-11 July 2002
2nd Maputo Mozambique   10-11 July 2003
Sirte Libya February 2004 *
3rd Addis Ababa   Ethiopia 6-8 July 2004
4th Abuja Nigeria 24-31 January 2005
5th Sirte Libya 28 June - 5 July 2005
6th Khartoum Sudan 16-24 January 2006
7th Banjul The Gambia 25 June - 2 July 2006

* Extraordinary meeting.


The current Head of State of the African Union is Gertrude Mongella, who is also the President of the Pan African Parliament. The Chairman of the African Union's Assembly of Heads of State is Denis Sassou-Nguesso, and the Chairman of the African Commission is Alpha Oumar Konaré.

The African Union has a number of official bodies:

Pan-African Parliament (PAP) 
To become the highest legislative body of the African Union. The seat of the PAP is at Midrand, South Africa. The Parliament is composed of 265 elected representatives from all fifty-three AU states, and intended to provide popular and civil-society participation in the processes of democratic governance.
Assembly of the African Union 
Composed of heads of state and heads of government of AU states, the Assembly is currently the supreme governing body of the African Union. It is gradually devolving some of its decision-making powers to the Pan African Parliament. It meets once a year and makes its decisions by consensus or by a two-thirds majority. The current Chairman of the Assembly is Denis Sassou-Nguesso, president of Congo-Brazzaville.
African Commission 
The secretariat of the African Union, composed of ten commissioners and supporting staff and headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In a similar fashion to its European counterpart, the European Commission, it is responsible for the administration and co-ordination of the AU's activities and meetings.
African Court of Justice 
To rule on human rights abuses in Africa. The court will consist of eleven judges elected by the Assembly. Kenya and Uganda have expressed interest in hosting the court.
Executive Council
Composed of ministers designated by the governments of members states. It decides on matters such as foreign trade, social security, food, agriculture and communications, is accountable to the Assembly, and prepares material for the Assembly to discuss and approve.
Permanent Representatives' Committee 
Consisting of nominated permanent representatives of member states, the Committee prepares the work for the Executive Council. (European Union equivalent: the Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER)).
Peace and Security Council 
Proposed at the Lusaka Summit in 2001. It has fifteen members responsible for monitoring and intervening in conflicts, with an African force at its disposal. Similar in intent and operation to the Security Council of the United Nations.
Economic, Social and Cultural Council 
An advisory organ composed of professional and civic representatives, similar to the European Economic and Social Council.
Specialized Technical Committees 
These address Rural Economy and Agricultural Matters; Monetary and Financial Affairs; Trade, Customs, and Immigration Matters; Industry, Science and Technology, Energy, Natural Resources, and Environment; Transport, Communications, and Tourism; Health, Labor, and Social Affairs; Education, Culture, and Human Resources.
Financial institutions 
African Central Bank, African Investment Bank, African Monetary Fund.

Current issues

The AU faces many challenges, including health issues such as combating malaria and the AIDS/HIV epidemic; political issues such as confronting undemocratic regimes and mediating in the many civil wars; economic issues such as improving the standard of living of millions of impoverished, uneducated Africans; ecological issues such as dealing with recurring famines, desertification, and lack of ecological sustainability; as well as the legal issue of the still-unfinished decolonization of Western Sahara.

In response to the ongoing Darfur conflict in Sudan, the AU has deployed 7,000 peacekeepers, many from Rwanda, to Darfur. While a donor's conference in Addis Ababa in 2005 helped raise funds to sustain the peacekeepers through that year and into 2006, as of July 2006, the AU has said it will pull out at the end of September when its mandate expires. Critics of the AU peacekeepers, including Dr. Eric Reeves, have said these forces are largely ineffective due to lack of funds, personnel, and expertise. Monitoring an area roughly the size of France has made it even more difficult to sustain an effective mission. In June 2006, the United States Congress appropriated US$173 million for the AU force. Some, such as the Genocide Intervention Network, have called for United Nations (UN) or NATO intervention to augment and/or replace the AU peacekeepers. The UN is currently considering deploying a force, though it would not likely enter the country until at least January, 2007. The underfunded and badly equipped AU mission expires on December 31, 2006 but so far there is no agreement on what will happen after that date.

In response to the death of Gnassingbé Eyadéma, president of Togo, on February 5, 2005, AU leaders described the naming of his son Faure Gnassingbé the successor as a military coup. Togo's constitution calls for the speaker of parliament to succeed the president in the event of his death. By law, the parliament speaker must call national elections to choose a new president within sixty days. The AU's protest forced Gnassingbé to hold elections. Under heavy allegations of election fraud, he was officially elected President on May 4, 2005.

Also, on August 3, 2005 a coup occurred in Mauritania that led the African Union to suspend the country from all organisational activities. The Military Council that took control of Mauritania promised to hold elections within two years.

Current conflicts also include the Casamance Conflict in Senegal; the Ituri Conflict, an extension of the Second Congo War; the Ivorian Civil War; and the Somali Civil War, associated with Somaliland's claim for independence. There is still political fall-out from the Chadian-Sudanese conflict, North-South Conflict in Sudan, and the Ugandan conflict with the Lord's Resistance Army. Zimbabwe is also facing a political crisis.

However, the most serious issue to face Africa is not a dispute between nations, but rather the rapid spread of HIV and the AIDS pandemic. sub-Saharan Africa is by far the worst affected area in the world, and as the infection is now starting to claim lives by the millions. The epidemic has affected over 25% of the population of southern Africa, with South Africa, Botswana, Kenya, Namibia, and Zimbabwe all expected to have a decrease in life expectancy by an average of 6.5 years. The effects on South Africa, which composes 30% of the AU's economy, threatens to significantly stunt GDP growth, and thus internal and external trade for the continent.

Controversy arose at the 2006 summit when Sudan announced a candidate for the AU's chairmanship. Five member states threatened to withdraw support for a Sudanese candidate because of tensions over Darfur. Sudan ultimately withdrew its candidacy and Denis Sassou-Nguesso of the Republic of the Congo was elected to a one-year term.



The African Union promotes the use of African languages wherever possible in its official work. Its other working languages are Arabic, English, French, and Portuguese, although many other languages are used officially by some member states (e.g. Spanish is co-official with French in Equatorial Guinea.) Supplemental protocols to the African Union have made Swahili an official language of the African Union. Founded in 2001, the African Academy of Languages promotes the usage of and perpetuation of African languages amongst African people.


Foreign relations


The emblem of the African Union consists of a gold ribbon bearing small interlocking red rings, from which palm leaves shoot up around an outer gold circle and an inner green circle, within which is a gold representation of Africa. The red interlinked rings stand for African solidarity and the blood shed for the liberation of Africa; the palm leaves, for peace; the gold, for Africa's wealth and bright future; the green, for African hopes and aspirations. To symbolise African unity, the silhouette of Africa is drawn without internal borders.

The flag of the African Union bears a broad green horizontal stripe, a narrow band of gold, the emblem of the African Union at the centre of a broad white stripe, another narrow gold band and a final broad green stripe. Again, the green and gold symbolise Africa's hopes and aspirations as well as its wealth and bright future, and the white represents the purity of Africa's desire for friends throughout the world.

The African Union has adopted a new anthem, Let Us All Unite and Celebrate Together, and has the chorus O sons and daughters of Africa, flesh of the sun and flesh of the sky, Let us make Africa the tree of life.

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