On May 25, 1963, 33 independent African states met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia to form the Organization of African Unity (OAU). The purpose of the summit 50 years ago was to enhance cooperation between member states and to accelerate the liberation struggles of those countries that still remained under colonial rule.
Five decades later the OAU has been transformed into the African Union which was established in 2002 in Durban, South Africa. In 1963, white-minority rule was deeply entrenched in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Zambia (then known as Northern and Southern Rhodesia), Namibia (then-known as Southwest Africa) as well as the former Portuguese colonies of Guinea-Bissau, Angola and Mozambique.
The African Union was designed to continue the vision of the radical anti-imperialist states of the early 1960s, which were led by leaders such as Dr. Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Ahmed Sekou Toure of Guinea, Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, Gamal Abdel Nassar of Egypt, Ben Bella of Algeria and others who were pushing for stronger ties between post-colonial governments in order to effectively challenge the hegemony of Europe and the United States.
In 1999 at a meeting in Sirte, Libya, the former leader of the Jamahiriya, Col. Muammar Gaddafi, called for the realization of the Nkrumaist vision of continental union government that would encompass a common currency, military force, human rights court, and parliament.
Although this was not agreed upon in 2002 at the AU founding, some progress has been made in regard to gender equality, the establishment of a Pan-African Parliament based in South Africa and the rudimentary basis for an African standby force to address internal conflicts throughout the continent.
This year's AU Summit is meeting under theme 'Pan-Africanism and the African Renaissance.' The event began on May 19 and extended to May 27.
During the opening session on May 19, the African Union said that 'The Chairperson of the African Union Commission Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma has called for the general acceptance and understanding about the rise of Africa over the last five decades in terms of economic growth, public investment, infrastructure and regional integration as well as improvement in democracy and governance, peace and stability and some human development indicators among others.'(au.int, May 20)
These statements were made to the Permanent Representatives Committee of the AU. During the course of the Summit all the organs of the continental organization which has 54 member-states, will hold deliberations on a number of issues including peace and security, gender affairs, culture, civil society and economic development.
The AU website also reported that 'The opening ceremony took place in the presence of the Deputy Chairperson of the AUC, Mr. Erastus Mwencha, AUC Commissioners, and representatives from the diplomatic corps, the international community, the civil society, the private sector and invited guests among others. Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, in her address to the session highlighted the fact that the OAU/AU founders had to construct newly independent states and develop a vision and plans for continental integration, on the foundation of the fragmentation and the destruction caused by centuries of colonization.
(The AUC Chairperson's full speech is available on the AU website:
MECAWI Conference Held in Solidarity With the AU and the African Revolution
In Detroit the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice
(MECAWI) held a conference on May 18 entitled 'Africa & U.S.
Imperialism.' The event was a day-long gathering featuring lectures and reports on the 50 year history of the national liberation struggles and nation-building efforts in Africa.
The conference was held in solidarity with the AU 50th anniversary and delved into the struggles aimed at building national democratic revolutions and socialism in various African states such as Ghana, Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Egypt, Algeria, Congo-Brazzaville, Ethiopia, Namibia, South Africa and others.
Speakers identified continuing western interference in the internal affairs of independent African states as a major impediment to national and continental development.
Speakers at the conference included Dr. Rita Kiki Edozie, Director of African American and African Studies at Michigan State University
(MSU) in East Lansing. Edozie's presentation was related to an upcoming book that she will be publishing by the end of this year.
Edozie, an expert on the history and development of the OAU and the AU, spoke for over an hour on the topic 'The Evolving African
Supra-State: Accomplishments, Pitfalls and Continuing Challenges for the African Union.' She related the political developments on the African continent over the last few decades with efforts by African Americans to achieve self-determination and genuine equality.
Another power point presentation was given by Cheick Oumar and Moussa Rimau who are graduates students at MSU. Their talk was entitled '50 Years of Pan-Africanist Mali: Modibo, Konare and ATT,' where a strong emphasis was placed on the role of French and U.S. imperialism in the crisis inside the mineral-rich West African state currently being occupied by Paris.
Tachae J. Davis of Workers World Party Youth Fraction spoke on 'The Revolutionary Legacy of Dr. Walter Rodney and African Historical Struggles.' Davis highlighted the contributed of the Guyanese scholar who utilized a Marxist approach of historical materialism to illustrate how Africa had been underdeveloped by Europe for five hundred years.
The former President of the National Conference of Black Lawyers
(NCBL) Atty. Jeff Edison presented a paper entitled 'The U.S. Military in Africa: Unwanted and Unlawful' which was written by another leading NCBL member and past President Mark Fancher. NCBL has challenged successive U.S. administrations since its formation in 1968 on the role of Washington's foreign policy towards the African continent.
The conference was concluded by Venezuelan Consul General Jesus Rodriguez Espinoza who spoke via videotape from Chicago. Consul Rodriguez Espinoza talked for nearly thirty minutes on 'Venezuelan Foreign Policy in Africa: Opposition to Intervention and International Solidarity.'
Rodriguez Espinoza pointed out that Venezuela under the late President Hugo Chavez Frias opposed U.S. and NATO intervention against Libya in
2011 as well as the French military intervention in Mali which began in January 2013. He also noted that the Africa-South America Summits, where the second was held in Venezuela in 2009, was a cornerstone of his country's foreign policy.
The final segment of the conference acknowledged the statements of solidarity sent to the event. The 4th Media in Beijing, China sent a message of support to the Africa & U.S. Imperialism conference.
In addition, an African migrants group called No Borders Morocco, wrote to conference organizers saying 'Unfortunately we will be unable to be there due to the distance, but we hope to bring to your attention an issue we feel to be relevant to what you will be taking about, the issues around which our organization was formed. In practice this involves Black migrants from West Africa in North African countries like Morocco and Algeria being subjected to systematic police violence, atrocious violations of basic human rights and intense discrimination in all aspects of their lives.'
Also Robert Paul Chatman of Homewood, Illinois wrote to the MECAWI conference saying that 'I will not be able to attend but very much would like to be informed of the results. Thank you for your commitment to your people.'
Note: The talk delivered by this writer and Consul General Jesus Rodriguez Espinoza's video presentation can be found at the following
By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire