54 Years of History

On May 25, 1963, 54 years ago, the OAU was established. During the final hours of the night, the elderly Ethiopian Head of State, Emperor Haile Selassie, could not rest for a short nap. Aided by the diligent Minister of Foreign Affairs Ato Ketema Yifru Dejene, and other Francophone officials,they did everything to bring the two opposing parties to conjoin and make all the member states who were present sign the OAU establishment charter, remembers Girma Feyissa.

Exactly 54 years ago, on May 25th, 1963, some 32 African countries established the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Addis Abeba, where the permanent office stands to this day.

The two parties, the Casablanca  blok representing the Francophone groups, on the one hand, and the Monrovia blok representing the Anglophone groups on the other were pulling the rope in opposite directions to decide how Africans should get united.

That night the elderly Ethiopian Head of State, Emperor Haile Selassie, could not rest for a short nap. Aided by the diligent Minister of Foreign Affairs Ato Ketema Yifru Dejene and other Francophone officials, the likes of Aklilu Habte-Wold did everything to bring the two opposing parties to conjoin and make all the member States who were present sign the OAU formulating charter. The Emperor was more than happy to make the African unity dream a reality.

At that time, Africa’s population was only 250 million. The Emperor was elected as the first secretary general of the newly established Organization. Perhaps the inspiring acceptance speech he made in the national language Amharic was historic in itself. That was also a fortunate time for many observers to inquire about Ethiopia’s official language Amharic having a written alphabet thousands of years old.

During his speech that night the Emperor stressed that the OAU was established only as a beginning and not an end. It was declared in the establishing document that ending the vestiges of colonialism and apartheid, promoting unity and solidarity among the African States, coordinating and intensifying cooperation for development would be among the many goals of the OAU.

The Emperor assured his comrades that establishing the OAU was the first step and many more accomplishments were to come. The signatories were only about two-thirds of the continent’s countries.

Following the efforts of the great men of Africa, one by one many countries freed themselves from the yokes of colonialism. The racist South Africa and its apartheid policy was the last sticking issue that had cost many lives and dehumanisating. Today the number of African free states has reached 54.

The continent with its plentiful resources did not benefit from its freedom as much as it should have. This is because its leaders for the most part simply put their feet in the shoes of their former colonisers and even became more harsh and cruel.

Today, though the Organization transformed itself into the African Union (AU) and claimed to pursue much higher goals than were at the time of establishment, it is on the brink of going back to the doldrums.

Collecting money, by all means, has become the preoccupation even if they have to rectify their respective constitutions more than once. Corruption is the buzz word in every country’s everyday language. History tells us that the world was not created piecemeal as His Imperial Majesty once said.

We have our destiny in our hands. We cannot go on finding some solace in giving our poverty the cause and reason for our backwardness. It is about time, if not too late, to face facts squarely.

The 54 years in the life of OAU may not be too long. But OAU did not remain static. It has changed qualitatively if I may say so. Nearly a decade ago it formulated the AU. The Union is one step closer to the final target of having the United States of Africa. But there is much to be done before that stage is realised.

There are at least some stages to overcome. The sub-regions can in the mean time consolidate their socio-economic relationship and cultural interactions. In this regard football, athletics and musical shows between African countries seem to be very practical to put in place to strengthen their unity. Universities may also reinforce the relationships by offering scholarships for students of other African countries. Making research works on the leading causes of diseases and finding medicines can also be one of Africa’s problems that can be addressed as soon as possible.


Published on May 28,2017 [ Vol 18 ,No 892]



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