Organization of African Unity OAU

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Organization of African Unity (OAU)


a regional intergovernmental political organization, formed at the Addis Ababa Conference of Independent African States in May 1963. At the end of 1973 the OAU comprised 42 states: Algeria, Botswana, Burundi, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Congo, Dahomey (now Benin), the Arab Republic of Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, the Ivory Coast, Kenya, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar (the Malagasy Republic), Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somali Democratic Republic, the Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Upper Volta, Zaire, and Zambia. Representatives of the national liberation movements of African countries with colonial and racist regimes participate in OAU work as observers.

The objectives of the OAU are to strengthen the unity and solidarity of the countries of Africa; to coordinate the activities of and develop cooperation between African states; to defend sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence; to eradicate all forms of colonialism; and to encourage international cooperation. To these ends, OAU members have pledged to coordinate their actions in foreign policy, economics, science and technology, defenses and security, education, culture, and public health.

The main principles of the OAU include equality and noninterference in the internal affairs of member states, respect for territorial integrity and independence, peaceful settlement of disputes, support of liberation movements in the African countries lacking majority rule, and nonalignment.

The main organ of the OAU is the assembly of heads of state and government, which is convened at least once a year. Each state has one vote in the assembly, and assembly resolutions require a two-thirds majority for adoption. Between sessions of the assembly, OAU policy is controlled by a council of ministers that meets at least twice a year. The assembly appoints the secretary-general, who heads the secretariat, the organization’s permanent administrative organ. In addition, the OAU has commissions on economic and social matters; on education, science, culture, and public health; and on defense.

There are special OAU organs to provide support to African peoples struggling for independence. The most important is the Coordinating Committee for Liberation Movements in Africa, which is also widely known as the Liberation Committee or the Committee of 17. In order to provide material support for the anticolonial movement, OAU members have pledged to allocate 1 percent of their national budgets to a special fund for the liberation of Africa.

The OAU has achieved some success in the development of intra-African economic cooperation; for example, the African Development Bank and the African Institute for Economic Development and Planning were created with OAU assistance.

The struggle against the vestiges of colonialism and against racism in the Republic of South Africa and Rhodesia has been one of the OAU’s major concerns. Issues in the struggle against colonialism and racism have been considered at every OAU assembly. Important resolutions were adopted at the second OAU assembly (Cairo, July 1964) prohibiting nuclear weapons, declaring Africa an atom-free zone, and calling for universal disarmament. The fifth assembly (Algiers, September 1968) condemned Israeli aggression and demanded the liberation of the occupied Arab territories. The eighth assembly (Addis Ababa, June 1971) formed a committee of heads of state of ten OAU countries to seek a settlement of the Middle East conflict and adopted a declaration rejecting the idea of a “dialogue” between African states and the Republic of South Africa. It also endorsed the measures taken by African states to exercise sovereignty over their natural resources.

OAU work, however, has met with obstacles. These difficulties are caused chiefly by the member states’ differing conceptions of political and economic development, resulting in disagreements as to how major issues ought to be resolved. The OAU has permanent representatives at the UN.


Basic Documents and Resolutions. Published by the Provisional Secretariat of the Organization of African Unity. Addis Ababa, 1964.
Organizatsiia afrikanskogo edinstva (Istoriia sozdaniia i deiatel’nosti). Sb. dokumentov. Moscow, 1970.
Organizatsiia afrikanskogo edinstva (collection of documents), fasc. 2 (1966–1969). Moscow, 1973.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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