A Vision for Africa

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A Vision for Africa

The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was the upshot of a lifelong pan-African struggle against colonialism, racism and for the promotion of unity and solidarity among the African States. It became the collective voice of the continent and its representative in the international scene.

As the very first continental organization ever created in Africa, the OAU provided a means of bringing Africans together and having their interests addressed and defended. Through the OAU, Africa, for the first time, began to speak as one.

The OAU has since given way to the African Union (AU) in 2002 after 39 years of existence. It can be said, and many will agree, that the OAU was not a very effective model for the achievement of true liberty for Africa. Its aims, while noble, were mostly not materialized. There was a struggle in enforcing decisions, and the policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of member states did more injury than help. But no matter how extensive and disappointing the imperfections were, the establishment of the OAU had important contributions to the development of Africa.

End of the apartheid and colonialism

During the founding of the OAU, colonialism and racism were lingering oppressors that needed to be deposed. Countless years under colonial rule enforced practices that were discriminatory, divisive, and those that legitimized racism. One such system was the apartheid in South Africa, which segregated visitors and inhabitants according to race as an official policy.

The system was hurtful most of all to the “black race,” who were treated as inferior to “whites” and suffered discrimination in almost every aspect of life including marriage, voting rights and even where to live.

United under the OAU banner, the liberated African states coordinated to help their brothers in South Africa, demanding sanctions on its government, and even closing their ports and airways to the country. The Lusaka Manifesto was drafted by 14 Central and East African states to call for a peaceful means of the emancipation of South Africans. In other struggles across the continent, the OAU gave support to colonized nations fighting for independence or majority rule through weapons, training and military bases. Groups like the African National Congress and Pan-Africanist Congress were also aided by the OAU in their endeavors.

The African Development Bank

All African countries did eventually win their independence. However, difficulties were strewn all over this new path as their economies were too frail as yet to enable these countries to support themselves. The OAU was able to address this problem by setting up the African Development Bank (ADB). The ADB financed economic projects to strengthen the African economy. It made loans and equity investments to promote economic development and social progress among its African members.

In order for projects and programs to be executed, the ADB played a major role in providing technical assistance. Its founding also helped the OAU and the UN to ease the weight of refugee processing.

Peacekeeping and Basic Rights

The OAU also had other important achievements that it won for Africa. The organization helped carve important values and principles that the continent has hungered after for so long, like free and fair elections and respect for sovereignty and borders. Through the intervention of the OAU, Africa began to value the unique potential of elections to bring about political change. Africa started to see that taking up arms and violent means are not really necessary in changing a country, or the continent for that matter.

Respect was another important principle that had gone missing for a long time. Africans cherished their freedom and in doing so, learned to respect the sovereignty of their fellow states by respecting boundaries.

But perhaps above all, peace is the most valued principle on the continent. And for this, the OAU has set up means to secure peace agreements among its member states. It put certain conflict prevention mechanisms in place and it has developed the peacekeeping capacity of the continent.

Maybe the OAU often stumbled as it walked, and perhaps it even stuttered when it talked, but it had paved the way for a much better Africa that every African sees and aspires for in their dreams. The road to freedom was hard and the road to prosperity is not at all any better. But the idea of a united Africa, nations that helped one another and worked together, this is a noble and inspiring ideal. The OAU brought the idea to life and with it, hope. There is hope for the continent yet and, with great stamina and iron will, the strong, united Africa that the OAU envisioned is more than possible.


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