Image by United Nations Photo via FlickrThe African Union (AU), formerly the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was founded on 25 May, 1963 with the aim of improving the political, economic, and cultural aspects of the continent. OAU changed name in 2002 to become the AU. It’s headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (Hanson, 2009). The AU is made up of political and administrative bodies. Heads of States meet yearly to deliberate on important topics that are exclusive to the continent. The Kingdom of Morocco is not a member of the AU because it disputes the membership of Western Sahara, also called the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. The Union’s internal environment is populated by member representatives heading various departmental positions.
Internal factors that often cause friction and dissent among member states include disagreeing on specific volatile issues like voting on matters that may be of particular importance to a certain state but detested by another. Member representatives may disagree on how money donated by donor nations is dispensed. The governing style espoused by a chairman may not be acceptable to others. For example, the current chairman of the AU is Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the president of Equatorial Guinea who came to power by the barrel of the gun. A corrupt and ruthless dictator, President Obiang heads an oil rich state whose citizens live in abject poverty. The Union is struggling with ambitious internal reforms that include security, trade liberalization, sustainable use of natural resources and energy, food security, and climate change and immigration (Laporte and Mackie, 2010).
The main actors of the AU have been drawn from nations that were at one time or the other colonized by colonial powers Britain, France, Italy, and Portugal respectively. To the north are the mainly Arabic speaking states of Egypt, Tunisia, Algeria, and Mauritania. Cultural differences among leaders often lead to misunderstandings and confusion.
Laporte, G. and Mackie, G. (2010).Towards a strong African Union: what are the next steps and what role can the EU play? Retrieved from www.ecdpm.org/pmr18
Hanson, S. (2009). Backgrounder: The African Union. Retrieved from http://www.cfr.org/africa/african-union/p11616