Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


AU: memories of hope 50 years ago

23 May 2013, 08:31

Addis Ababa- Fifty years ago, veteran Ethiopian journalist Tsegaye Tadesse was a fresh-faced reporter, covering the historic signing of the charter that would bring African leaders together.

"For the first time, Africa had come together," said 80-year-old Tsegaye, remembering the heady days in 1963 when he was working for the Ethiopian Herald newspaper, covering the historic inauguration of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the forerunner of today's African Union (AU).

Set up on May 25 1963 in the Ethiopian capital, the body had 32 initial signatory governments, headed first by Ethiopia's Haile Selassie, with 21 more nations joining over the years.

Before the official inauguration, there was much debate about what the role of the organisation should be.

There was tension around the idea of forming a "United States of Africa", an idea promulgated by Ghanaian leader and pan-Africanist Kwame Nkrumah, but disputed by many others.

There was also debate about whether South Africa should be allowed to join the continental body, according to Tsegaye, with an apartheid government in place in Pretoria.

Finally, he said that there was both quiet resentment and resistance from some former colonial powers such as France and Britain. They were less than enthusiastic about seeing their former colonies gain independence and unite together.

But the backroom disputes were masked by a sense of excitement and pride once the charter forming the OAU was inked.

"Once it was signed, it was jubilation," Tsegaye said.

The organisation would face many challenges, and be frequently criticised for ineptitude and failure to resolves the crisis the continent faced.

Unity and solidarity

Critics said the OAU was a talk-shop for authoritarian leaders whose rhetoric at meetings in Addis Ababa rarely reflected any effort in their own nation to follow the most basic of human rights or freedoms.

But, at least on its founding day, there was a sense of hope and pride.

Set up to promote the "unity and solidarity of African states" as well as to boost "efforts to achieve a better life for the peoples of Africa", those who can remember the time of the signing say it showed for the first time the links across the continent.

"It was very euphoric, very exciting," said Konjit Sine Giorgis, who began working as a junior officer at the OAU in 1963. It came as colonial powers began to end years of foreign rule with African leaders taking control of their home nations for the first time in almost a century, she recalled.

"It was a special time because Africa was independent, getting independence," Konjit, now head of the AU's Permanent Representative Committee, added.

She remembered how she would deliver documents to the varied heads of state, saying she felt "privileged to witness history in the making.

"African countries were sitting together, managed to put aside their differences, and decided to come together."

For Konjit, it was the start of an important process.

"We all know that the last 50 years has been fraught with so many challenges, but through it all, we are all very proud of our achievements," she said.

The OAU was replaced by the African Union in 2002, with the pan-African bloc now including 54 members, with all but Morocco a member.



Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...