Inception of the African Union

The Paradox of National Sovereignty and Unity in Search for Global Parity

By Vistra Greenaway-Harvey - 10th January 2017

The African Union. Three simple words that connote so much, but what do they actually mean? Quite simply the African Union is the African equivalent to the European Union- a political, social and humanitarian organization formed for the furtherance of rights and freedoms for all Africans (Phillips, 2000). But most importantly, it is an institutional manifestation of the ongoing co-operation and unity between African States. Really, it is Pan-Africanism.

Or rather, it is supposed to be.

From the very outset, the concept of African unity has been awkwardly juxtaposed with burgeoning state sovereignty (BBC, 2013). Formed on 25 May 1963, the newly formed African nations were unwilling to surrender their autonomy to the whims of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). An unwillingness that was ingrained in the fabric of the organization itself. The OAU propagated the conflicting visions to unify Africa, but also to “safeguard and consolidate hard-fought independence along with the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of each nation state (OAU Charter, 1963: Preamble). Therefore borderlines were prioritised over geographical unity. Arguably, in any international institution, and certainly in the European Union, one of the greatest benefits of unification is the free movement of people between nation-states (Sodha, 2015). But for Africa, not only has free movement not been guaranteed within the continent; as Africans continue to rely on expensive – and as Duodu notes “time-wasting” visas to visit each other’s countries (BBC, 2013), the OAU’s determination to protect the new and arbitrary territory lines drawn throughout the continent, and its deference towards strong sovereignty, ensured the organization tied its own hands.

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Vistra Greenaway-Harvey

Vistra Greenaway-Harvey is an academic copywriter and legal researcher. As well as African commentary, she drafts consultations and legal submissions for local councils and Fortune 500 companies.

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