It is now 54 years since the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was formed in Addis Ababa – Ethiopia, with South Africa becoming the 53rd member on 23 May 1994. The OAU was formed on 25 May 1963, and is reputable as the first African organisation after the African independence. The organisation was instituted by thirty-two countries and was progressively joined by twenty-one countries. The Organisation of African Unity adopted its Charter on 13 September, 1963, when it started to operate. However the OAU was dissolved in 2002 and was replaced by the African Union (AU).
The 25th of May is now celebrated as Africa day to retell Africa’s pursuit for political and economic freedom of its people along with unity of the continent. Although the OAU disappointed many of its founders, it was the beginning of the presentation of African unity on the world stage and an establishment through which Africa would be taken seriously. One of the missions of the OAU was to “bring about change and freedom to many African countries and restore dignity of African people.”
The collaboration between Pan-Africanist movements which materialized in the United States of America in the late 19th century and protuberant African intellectuals such as Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, Julius Nyerere of Kenya, Sékou Touré of Guinea and Kenneth Kaunda of Zambia buoyed the idea of a nation free from Imperialists for instance, the USA , with the belief that it is necessary for “black civilization to prosper..” and be able to “pursue self-determination with dignity.” To further advance the interests of the African people, Pan-African Congresses were convened all over Africa and the world and at the fifth Congress held in Manchester, England African leaders reinforced the conception for the “complete independence of the African continent and total rejection of colonialism and exploitation in all its forms,” the congress also supported and acknowledged “the importance of economic regeneration to replace colonial economies geared towards primary resource extraction and exploitation…” As a result of this commitment Kwame Nkrumah (Ghana’s post-independence leader) initiated conferences presented in Accra between 1958 and 1960 to aid countries that were still under colonial rule sometimes with martial implements in the name of African independence.
The vision of a United States of Africa was radically supported by Nkrumah of Ghana, Sékou Touré of Guinea and Modibo Keita of Mali. Although these leaders had “differing ideological commitments and diverging opinions regarding strategy and structuring of a continental organisation” what was imperative was that they had a common vision for Africa. For example the Casablanca Group (Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Libya, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria) was for radical continental assimilation, the Monrovia Group (Nigeria, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Liberia, Sudan, Togo, and Somalia) encouraged “a moderate approach to unification to be undertaken in incremental steps” and the Brazzaville Group (Francophone countries and led by Senegal and the Ivory Coast) was still tied to France. A number of leaders felt that Nkrumah’s vision for a United States of Africa would risk “dissolving sovereignty and territorial integrity”. The philosophical fundamentals of the ideology advocated for by Nkrumah are however necessary and relevant to the African society when analysing the political, social and economic landscape of the African continent.
It is important that we remember these efforts to unite African people, it is also important to remember why African people were separated in the first place. It is important that we remember that an African is no different to an African, that colonial intentions win when we perpetrate black on black hate through the unjustified conceptualisation of ideas such as Xenophobia. Let us remember that Kwame Nkrumah’s vision of a United States of Africa is still achievable despite all the neo-colonial and radical capitalist propaganda we are constantly bombarded with as a means of keeping us separate and hateful towards each other. Africa unlike any place in the world is one nation and should seek to stay that way.