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Strengths and Weaknesses of the OAU

Strengths and Weaknesses of the OAU


The strengths and weaknesses of the OAU can be considered as good historical lessons to the African Union. In this section attempts to highlight The major strengths and weakness of the OAU.


To begin with its strengths, decolonization is the most important achievement of the OAU, which has to be written in bold. Decolonization, like colonization, is a long drawn out historical process. In an attempt to assist the decolonization process, the OAU established a Coordinating Committee for the Liberation of Africa in 1963. This Committee offered moral and material assistance to anti-colonial struggles in different parts of the African continent.


In describing OAU’s role in the decolonization process, it seems more appropriate if we reiterate the wordings of the Durban Declaration in tribute to the OAU. Paragraphs 3 and 4 of the Declaration state:


The OAU was instrumental in creating an African Identity and in promoting solidarity among the African people. Today, being an African is not a philosophical proposition but a reality. Today, our people find expression in a common identify as Africans. That common identity and unity of purpose become a dynamic force at the service of the African people in the pursuit of the ideals are predecessors believed in and in which we continue to believe.

No where has that dynamic force proved more decisive than in the African struggle for decolonization. Africa saw its independence as meaningless as long as a part of it remained under colonial tyranny. Immense human and material resources were consecrated to the task of decolonizing Africa. Through the OAU Coordinating Committee for Liberation, Africa worked and spoke as one with undivided determination in forging an international diplomatic consensus for liberation and in prosecuting the armed struggle.


Strength of the OAU, is perhaps closely related to its actions against racism and Apartheid. The OAU resolutions have ritually condemned racism in general as well as the system of apartheid which institutionalized racism in South Africa and Namibia in particular. The strategy of the OAU for the liberation of the South Africa, in particular, has been a mixture of support for freedom fighters and appeal to the conscience of the international community. In 1991, the apartheid policy was done away once and for all and maked the final step for Africa in the struggle of political emancipation form colonial and racist rule.


Another strength of the OAU that is worth being mentioned is its important task in coming up with the establishment of that formed Abuja Treaty the African Economic Community in 1991. The Treaty seeks to build the African Economic Community through a common market built on the regional economic communities. This effort of the OAU proved to be instrumental as regional   economic communities are today consolidating and proving today to be engines for integration.


The major weak OAU’s weaknesses, is its principles related to the culture of non-intervention for which the OAU has been criticized. Among the principles of the OAU, as stated in Article III of the OAU Charter, non-interference in the internal affairs of member states is one. The OAU is blamed for taking a “hands-off” approach to internal struggles in member states. Though there were rampant political instabilities within the territories of its member states, the OAU miserably failed in taking an action due to the culture of non intervention. Capitalizing on this  point, Timothy Murthi stated that ‘Indeed the OAU did not intervene as much as it should have in the affairs of member states to prevent war crimes and crimes against humanity which has bequeathed upon present generation of Africans the legacy of human rights atrocities and the domination, exploitation and manipulation of societies within states.”


Another weakness of the OAU is its failure to feature protection of Human Rights as one of its principal aspirations. This does not mean that Human Rights were wholly neglected by the OAU Charter since it makes references, albeit slight, to Human Rights. The principal objectives of the OAU have been to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its member states. That may explain why it took 20 years for the OAU to adopt a Human Rights document proper.


Discussion Question

  • Point out strengths and weaknesses of the OAU.

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