OAU vs AU
The world has been shrinking and shrinking fast. Continents are coming closer, leave alone countries in a continent. Africa, which is one of the last continents to get freedom for its countries in the 21st century realized the need for economic and social development in the 2nd half of this century when OAU was formed in 1963. It was in 1999 that heads of government of OAU agreed to setting up of AU to speed up the process of social and economic integration in the continent of Africa. There are many differences in the two organizations that will be talked about in this article.
It was on 9th July 2002 in Durban that the South African President Thabo Mbeki became the founding Chairman of the newly constitutes African Union. It heralded a new era in the history and development of the African continent, as all countries in Africa bid farewell to the erstwhile instrument for African unity, OAU, and welcomed AU as an organization to redefine the position of Africa vis-à-vis rest of the world. Heads of government hoped that AU would be more effective in meeting the hopes and aspirations of the people of Africa and will take on political, economic and social issues in a better manner.
All heads of government felt that Organization of African Union served its purpose well and led to decolonization of the African Continent but now the time has come to implement programs such NEPAD (New partnership for African Development) and ECOSOC (Economic and Social Council) in a more effective manner. NEPAD is the blueprint for development of the continent of Africa on all issues including peace and security, economic, social and corporate governance. It aims to create conditions favorable for economic investment so that Africa becomes a preferred international investment destination.
Talking about differences between OAU and AU, there was an agreement in OAU not to interfere in internal affairs of member countries that has been superseded by a peer review clause in AU that allows intervention in the internal affairs of a country under certain circumstances.
OAU was silent on the issues of commitment to democracy and human rights. These two form the backbone of AU as there are institutions in AU to take care of these important issues. AU is different from OAU in the sense that it has special organs like Peace and Security Council, an African Standby Force, African Bank, a court of justice, and heads of state NEPAD implementation committee.
Though OAU served its purpose well, it did not reflect the will, hopes and aspirations of the people of Africa according to changing times, and to help the great continent of Africa occupy its rightful place in the new world, its structure needed to be streamlined while adding some new institutions. AU has a broader scope and mandate than OAU, and a structure that has been designed keeping in mind the challenges in the 21st century. AU reflects greater transparency, openness, and a willingness to respect human rights in a manner acceptable to international community.