OAU Established: 25 May 1963
On 26 May 2001, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was legally transformed into the African Union (AU).
Membership: 54 States (February 2016) – Algeria, Angola, Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chad, Comoros, Congo, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti, Equatorial Guinea, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau. Kenya, the Kingdom of Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Kingdom of Swaziland, Tanzania, Togo, Tunisia, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Note: The Central African Republic is currently under political sanction because of national conflict.
Background: The Organization of African Unity (OAU) was established on 25 May 1963, at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and the Charter of the OAU was signed on that occasion by the heads of state and government of 32 African states. The Organization was established to promote the unity and solidarity of African countries, to defend the sovereignty of members, to eradicate all forms of colonialism, to promote international cooperation with due regard for the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and to coordinate and harmonize Member States’ economic, diplomatic, educational, health, welfare, scientific, and defense policies.
On 9 September 1999, the Heads of State and Government of the Organization of African Unity issued the Sirte Declaration, calling for the establishment of an African Union, with a view, inter alia, toward accelerating the process of unity among countries of the continent, enabling it to better participate in the global economy and to better address social, economic and political problems.
Since 1999, three summits have been held to facilitate the implementation of the African Union (AU). The Lome Summit (2000) adopted the Constitutive Act of the African Union, which specifies the objectives, principles, and organs of the AU. The Lusaka Summit (2001) drew the road map for the implementation of the AU. The Durban Summit (2002) launched the AU and convened the First Assembly of Heads of States of the African Union.
Structure: In structure, the OAU began as one entity, whereas the AU, integrating itself with the African Economic Community and building other structures, consists of: the Assembly (determines common policies); the Executive Council (coordinates and makes decisions on common policies); the Pan-African Parliament (implements policies); the Court of Justice (ensures compliance with the law); the Commission (the secretariat); the Permanent Representatives Committee (assists the Executive Council); the Specialized Technical Committees (assist the Executive Council in substantive matters); the Economic, Social and Cultural Council; the Peace and Security Council (makes decisions on prevention, management and resolution of conflicts); and the Financial Institutions (consisting of the African Central Bank, the African Monetary Fund, and the African Investment Bank).
Verification and Compliance:
Verification: The AU mandated the Council of Ministers to take the necessary measures to ensure the implementation of decisions and, in particular, to prepare the constitutive legal text of the Union, taking into account the Charter of the OAU and the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community. Under the Constitutive Act of the OAU, Article 9 mandates that the Assembly composed of OAU Heads of States and Governments, as the supreme organ of the union, with the power to monitor the implementation of policies and decisions of the union as well to ensure compliance by all Member States. Compliance: The non-implementation of regulations and directives from the assembly shall attract appropriate sanctions.
2016: On 30-31 January, the African Union held its 26th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. During the two day summit issues regarding nonproliferation, disarmament or arms control were not discussed.
2015: On 23-31 January, the African Union held its 24th Ordinary Session of Assembly in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. No issues related to nonproliferation or arms control were discussed.
On 18-19 May, the African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE) held its fifth Ordinary Session at the African Union (AU) Headquarters, in Addis Ababa. AU Peace and Security Commissioner Smaïl Chergui delivered a statement, emphasizing the important role of AFCONE in the implementation of the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty. During the session, participants discussed the implementation of AFCONE’s program of work, including States Parties’ compliance with their Treaty obligations, nuclear and radiation safety and security, peaceful applications of nuclear sciences and technology, as well as partnerships and technical cooperation.
On 07-15 June, the African Union held the 25th Ordinary Session of Assembly in Johannesburg, South Africa. No issues related to disarmament or nonproliferation were discussed.
On 15 July, The Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union (AU), Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, delivered a speech, commending the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) regarding Iran’s nuclear program between Iran and “P5+1”.
2014: On 4 February, the AU withdrew from a trade and investment summit with the EU that was held in Belgium in April if Robert Mugabe, the President of Zimbabwe, was not invited. Mugabe was recently elected as vice-chair to the AU’s executive Council but remains on the EU travel ban list.
From 29-30 May, the African Union hosted the Third Conference of States Parties to the Pelindaba Treaty at its headquarters in Addis Ababa. Both France and the Russian Federation were in attendance, in addition to all of the African States Parties and various regional and international organizations. The conference focused on the implementation of the African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE) agenda as well as the operationalization of the AFCONE Secretariat, hearing a comprehensive report on AFCONE’s activities concerning monitoring, safety, and nuclear applications. The AU took note of AFCONE’s tentative plan for 2014-16 to work towards appointing National Focal Points by States Parties and elected the following States Parties as members of AFCONE for a three-year term: Algeria, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mauritius, Senegal, South Africa, Togo, Tunisia and Zimbabwe.
2013: From 21 to 28 January, the African Union held its 20th Summit of Heads of State and Governments in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, under the theme of “Pan-Africanism and African Renaissance.” No issues related to nonproliferation or arms control were discussed.
From 19-27 May, the AU held its 21st Summit at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. No issues related to nonproliferation or arms control were discussed.
2012: From 29-30 January, the African Union held its 18th Ordinary Session of Assembly in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. AU Heads of State and Government decided to take measures to “develop new and renewable energy resources in order to provide clean, reliable, affordable and environmentally friendly energy as well as nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in order to sustainably meet Africa’s long-term energy needs.”
From 9-16 July, the African Union held its 19th Summit of the Heads of State and Government of the African Union in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia under the theme “Boosting Intra-African Trade”. No issues related to nonproliferation or arms control were discussed.
On 16 July, the African Union elected South African home affairs minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as the new AU Commission president.
2011: On 21 January the 16th Summit of the African Union Heads of State and Government opened in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia under the theme “Towards Greater Unity and Integration Through Shared Values.” The Assembly expressed deep concern over recent acts of terrorism across the continent, and welcomed steps taken to address the threat of terrorist attacks, including the appointment of Francisco Madeira as the AU Special Representative for Counter-Terrorism Cooperation, AU decisions on the prohibition of ransom payments to terrorist groups, and a meeting of experts from AU member states on 15-16 December 2010 to consider and adopt the draft African Model Law on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism.
The Assembly also expressed support for the First Conference of State Parties to the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone held in Addis Ababa on November 4, 2010. The Assembly called on all states that had not yet done so to sign and ratify the Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty (the Pelindaba Treaty) and all concerned non-African states to sign and ratify the protocols to the treaty.
On 4 May the First Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Nuclear Energy (ACNE) was held in Addis Ababa. Members of the twelve ACNE states addressed significant matters related to the operation and structure of the Commission, including procedural rules for its programs as well as the structure and scale of assessment of its budget. With the assistance of the AU Commission, the Session will finalize the documents necessary to begin ACNE programs within coming weeks. Abdul Samad Minty of South Africa was selected as Chairperson of ACNE and Mourad Telmini of Tunisia as Vice-Chairperson.
On 23 June, the 17th Summit of the African Union Heads of State and Government opened in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. The theme of the summit was “Accelerating Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development.” No issues related to nonproliferation or arms control were discussed. One of the most widely publicized outcomes of the summit was the Assembly’s decision not to cooperate with the International Criminal Court’s arrest warrant for Libyan President Muammar Qadhafi. The Assembly also reissued its call for the UN Security Council to authorize a peacekeeping mission to Somalia, and reaffirmed the Ezulwini Consensus and Sirte Declaration on the Reform of the United Nations Security Council. The Ezulwini Consensus contains the African common position on inter-state conflict, nuclear, radio-active, chemical and biological weapons, terrorism and peacekeeping, among other things, in response to the 2005 UN Security Council “Report of the High-level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change.” It also calls for institutional reform to the Security Council, which is perceived as discriminatory against African countries.
On 9 July the Republic of Southern Sudan became an independent state and automatically entered the African Union as the 54th member state.
On 10 October, senior officials from the African Union and the European Union met in Addis Ababa to discuss ways of maximizing the use of science and technology to promote innovation.
2010: Uganda hosted the 15th Summit of the African Union Heads of State and Government on 19-27 July in Kampala. Over 35 Heads of State and Government from across Africa attended the 3-day Summit.
The 15th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union opened on 25 July. The session focused mainly on issues outside of the nonproliferation sector. In the infrastructure sector, however, the Assembly made commitments to facilitate the development of renewable energy and nuclear energy sources, realizing that conventional energy sources are not sufficient to meet growing demands.
On 4 November, the African Union Commission convened the First Conference of State Parties to the African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty at the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Twenty-eight AU Member States Parties to the Treaty of Pelindaba participated in the conference. Other AU Member States which are not Parties to the Treaty also participated as observers, including the Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Ghana, Namibia, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Sudan and Uganda. Parties to Protocols I, II and III of the Pelindaba Treaty and those that are expected to become Parties to these instruments also attended, specifically China, France, the Russian Federation, Spain and the United Kingdom. Additional participants included representatives from the African Regional Cooperation Agreement for Research, Development and Training related to Nuclear Science and Technology (AFRA), IAEA, the CTBTO, as well as the EU and the UN.
Participants engaged in discussions on the promotion of safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear energy; nuclear security and combating of illicit trafficking; and the prohibition of testing of nuclear explosive devices. The Conference called upon AU Member States that have not yet done so to sign and ratify the Treaty of Pelindaba without further delay. It also appealed to non-African States to sign and ratify the relevant Protocols to the Treaty of Pelindaba, to comply with all the commitments contained therein, and to refrain from any action that could undermine their objectives.
The Commissioner for Peace and Security highlighted the commitment of the OAU/AU to the denuclearization of the African continent, expressing the AU’s hope that the work of the African Commission on Nuclear Energy (ACNE) will help widen the nuclear-weapons-free zone to include other regions, such as the Middle East. State Parties also decided on the headquarters and membership of the ACNE. The 12 countries selected to be members of ACNE were: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mauritius, Senegal, South Africa, Togo and Tunisia. State Parties also agreed to establish ACNE headquarters in South Africa. Another meeting will be held in the next 6 months to establish the ACNE budget, structure and activities.
2009: The 13th African Union Summit, including the 13th Ordinary Session of the Assembly, took place from 24 June to 3 July in Sirte, Libya. The theme was “Investing in Agriculture for Economic Growth and Food Security.” At the summit, the African leaders agreed to transform the African Union Commission into the “African Union Authority.” The new organization would be headed by a president and have an “enhanced role to coordinate foreign affairs, trade and defense policies.” For the AU Authority to come into being, all 53 African states will have to agree to the changes and ratify an amended version of the AU Constitutive Act.
2008: The Tenth Ordinary Session of the Assembly convened from 31 January to 2 February. The Assembly decided to intensify efforts to push for reform of the UN Security Council.
The Eleventh African Union Summit, including the Eleventh Ordinary Session of the Assembly, the Sixteenth Ordinary Session of the Permanent Representatives Committee and the Thirteenth Ordinary Session of the Executive Council was held in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt, from 24 June to 1 July. The theme was “Meeting the Millennium Development Goals on Water and Sanitation.” No issues related to nonproliferation or arms control were discussed.
2007: The Eighth Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 22-30 January. The themes were “Science, Technology and Scientific Research for Development” and “Climate Change in Africa.” No issues related to nonproliferation or arms control were discussed. The Assembly appointed the Republic of Ghana to the Chairmanship of the African Union for 2007.
2006: The Sixth Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union was held in Khartoum, Sudan on 23-24 January. The assembly congratulated the 10 countries elected to the Peace and Security Council for a two-year term. Furthermore, the assembly requested that the Peace and Security Council place a stronger emphasis on conflict prevention and post-conflict resolution. Decisions were also made about UN reforms. Those decisions included a renewal of the mandate of the Committee of Ten established to promote and support the Common African Position to push UN reform and a request for a progress report to the next Ordinary Session of the Assembly in July.
The Seventh Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union was held in Banjul, The Gambia on 1-2 July. The chairperson of the African Union Commission, H.E. Mr. Alpha Oumar Konare, in his opening speech, called for the ratification of the Pelindaba Treaty by the 28 member states that had yet to do so. Resolutions were made affecting the Peace and Security Council; calling for greater emphasis on conflict prevention and ensuring implementation of the Continental Peace and Security Framework
2005: The Fourth Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union, held in Abuja, Nigeria on 30-31 January, adopted decisions relating to nontraditional security issues, to conflicts in Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Somalia, and to the Non-Aggression and Common Defense Pact of the African Union.
The Seventh Extraordinary Session of the Executive Council was held on 7-8 March in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The session formulated a Common African Position on the Proposed Reform of the United Nations or the ‘Ezulwini Consensus.’ This consensus contained elements on the challenge of combating inter-state conflict, the proliferation of conventional weapons, terrorism, and peacekeeping, recommending the implementation of the Pelindaba Treaty among other security reforms. Furthermore, the consensus advocated institutional reform of the United Nations, pointing out the lack of representation of the continent and requesting an expansion of the Security Council to include the allocation to Africa of two permanent seats with veto power and five non-permanent seats.
The Fifth Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union was held in Sirte, Libya on 4-5 July. Opening remarks were made by Mu’ammer al-Qaddafi, the president of Libya. During the session, the Assembly established the Sirte Declaration on the Reform of the United Nations, which emphasized the need for institutional reforms to allocate greater representation for the continent on the Security Council and the General Assembly of the United Nations.
2004: The Second Extraordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union was held in Sirte, Libya on 27 – 28 February. The session adopted the Solemn Declaration on a Common African Defense and Security Policy. The detailed declaration defines the concepts of defense and security, lays out common security threats, and states the objectives and goals of a common defense and security policy.
The first session of the Pan-African Parliament of the African Union was held on 18 March under the leadership of President Gertrude Mongella from the United Republic of Tanzania. The Pan-African Parliament’s objectives included the facilitation of the effective implementation of the policies and objectives of the African Union and the promotion of peace, security and stability.
On 25 May, the African Union established the Peace and Security Council in order to work toward conflict prevention, management and resolution. At the Peace and Security Council’s first meeting, the decision was made to deploy ceasefire missions to the Sudan and Somalia.
The Fifth Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the African Union met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 30 June-3 July. Decisions were issued on the Draft Protocol to the OAU Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism, on the African Centre for Studies and Research on Terrorism, on an African Common Position on Anti-Personnel Landmines, and on the crises in Sudan, Burundi, Equatorial Guinea, the Ethiopia-Eritrea Peace Process, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Third Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on 6-8 July. The assembly made decisions relating to the ‘operationalization’ of the protocol relating to the establishment of a Peace and Security Council. Member states that had not signed or ratified the protocol were urged to do so.
2003: The Second Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union was held in Maputo, Mozambique on 10-12 July. The session adopted several decisions related to peace and security:
AU/6 (II), “Decision on the African Defense and Security Policy” requests the commission to conduct further consultations with all stakeholders, including ministers responsible for defense and security and legal experts, with the goal of finalizing the Common African Defense and Security Policy in time for consideration by the next Session of the Assembly, or at an Extraordinary Session of the Assembly.
AU/8(II) Add. 11, “Decision on the Elaboration of a Code of Conduct on Terrorism” emphasizes the need to establish a code of conduct on counterterrorism and recognizes that the importance of such a code should facilitate and promote negotiations on the drafting of a Global Convention on Terrorism.
AU/15(II), “Decision on Terrorism in Africa” expresses concerns over the increasing threat posed by international terrorism.
With the deposit of the instrument of ratification by the Republic of Nigeria, the protocol relating to the establishment of the Peace and Security Council entered into force on 26 December. The Peace and Security Council is a collective decision-making organ and warning arrangement for the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts.
2002: The Special Session of the OAU Council of Ministers devoted to the African Union, which was held in Durban, South Africa in July, addressed various issues, including the Secretary General’s progress report on the implementation of the key tasks related to the transition from the OAU to the African Union; the finalization of the Draft Rules of Procedure of the Assembly, the Executive Council, and the Permanent Representatives Committee; the Statute of the Commission of the African Union; and consideration of the protocol relating to the establishment of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union.
The first meeting on 1 July deliberated extensively on the Draft Protocol Relating to the Establishment of the African Union, the establishment of a Peace and Security Council (PRC), which would replace the former OAU Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution. At the end of its deliberations, among other things, a consensus appeared to have emerged on a number of key aspects of the protocol, namely on the need to establish a Peace and Security Council with the ability to take quick action with regard to the conflicts in parts of the continent. The afternoon session was devoted exclusively to discussing the Draft Rules of the Assembly, the Executive Council, the Permanent Representatives Committee, and the Statute of the Commission.
2001: The Constitutive Act of the AU entered into force on 26 May after Nigeria deposited the 36th instrument of ratification on 26 April 2000. At the July Summit in Lusaka, Zambia, the OAU members endorsed a plan to transform the OAU into the AU the following year.
2000: At the OAU Summit in Lome, 27 African countries signed the Constitutive Act of the AU. The Constitutive Act provided for the establishment of the AU to achieve greater unity and solidarity between the African countries and the peoples of Africa; defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence of its Member States; accelerate the political and socio-economic integration of the continent; and promote peace, security, and stability on the continent. The act also provided for the establishment of various institutions, including the Pan-African Parliament; Court of Justice; financial institutions, including the African Central Bank; African Monetary Fund; and African Investment Bank.
According to the act, the establishment of the AU would be completed upon the deposit of the 36th instrument of ratification of the Constitutive Act of the African Union and would enter into force 30 days after the deposit of the instruments of ratification by two-thirds of the Member States of the OAU.
Point of Contact:
Chairperson: President Yayi Boni, Republic of Benin
African Union Headquarters
P.O. Box 3243
Tel: (251) 11 551 77 00
Fax: (251) 11 551 78 44