On May 25 1963 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the 32 African states that had achieved independence at that time agreed to establish the Organization of African Unity (OAU). A further 21 members joined gradually, reaching a total of 53 by the time of the AU’s creation in 2002. On 9 July 2011, South Sudan became the 54th African Union (AU) member.
The OAU’s main objectives, as set out in the OAU Charter, were to promote the unity and solidarity of African states; coordinate and intensify their cooperation and efforts to achieve a better life for the peoples of Africa; safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Member States; rid the continent of colonisation and apartheid; promote international cooperation within the United Nations framework; and harmonise members’ political, diplomatic, economic, educational, cultural, health, welfare, scientific, technical and defence policies.
The OAU operated on the basis of its Charter and the 1991 Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community (known as the Abuja Treaty). Its major organs were the Assembly of Heads of State and Government, Council of Ministers and the General Secretariat as well as the Commission of Mediation, Conciliation and Arbitration; Economic and Social Commission; Educational, Scientific, Cultural and Health Commission; and Defence Commission. The Commission of Mediation, Conciliation and Arbitration was replaced by the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution in 1993.