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1963: African states unite against white rule

Leaders of 32 African nations have set up an organisation that will give them a united voice for the first time in Africa's history.

The African summit conference ended today in Addis Ababa, capital of Ethiopia, with an agreement from all delegates to found an Organisation of African Unity.

Its primary aim will be to "decolonise" the remaining bastions of white rule in Southern Rhodesia, South Africa, Mozambique and Angola.

It plans to support African "freedom fighters" with finance, arms, volunteers and training bases and to close off their airspace to colonial forces.

Heads of state were urged to impose sanctions on South Africa and break off diplomatic relations. The conference also expressed concern about racial discrimination in the United States.


"May this convention of union last 1,000 years"

Emperor Halie Selassie

The OAU charter also states it will co-ordinate efforts to raise the standard of living of member states and defend their sovereignty. But its aim is to guide rather than lead an Africa that is still finding its feet.

The organisation has four main institutions - an annual assembly of heads of state, a council of ministers a general secretariat and a commission of mediation, conciliation and arbitration. Addis Ababa will be the headquarters.

The conference host, 71-year-old Emperor Halie Selassie, has spent a year preparing his city for the summit of African nations which represents a total population of 200 million people.

He told delegates: "May this convention of union last 1,000 years." His 2,000 guests were then treated to a lavish banquet.

The charter will be signed tomorrow morning by all but Morocco which sent an observer instead of an official because of the presence of Mauritania with which it has a border dispute.

In Context
In the 1970s, the OAU organised material and moral support for the liberation movements in countries such as Zimbabwe and Mozambique.

In the 1980s, it put pressure on the west to impose sanctions on apartheid South Africa.

But the concept of non-interference in internal disputes enshrined in the OAU constitution led critics to call it a "trade union for dictators".

On 25 May 2001, 38 years to the day after it was founded, the OAU was dissolved to be replaced by the African Union, also based in Addis Ababa.

It aims to unify the 53 African member states politically, socially and economically and is loosely modelled on the European Union.

The new organisation, first put forward by Libya's Colonel Gaddafi, also plans to have an impact on ordinary Africans.


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