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African Union

The African Union (AU) is a continental union consisting of all 55 countries on the Continent of Africa, extending slightly into geographical Asia via the Sinai Peninsula in Egypt, except for territories of European countries located in Africa. It was established on 26 May 2001 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and launched on 9 July 2002 in South Africa, with the aim of replacing the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) established on 25 May 1963 in Addis Ababa, with 32 signatory governments.


The objectives of the AU are: To achieve greater unity and solidarity between the African countries and Africans. To defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of its Member States. To accelerate the political and social-economic integration of the continent. To promote and defend African common positions on issues of interest to the continent and its peoples.

To encourage international cooperation, taking due account of the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. To promote peace, security, and stability on the continent. To promote democratic principles and institutions, popular participation and good governance. To promote and protect human and peoples' rights in accordance with the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and other relevant human rights instruments.

To establish the necessary conditions which enable the continent to play its rightful role in the global economy and in international negotiations. To promote sustainable development at the economic, social and cultural levels as well as the integration of African economies. To promote co-operation in all fields of human activity to raise the living standards of African peoples. To coordinate and harmonize the policies between the existing and future Regional Economic Communities for the gradual attainment of the objectives of the Union.

To advance the development of the continent by promoting research in all fields, in particular in science and technology. To work with relevant international partners in the eradication of preventable diseases and the promotion of good health on the continent.The African Union is made up of both political and administrative bodies. The highest decision-making organ is the Assembly of the African Union, made up of all the heads of state or government of member states of the AU.

The Assembly is chaired by Paul Kagame, President of Rwanda. The AU also has a representative body, the Pan African Parliament, which consists of 265 members elected by the national legislatures of the AU member states. Its president is Roger Nkodo Dang. Other political institutions of the AU include the Executive Council, made up of foreign ministers, which prepares decisions for the Assembly; the Permanent Representatives Committee, made up of the ambassadors to Addis Ababa of AU member states; and the Economic, Social, and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC), a civil society consultative body.

The AU Commission, the secretariat to the political structures, is chaired by Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma of South Africa. On 15 July 2012, Ms. Dlamini-Zuma won a tightly contested vote to become the first female head of the African Union Commission, replacing Jean Ping of Gabon. Other AU structures are hosted by different member states: the African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights is based in Banjul, the Gambia; and the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and APRM Secretariats and the Pan-African Parliament are in Midrand, South Africa.

The AU covers the entire continent except for several territories held by Spain (Canary Islands, Plazas de soberanía), France (Mayotte, Réunion, Scattered Islands in the Indian Ocean), Portugal (Madeira, Savage Islands) and the United Kingdom (Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha). The AU's first military intervention in a member state was the May 2003 deployment of a peacekeeping force of soldiers from South Africa, Ethiopia, and Mozambique to Burundi to oversee the implementation of the various agreements. AU troops were also deployed in Sudan for peacekeeping during Darfur conflict, before the mission was handed over to the United Nations on 1 January 2008 UNAMID. The AU has also sent a peacekeeping mission to Somalia, of which the peacekeeping troops are from Uganda and Burundi.

The AU has adopted a number of important new documents establishing norms at continental level, to supplement those already in force when it was created. These include the African Union Convention on Preventing and Combating Corruption (2003), the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (2007), the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and its associated Declaration on Democracy, Political, Economic and Corporate Governance.
According to the Constitutive Act of the African Union, its working languages are Arabic, English, French and Portuguese, and African languages if possible. A protocol amending the Constitutive Act, adopted in 2003 but as of June 2016 not yet ratified by a two-thirds majority of member states, would add Spanish, Swahili and any other African language and declare all official (rather than working) languages of the African Union. The Executive Council shall determine the process and practical modalities for the use of official languages as working languages. Founded in 2001 under the auspices of the AU, the African Academy of Languages promotes the usage and perpetuation of African languages among African people.

The AU declared 2006 the Year of African Languages. 2006 also marked Ghana's 55th anniversary since it founded the Bureau of Ghana Languages originally known as Gold Coast Vernacular Literature Bureau.
The historical foundations of the African Union originated in the Union of African States, an early confederation that was established by Kwame Nkrumah in the 1960s, as well as subsequent attempts to unite Africa, including the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which was established on 25 May 1963, and the African Economic Community in 1981. Critics argued that the OAU in particular did little to protect the rights and liberties of African citizens from their own political leaders, often dubbing it the Dictators' Club.The idea of creating the AU was revived in the mid-1990s under the leadership of Libyan head of state Muammar al-Gaddafi: the heads of state and government of the OAU issued the Sirte Declaration (named after Sirte, in Libya) on 9 September 1999, calling for the establishment of an African Union. The Declaration was followed by summits at Lomé in 2000, when the Constitutive Act of the African Union was adopted, and at Lusaka in 2001, when the plan for the implementation of the African Union was adopted.

During the same period, the initiative for the establishment of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), was also established. The African Union was launched in Durban on 9 July 2002, by its first chairperson, South African Thabo Mbeki, at the first session of the Assembly of the African Union. The second session of the Assembly was in Maputo in 2003, and the third session in Addis Ababa on 6 July 2004. Since 2010, the African Union eyes the establishment of a joint African space agency.

Barack Obama was the first ever sitting United States president to speak in front of the African Union in Addis Ababa, on 29 July 2015. With his speech, he encouraged the world to increase economic ties via investments and trade with the continent, and lauded the progresses made in education, infrastructure and economy. But he also criticized lacks of democracy and leaders who refuse to step down, discrimination against minorities (LGBT people, religious groups and ethnicities) and corruption. He suggested an intensified democratization and free trade, to significantly increase living quality for Africans.

Member states of the African Union cover almost the entirety of continental Africa, excluding only Spanish North Africa, and several off-shore islands. Consequently, the geography of the African Union is wildly diverse, including the world's largest hot desert (the Sahara), huge jungles and savannas, and the world's longest river (the Nile). The AU presently has an area of 29,922,059 square kilometres (11,552,972 sq mi), with 24,165 kilometres (15,015 mi) of coastline. The vast majority of this area is on continental Africa, while the only significant territory off the mainland is the island of Madagascar (the world's fourth largest island), accounting for slightly less than 2% of the total.

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