African Union Celebrates 50 years

african union

Addis Ababa – With Africa’s countless problems set aside for a day to mark the progress made so far, an extravagant 50th jubilee celebration of the African Union will begin on Saturday.

Entertainment of dancing troupes is set to perform to more than 10,000 guests in the Ethiopian capital, the home of the African Union. Extravaganza musicians including Congolese music legend Papa Wemba and the British based reggae band Steel Plus will perform. A budget amounting to $1.27 million had been set aside for the celebrations, but the cost could be closer to $3 million. Millions of people will watch the festival as giant screens are set up across Addis Ababa.

The 54 members of the AU Commission chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said the “celebration of all Africa” was “historic”. A time to reflect on the past and tackle the current challenges of the African continent.  She expressed the opportunity present  how bright the future of Africa remains.

Foreign dignitaries including the US secretary of State John Kerry, French President Francois Hollande, China’s Vice Premier Wang Yang are expected to join the African Leaders and participate in the unique celebration.

The Organization of African Unity (OAU) established independence during 1963 from colonial rule of the African continent changed its name to the African Union in 2002 and moved away from its troubled past with confidence. A policy of the OAU did not allow its members to interfere in their neighbor’s affairs.  There was frequent abuses of human rights and democratic elections would not occur.

The positive impact of the AU’s role in recent years of assisting in the Somalia mission and combat actions has shown how capable they have become. There was discord between the members during 2011 when the conflict in Libya displayed loyalty to both Gaddafi and the rebels. The death of Gaddafi stripped the AU of a major funding source and the cash-strapped body will discuss obtaining new funding sources at a planned conference following Saturday’s anniversary celebrations.

Commenting on the financing and budget of the AU, Erastus Mwencha said that foreign donors financed most of its working budget. China, the United States and the European Union commit almost sixty percent while African countries fund the balancing forty percent. He mentioned some of the donors requested favors or issued certain conditions in return for their investment and it was difficult to discern who was honorable and who was not. China financed $200 million for the new head office building of the AU, and the growing influence by China on the African continent raises concerns around the world.

Peaceful transfers of power across Africa are a priority for the AU, which often sees the suspension of members and approval of others. The African continent, often troubled by violence, conflicts, and failure to mobilize resources to enforce its decisions is a constant concern. Inequality of the economic and political conditions of many parts of Africa remain a continuous dilemma for the AU. Economic and agricultural development is prioritized and the quest for complete independence continues. The AU is considering ‘Agenda 2063’ a blueprint they say will bring political transformation to the continent.

The dream of a united Africa is far from reality.

Written by Laura Oneale