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The African Union

Introduction

The African Union (AU), formed in 2002 from the vestiges of the Organization for African Unity (OAU), aims to protect the security of the continent, rather than the sovereignty of individual states. Though the AU still is struggling to reform its governing bodies, it plays an increasingly high-profile role in peacekeeping. Most recently, the AU has sent peacekeepers to Somalia and Darfur, the latter in an unprecedented joint peacekeeping operation with the United Nations. Experts say the AU has a long way to go before it is fully functional, and express concerns about the burdens and expectations that have been placed on the body thus far.

What is the history of the African Union?

In 2002, the OAU transformed itself into the African Union (AU). The OAU, founded in 1963 on the principles of state sovereignty and noninterference, drew criticism throughout the 1990s for its lack of intervention as crises unfolded in Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Somalia. Frustration at its ineffectiveness led African leaders, spearheaded by Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi, to launch the African Union, a body with a structure modeled on that of the European Union. Fifty-three countries in Africa are members of the AU (Morocco is the only African country that does not belong), which is headquartered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

What are the objectives of the African Union?

The African Union seeks to increase development, combat poverty and corruption, and end Africa's many conflicts. "The AU is the world's only regional or international organization that explicitly recognizes the right to intervene in a member state on humanitarian and human rights grounds," write Roberta Cohen, senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, and lawyer William G. O'Neill in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. The AU drew these guidelines based on...

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