n Conflict Trends - Reflections on leadership : from the OAU to the AU

Volume 2007, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1561-9818


Leadership is a privilege and an opportunity to serve others. Yet a significant number of African leaders view it as an instrument to assert their dominion and oppression of others. The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was established in 1963, with the purpose of providing collective leadership to address the pressing issues of the day - in particular colonialism, underdevelopment and external economic exploitation. The OAU succeeded in delivering political independence, but was unable to secure the economic liberation of the African continent. The OAU's limitations were further exposed by its inability to provide effective leadership on the promotion of democratic governance, the rule of law and ensuring economic development. The African Union (AU) was inaugurated in July 2002, with the express purpose of addressing the limitations inherent in the structure and constitution of the OAU. A survey of the first five years of the AU demonstrates that, while there has been a prolific creation of institutions and mechanisms, the AU has not provided the leadership to significantly change the attitudes that prevailed during the OAU regime. An assessment of the OAU's 'absent leadership' will be contrasted with the AU's attempts to bring about a paradigm shift in the nature of leadership, and its attempts to project peace, security, democratic governance and development on the African continent. This article concludes by examining models of leadership that can inform the evolution of the AU and, ultimately, guide its transformation to the Union Government of Africa.

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