African Nation Building

May 9, 1973

Report Outline
Continuing Struggle for Unity
New Emphasis on the African Past
Africa in International Politics
Special Focus

Continuing Struggle for Unity

Unfulfilled Promise After Decade of Unity Efforts

Ten years ago this month, representatives of 30 African states, meeting at Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, created the Organization of African Unity. For most of the countries, newly freed from a century or more of European colonialism, the venture promised a new day of freedom, self-determination and Pan-African cooperation. The OAU, in the words of Emperor Haile Selassie at the founding conference, would be “…a single African organization through which Africa's single voice may be heard, within which Africa's problems may be studied and resolved….”

In the succeeding decade, the OAU has survived mounting national and international stress, and has provided a rudimentary framework for discussion of African problems on a continent-wide level. But the promise of political, economic and social cooperation remains largely unfulfilled. The organization has mediated some disputes between member states, but it has been powerless to halt major fratricidal conflicts. The goal of economic development remains, for most Africans, an unrealizable dream. The African states, constructed by European colonizers across the natural boundaries of tribes, races, languages and religions, still face a monumental task of nation building as the OAU enters its second decade.

Ten African states—11 if Rhodesia is counted—have become independent since May 1963, enlarging OAU membership to 41 and extending it to all of Africa except South Africa, Rhodesia and the remaining colonial territories. The membership thus constitutes the largest voting bloc in the United Nations, although the group is far from united on all issues. The first 10 years have been marked by bloody tribal wars that took millions of lives in the former Belgian Congo (now Zaire) and Nigeria. Moreover, a significant number of Africans are still struggling for freedom from the political control of Europeans and native. Guerrilla warfare plagues the Portuguese colonies of Angola, Guinea-Bissau and Mczambique, as well as white-ruled Rhodesia and South West Africa (or Namibia).

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