The Organisation of African Unity (OAU)

The OAU was established between 22 and 25 May 1963 when delegates from 32 African countries convened in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa. The intention of the Union was to form a continental base for pan-Africanism based on a consensus of structural, military and political institutions. The many different competing ideological positions led to the OAU agreeing that the organisation would proceed incrementally with unification until the eventual goal of a Union of African States was realised.

Discussion leading ultimately to the formulation of the Charter began as early as 1961, when the International Commission of Jurists convened the African Conference on the Rule of Law in Lagos, Nigeria. The Conference consisted of 194 judges, practising lawyers and teachers of law from 23 African nations as well as 9 countries of other continents. The resulting resolution of the Conference, the ‘Law of Lagos’, makes clear the responsibility of the world legal order to devise a regime for the protection of individuals. Of equal concern to many Africans was the view that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights did not necessarily reflect African values or problems embodied in peculiarly African solutions. 


Audio Visual

President Mandela gives his State of the Nation address in Parliament. Mandela ends his address with the words, “Let us all get down to work”.

“We must construct that people-centred society of freedom in such a manner that it guarantees the political and the human rights of all our citizens.”– President Mandela, extract from State of the Nation Address, 24 May 1994

President Nelson Mandela announces his cabinet. It includes members of the African National Congress, National Party and Inkatha Freedom Party.

“There was pride in serving in the first democratic government in South Africa, and then the additional pride of serving under the iconic leadership of Nelson Mandela … [He] represented the hopes of not just our country, but of oppressed, marginalised and the poor in the world.”– Jay Naidoo, then Minister of RDP housing
“We place our vision of a new constitutional order for South Africa on the table not as conquerors, prescribing to the conquered. We speak as fellow citizens to heal the wounds of the past with the intent of constructing a new order based on justice for all.”– President Nelson Mandela, 10 May 1994