On this day 53 years ago, 30 of the 32 independent African states signed the founding charter of the Organization of African Unity in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The day has since been marked for the celebration of African Unity.

It is observed as a public holiday in a few African countries as Ghana, Mali, Namibia, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho etc. Celebrations are however held in other African countries as well as diaspora.

The background to the signing of the founding charter is that between 1958 and 1963, 17 counties in Africa gained independence from European colonizers. And to express their solidarity, they met in Addis Ababa to form OAU. Following the end of white minority rule South Africa joined the organization.

OAU however became African Union because of the economic challenges Africa faced in the 90’s. The head quarter of the organization is still in Addis Ababa though its legislative arm – the Pan African Parliament is in South Africa.

Every year has a theme. In 2012, it was ‘Africa and the diaspora’. In 2015, it was ‘We are Africa’. This year, it is ‘Building a better Africa and better world’.

Author: Ope Adedeji