Today Ghana joins other African states to commemorate African Union (AU) Day Today, with the theme “We are Africa”.

On 15 April 1958, in Accra, African leaders and political activists gathered at the first Conference of Independent African States. In attendance were representatives of the governments of Egypt (then a constituent part of the United Arab Republic), Ethiopia, Ghana, Liberia, Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, and the Union of the Peoples of Cameroon.

This conference was significant in that it represented the first Pan-African conference to be held on African soil.

The Conference called for the founding of African Freedom Day, a day to “mark each year the onward progress of the liberation movement, and to symbolize the determination of the People of Africa to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation.”

Five years later, after the First Conference of Independent African States in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, another historic meeting took place.

On 25 May 1963, leaders of thirty-two independent African states met to form the Organization of African Unity (OAU). By then more than two-thirds of the continent had achieved independence, mostly from imperial European states.

At this meeting, the date of Africa Freedom Day was changed from 15 April to 25 May, and Africa Freedom Day was declared African Liberation Day (ALD).

Seventeen countries gained independence from European colonisers between 1958 and 1963, and to mark their liberation, several states starting celebrating African Liberation Day around that time.

The newly-liberated countries felt the need to express solidarity with one another, and in May 1963, 32 African countries met in Addis Ababa to form the Organisation of Africa Unity (OAU). It was a major political force on the continent until the 1990s.

Since 1963, 21 more states have joined, notably South Africa, who only became part of the organisation in 1994 following the end of white minority rule.

Ironically South Africa is a founding member of the African Union, which evolved out of the OAU.

The OAU became the African Union because of the increasingly economic, rather than political, nature of the challenges faced by the continent in the 1990s

African Union was officially launched in Durban, South Africa, in 2002, and 10 years later former Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma became the first woman to chair the AU Commission (the AU’s administrative arm).

The organisation’s headquarters remains in Addis Ababa, although it’s legislative arm, the Pan African Parliament, is in Midrand, South Africa.

While Africa Day is only a national holiday in a handful of African countries, it is widely commemorated.

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe is the current chairman of the African Union.

Critics say the AU has not done enough to protect the rights and liberties of Africans from their own political dictators.

Several attempts to get the continent properly united and governed as one huge country has proved futile as each leader wants to protect their territory.

Ghana’s first President, Dr.Kwame Nkrumah, on the eve of Ghana’s Independence declared that “the Independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked to the total liberation of the African Continent”.

Despite the fact that the continent is liberated from colonialism, can the continent claim it is totally liberated economically, socially and politically? How come with all the natural resources that the continent is endowed with, it still less behind in terms of development? Could it be bad leadership or misplaced priority? And, is Pan-African spirit that moved freedom fighters like Dr.Kwame Nkrumah to liberate the continent from colonialism still alive?

Credit: GBC