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Explained: The African Union

By: John Werner

· Global Affairs

The African Union is an international organization consisting of all 55 nations of Africa. The Union is the replacement for the Organization of African Unity, which served many of the same functions as the African Union does today from 1963 to 2002. The Union contains about 20% of the world’s land area and about 17% of the world population. The African Union The African Union has several bodies inside of the organization, a number of which are primarily modeled off of other international organizations, such as the European Union and the United Nations.

The primary decision-making body of the African Union is the Assembly of the African Union, made up of the heads of state of the member states of the Union. Currently, it is chaired by Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The Assembly holds the vast majority of the powers of the Union, although in recent years it has been devolving some powers to the Pan African Parliament (PAP), the legislature of the African Union. Similar in function to the European Parliament in the European Union, the PAP is made up of 235 members from all 55 member states. In 47 of the member states, these nations, the representatives in the PAP are elected by national legislatures. The former South African President, Jacob Zuma, called for the members of the PAP to be elected by universal suffrage in all member states, though such reforms have yet to occur. 

The African Union also has a judicial organ, the African Court of Justice and Human Rights. The courts review cases of war crimes, genocide, human trafficking, piracy, and terrorism. Furthermore, the African Union possesses a body called the Peace and Security Council, which is charged with the duty of enforcing decisions made by the African Union. This Council has engaged in several “Peace Support Operations”, and can authorize troops to troubled regions of member states, though these are not always welcomed by governments. In 2015, 5000 troops were authorized to be deployed to Burundi. The government refused the troops, and they never completed their mission.

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