The revival of a pan-African Identity: Explaining the Establishment of the African Union and the Organization's Changed Conception of Sovereignty

Thumbnail Image
Issue Date
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Abstract – In 2002, the African Union (AU), was inaugurated in Durban, South Africa. Founded by the 53 member states of its predecessor, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), the AU aims to further develop African integration, solidarity, and unity. Whilst both the OAU and the AU were founded on the basis of a Pan-African identity, a common identity through which Africans identify with one another, they differ markedly in several respects. Most significantly, the AU departs from the OAU regarding the sovereignty of its member states. The OAU Charter of 1963 was known for its emphasis on decolonization and adhered strictly to sovereignty as non-interference. The AU Constitutive Act, by contrast, provides the organization with a mandate to intervene in its member states, and emphasizes sovereignty as non-indifference. This thesis seeks to explain this sovereignty shift with a social constructivist theoretical framework embedded in critical realism. Although social constructivism helps to explain how the behavior of African heads of state was informed by their common Pan-African identity, ultimately leading to consensus concerning the establishment of the AU, it cannot explain why Pan-Africanism came to the fore, and why new ideas about sovereignty could be constructed. Critical realism’s stratified ontology helps to answer these why-questions by demonstrating that underlying structural changes enabled agency on the part of African civil and political leaders, culminating in a redefinition of sovereignty and a revived Pan-African identity. Keywords African Union; Critical Realism; Pan-Africanism; Social Constructivism; Sovereignty
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen