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The African Union At 50

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma and Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe at the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. May 26, 2013.

International leaders gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, recently to mark the 50th anniversary of the African Union.

International leaders gathered in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, recently to mark the 50th anniversary of the African Union and to discuss the Pan-African organization’s plans and aspirations for the next 50 years. The United States joins with other nations to applaud the A.U.’s remarkable accomplishments and to continue partnering with it to further the cause of peace, trade, democracy, good governance and human rights.

The African Union At 50
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Founded in 1963 as the Organization of African Unity, the group has grown from a handful of newly liberated countries focused largely on ending colonialism to 54 nations organized to cooperate on a range of security and development issues. Making use of the resources available to it, the A.U. is a force for stability on a continent still roiled by conflicts and coups.

Member nations have contributed troops to A.U. missions in Burundi, Darfur and Somalia, and it pressures coup leaders with sanctions and other measures to uphold the principle of peaceful and legitimate transfer of power. Re-constituted as the African Union in 2002, the organization’s mandate continues to be peace and prosperity.

In his first trip to Africa since taking office in February, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told those attending the Summit that progress seen in the first 50 years bodes well for the possibilities of the next 50. War and strife in Africa are now less common than freedom and development. Recent elections in Liberia, Ghana, Zambia, Nigeria and other nations show the marks of democracy and change.

Health programs have greatly broadened access to drugs that combat AIDS and HIV. With abundant resources and a young and increasingly educated workforce, Africa is home to six of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

Challenges remain, however. Many in Africa still suffer from poverty as well as conflict in their country or region. Often, these difficult realities are exploited by groups promoting violent extremism for sectarian causes. The United States is prepared for these and will stand with the A.U. and all Africans as they continue to move forward.