As African Union (AU) is geared up for the 35th Ordinary Summit of Heads of States and Governments (Feb. 5-6, 2022), it is necessary to look back. In this regard, we Africans are indebted to our forefathers who initiated and championed Pan-Africanism as well as the establishment of the OAU, the predecessor of AU in 1963. Therefore, we remember and pay tribute to some of the founding fathers of this giant continental institution and prominent Pan-Africanists.
Emperor Hailesilassie I
Emperor Haile Selassie I was the last of the Kings of Ethiopia. He was an influential figure in the then world. He played a crucial role during the establishment of the OAU. Emperor Haile Selassie, who was called Teferi Mekonnin before his coronation, was born in 1892. He died in 1975, one year after he was disposed from power by the military group called Derg.
Born in Ghana in 1909, Kwame Nkrumah was a legendary Pan-Africanist, who advocated for independent, prosperous and United Africa. He was also the first President of Ghana. Nkrumah played an exemplary role in the period of decolonization. Kwame Nkrumah was one of the initiators and founding fathers of the then OAU. He died in 1972.
Born in 1894, Kenyatta was one of the prominent figures who lead the establishment of OAU. During the establishment of the OAU, Kenyatta was the Prime Minister of the Republic of Kenya. Kenyatta is remembered regardless of generation for leading the independence of Kenya from British rule and for being a dedicated Pan-Africanist. Jomo Kenyatta, the father of current Kenya’s President Uhuru, was the first president of independent Kenya from 1964 to 1978. Kenyatta died in 1978.
Julius Nyerere (Mwalimu)
Julius Kambarage Nyerere, who was also called Mwalimu (Teacher-in Swahili) was born in 1922. Nyerere was the first Prime Minister of Tanganyika in 1961 and first President of Tanzania in 1964-85. He was one of the major forces behind the establishment of OAU. In 1972, he was a key figure in African events. He was a Pan-Africanist, who advocated for economic cooperation and integration of African States. Nyerere died in 1999.
Ahmed Sekou Toure was one of the strong advocates of African unity and Pan-Africanism. Toure was the first President of independent Guinea and one of the founding fathers of the OAU. Born to a farmer family in 1922, he played a key role in leading the struggle against French rule in Guinea. Sekou Toure was a great African intellectual, patriot and freedom fighter whose name resonates in the hearts of millions of Africans beyond a generation. Toure died because of a heart attack in 1984.
Kenneth David Kaunda was born in 1924. He was at the forefront during the struggle against British rule. After independence Kaunda became the first president of Zambia. Following Kaunda’s death in 2021 the statement of the African Union Commission Chairperson reads “The African Union stands in solidarity with the Kaunda family, the people and the Government of the Republic of Zambia as we mourn and honour the life of a freedom fighter, statesman, visionary and liberation struggle icon.”