African Union celebrates 50th anniversary | Africa | DW | 25.05.2013
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African Union celebrates 50th anniversary

At a ceremony in Addis Ababa, leaders from around the world gathered to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the African Union's existence. The ceremony highlights five decades of progress on the continent.

Ethiopia's city played host to scores of African and foreign dignitaries on Saturday, as the continent marked 50 years since the creation of the Organization of African Unity, which eventually became the African Union (AU.)

AU Chairman and Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn opened the ceremony with a speech, saying the event marked the bloc's commitment to creating "a continent free from poverty and conflict and an Africa whose citizens enjoy a middle income status."

The Organization of African Unity was established in 1963 with 30 members. It became the AU in 2002, and now consists of 54 members - every African nation with the exception of Morocco, which opted out to due the Western Sahara conflict. Western Sahara - fighting for independence from Morocco - is a member of the AU, however.

Around 10,000 guests are expected at an event in a massive hall in Addis Ababa later on Saturday, which is to include several large dance troupes.

Among the visiting dignitaries expected to attend the festivities are UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State John Kerry, and French President Francois Hollande.

While the AU is keenly aware of the problems that continue to face nations in Africa – including civil conflicts, extreme poverty, human rights violations, and infrastructure challenges – the 50th anniversary celebrations are designed to showcase the progress that has been achieved and what is in store for the future.

"While our founders met for the formation of the OAU at the dawn of the independence period 50 years ago, it is fitting that we are meeting here today at a time when Africa is rising," Desalegn said.

mz/ccp (AFP, epd)