HISTORY OF THE MISSION
The Organization of African Unity was formed in 1963, 18 years after the United Nations in 1945. Four African states - Egypt, Ethiopia, Liberia and South Africa, were founding members of the UN.
As more African states became independent, they asserted their sovereignty and independence by joining the United Nations. Thus the UN African Group increased exponentially. 29 member states- Libya, Morocco, Sudan, Tunisia, Ghana, Guinea, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Madagascar, Niger, Somalia, Togo, Mali, Senegal, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Mauritania, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Algeria and Uganda joined the UN between its formation and the creation of the OAU.
First Meeting of the Organisation of African Unity in Addis Ababa, 1963
Amb. Thiam left) at an African Group Press Briefing in 1970
As the OAU began seeking to assert its position as a unifying group for African states, it sought collaboration with international organizations and bodies. Thus during the 20th Session of the General Assembly, in 1965, the UN voted to invite the OAU to attend its sessions as an Observer. It is the third oldest Observer Mission to the United Nations.
While the OAU was admitted as an observer, it took a further three years to establish a permanent mission. During this time Kenya, Malawi, Zambia, Gambia, Botswana and Lesotho became UN Member States. Ambassador Mamadou Moctar Thiam of Mali became the first OAU/AU Permanent Observer to the United Nations. He served from 1968 to 1972. Ambassador Thiam’s position coincided with more growth for the OAU and involved helping to support the African Group. This was bolstered by the OAU Council of Ministers meeting in Lagos in 1964, that created an office to serve as secretariat of the African Group. During Ambassador Thiam’s tenure, Mauritius, Eswatini (formerly Swaziland) and Equatorial Guinea became member states. Angie Brooks of Liberia also became the first ‘African Group’ President of the General Assembly, following Mongi Slim of Tunisia and Alex Quaison-Sackey of Ghana.
Amb. Ouattara addressing a General Assembly committee
Ambassador Thiam was succeeded by Ambassador Mamadou Diarra also of Mali, who served from 1972 to 1973. While the Ambassador served only a year, Guinea-Bissau joined the UN during his term. He also supported work on the election of future Algerian President Abdelaziz Boutefika as President of the General Assembly.
Ambassador Dramane Ouattara of Burkina Faso succeeded Diarra, and served from 1974 to 1978. During his term, the UN welcomed more African member states: Cabo Verde, Mozambique, Sao Tome and Principe, Comoros, Seychelles, Angola and Djibouti.
Amb. Diarra addressing the Security Council in 1973
Ambassador Oumarou Garba Youssoufou of Niger succeeded Ouattara, serving from 1979 to 1989- the longest term to date. During his term, Zimbabwe joined the group, taking it to 51 members. His longevity also helped some of the Missions, with quite a number of the Permanent Representatives changing hands during this term.
He was succeeded by Ambassador Ibrahima Sy of Senegal, who was in New York from 1990 to 1997. Namibia and Eritrea joined the UN during his term. He was also in New York for the successful campaigns and elections of UN Secretaries-General Boutrous Boutrous-Ghali of Egypt and Kofi Annan from Ghana, the two leaders of the UN from Africa.
Amb. Sy presenting his credentials to Secretary-General de Cuellar
Amb. Youssoufou (3rd from right) at an Office of Emergency Operations in Africa meeting
The sixth Head of the Mission was Senegal’s Amadou Kebe, who was on seat from 1997 to 2004. Showing the increased number of sovereign states, he would be the first Ambassador without a new African addition to the UN during his term. Ambassador Kebe’s work was pivotal to increased collaborations with the newly-formed African Union, officially the first AU Ambassador to the UN. During his term, the Mission moved from 346 East 50th Street to its new office on 305th East 47th Street.
Amb. Kebe presenting his credentials to Secretary-General Annan
Amb. Ratsifandrihamanana presenting her credentials to Secretary-General Annan
Ambassador Lila Ratsifandrihamanana of Madagascar became the first female to hold the position. She was in office from 2006 to 2009, when she was succeeded by Ambassador Tete Antonio of Angola. He served from 2009 to 2017. During his term, Africa's youngest state South Sudan became the latest addition to the United Nations in 2011.
In March 2018, Ambassador Fatima Kyari Mohammed of Nigeria succeeded Ambassador Antonio to become the ninth Head of the Mission and second female to hold this position.
Amb. Antonio presenting his credentials to Secretary-General Ban
Amb. Mohammed presenting her credentials to Secretary-General Guterres