Policy & History

In 2006, the United States became the first non-African country to establish a diplomatic mission to the AU.  Before 2006, the U.S. Ambassador to Ethiopia had responsibility for the AU.  The United States has moved ahead in working with the African Union. In 2010, the United States and the African Union held their first high-level bilateral meeting in Washington. Its goal was to broaden the U.S.-AU relationship and deepen the level of engagement between both parties. The United States praised the AU for its peacekeeping efforts, especially in Darfur and Somalia; the United States also stated that it would rely on the AU to support global health and hunger initiatives. Between 2007 and 2010, the United States gave $258 million to support AU peacekeeping in Somalia, making the United States the largest single contributor to the mission. In 2011, the bilateral meetings identified youth engagement as a priority. In 2012, the two parties have put strong political pressure on Sudan and South Sudan to come to a solution over their shared border and interconnected economies. In 2016, the U.S. Mission to the African Union held its annual High Level Dialogue at the AU Headquarters, which included a tour of the recently launched Africa CDC, which the United States helped to establish.

In the twenty-first century, the United States has increased its engagement with regional groups in Africa, accrediting Ambassadors to the Economic Community of West African States, Southern African Development Community, and others. The Mission to the African Union is not only part of that larger trend, but also represents significant engagement with the continent as a whole because it exists as a separate, dedicated Mission.

Every year, more than a dozen African States will go to the polls to elect presidents and national assemblies.  Each of these elections will be scrutinized by a myriad of election observers from within and outside Africa – including the AU –  to determine whether they were conducted in a credible manner.

The AU would like to send pre-election assessments and possibly full election monitoring delegations to every election on the continent to establish a consistent and credible African-led institution that validiates good elections and discredits bad ones.

USAU supports the AU’s Democracy and Electoral Assistance Unit (DEAU) through financial and technical assistance for elections missions. Moreover, USAU envisions an AU Political Affairs Directorate (PAD) that will promote not only democartic development, but also rule of law, respect for human rights, a stronger civil society, and durable solutions for humanitarian crises.

Political conflicts on the African continent– in Somalia, Sudan, Mauritania, Madagascar, and Guinea — have monopolized the AU’s attention, and consequently, the attention of the AU’s international partners, whose good offices are often sought to help find solutions to these crises.

USAU works with the AU Peace and Security Commission and the African Permanent Representatives who serve on the Peace and Security Council to support:

  1. Confilict mitigation through mediation and peacekeeping;
  2. a Continental Early Warning System that will detect threats to peace and security on the continent before they erupt;
  3. the African Standby Force (ASF), a network of five regionally-based peacekeeping forces that — once created–will be rapidly deployed to quell conflicts that arise in any African state;
  4. a Coordination and Communications plan for maritime safety and security.

AUC Chairperson Jean Ping issued a statement on behalf of the AU in which he spoke of “the full availability” of the AUC to work in partnership with the new U.S. Administration to strengthen the natural links that already exist between the United States and the African continent. The AU and the United States should build upon “this good work which has had an immeasurable impact on the lives of many of the poorest and most vulenerable people on the African Continent.”  The Commission, in its commitment to peace-building in the world, will continue to be a partner in the search for peace and the development of Africa, Ping added.  USAU seeks to:

  1. Increase cultural understanding and facilitate diplomatic channels between the U.S. government and member states of the AU;
  2. Build AU capacity to support and capability to interact more effectively with international media.

In Focus

For more information about USAU support for AU Communications, see our News and Events section.

The staff of the U.S. Mission to the African Union includes representatives from the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the U.S. Department of Defense.