The Need to Expedite Action on the Ratification of the Pan African Parliament’s Revised Protocol - AFRICAN PARLIAMENTARY NEWS



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Sunday, October 7, 2018

The Need to Expedite Action on the Ratification of the Pan African Parliament’s Revised Protocol

H. E. Hon. Roger Nkodo Dang

On June 27, 2014, in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, the Assembly of Heads of State and Governments of the African Union (AU), reached a landmark decision by adopting the revised Protocol to the Constitutive Act of the African Union (AU) Relating to the Pan African Parliament (PAP). The revised PAP protocol requires ratification by twenty eight (28) member states before it can come into force but so far, only eight countries namely Mali, Togo, Sierra Leone, Gambia, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Cameroon, Madagascar, and Somalia have ratified the Protocol. This is not encouraging in view of the importance of the Protocol.

This is however, not peculiar to the PAP protocol because in his goodwill message to the Sixth Ordinary Session of the Fourth Parliament of PAP in May 2018, the African Union Commission (AUC) Chairperson, His Excellency Moussa Faki Mahatma decried the slow pace of ratification of many very important treaties, many years after approval by the Assembly of Heads of State and Governments. H. E. Mahatma observed that only about 5% of the decisions taken by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government have so far been implemented and stressed the need to mobilize strong political will to move Africa forward.

It is therefore expected that PAP will aggressively embark on advocacy missions to expedite the ratification, domestication and implementation of the Protocol to ensure that it does not fall into the category of the 95% of the decisions of the Assembly that are yet to the ratified. PAP can only play its expected role as the driving force for the political and economic integration of Africa when this Protocol is ratified.

Hon. Bethel Nnaemeka Amadi during whose tenure as President of the Third Parliament of PAP, the revised Protocol was adopted strongly believes that the ratification of the Protocol is very critical to the institutional growth of PAP as a continental parliamentary body and a pre-requisite for the economic integration of the continent. According to the Hon. Amadi, PAP will be empowered to develop the legal framework upon which Africa can begin the process of building strong democratic institutions that would deepen democracy, good governance, transparency and accountability which are the prerequisites for development, peace and stability.

The revised protocol will empower PAP to develop the transnational policy frameworks based on AU Shared Values and on those AU policies and practices whose benefits transcend national boundaries within the continent such as intra-African trade, transnational infrastructure, trans-border movement of people, goods and services. In this way, the PAP can indeed become the voice of the voiceless peoples of Africa on challenges of continental integration.

It would be recalled that the Assembly of Heads of State and Governments of the African Union had in February 2009, adopted a decision [Assembly/AU/Dec.. 223(XII)] requesting the African Union Commission (AUC) to initiate a review of the process of the PAP Protocol in consultation with the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC), taking into account, the views of the PAP. This put the PRC (consisting of member state’s ambassadors to the AU) in the driver’s seat of the review process and so influenced the relationship between the leadership of PAP and the PRC. Hon. Dr. Idris Ndele Moussa (elected in 2009) and his successor Hon. Amadi (elected in 2012) in their determination to get the revised protocol approved, fully engaged the PRC during their tenures and this was a determinant  in managing their relationship with the PRC.

That PAP is now at a difficult cross-road is not an over-statement. It is facing internal challenges that threaten its cohesion as a unified parliamentary body as well as external challenges resulting from its internal political dynamics.

Ratification of the revised Protocol will address some of these institutional challenges and enable PAP to play its expected role as the driving force for the political and economic integration of the African continent.

Election and tenure of the Bureau
The key issue of rotation which created a lot of contentions during the last bureau election has been comprehensively dealt with in the revised protocol because the election of members of the Bureau shall be on a rotational basis among the five regions of the AU. See Article 12(1) of the revised protocol. There is also a new requirement that at least, two of the Bureau members shall be women. The term of office of the Bureau shall be two and half (21/2) years renewable once (for a total of five years). A member of the Bureau may be removed from office on grounds of misconduct by a resolution on a motion supported at the end of debate by two-thirds majority of all the members of the parliament (emphasis added).

Composition and Tenure of PAP parliamentarians
Currently, PAP parliamentarians are elected from members of their national parliaments and their tenure at PAP is tied to that of their national parliaments such that once they lose election at home, they automatically cease to be PAP members as well.  

Under the revised Protocol, PAP parliamentarians will be elected from outside their national parliaments with five-year tenure, eligible for re-election for one further term, for a total of ten (10) years. This means that all members of the parliament will come and leave at the same time (after every five years), resulting in a more stable PAP in contrast to what currently obtains where  for example, about 72 new parliamentarians were sworn-in during the Sixth Ordinary Session of the Fourth Parliament in May 2018 (election year).

Each state delegation to the PAP will have at least two women when ratified instead of the current requirement of one woman. See Article 4. A delegation that does satisfy this requirement shall not be accredited.

The high turn-over of current PAP membership has made progress on certain issues quite slow and affected continuity. A good example is the current leadership challenges arising from rotation of the office of the president of the parliament.  Since 2007, there have been attempts to amend PAP’s Rules of Procedure to insert the rotation clause but have not been concluded due to the high turn-over of parliamentarians and the resultant effect on continuity.

Legislative mandate
Arguably, the most important feature of the revised Protocol is Article 8(1) which states that PAP shall be the legislative organ of the AU with the power to make draft model laws for approval by the Assembly. This is a departure from the current Protocol which gave PAP, advisory and consultative powers.

The legislative power to make model laws does not in any way, detract from the authority or sovereignty of member states because such model laws will still have to be approved by the Assembly of Heads of State and Government and thereafter, ratified and domesticated by each member state before coming into force. Additionally, such model laws can only be made in clearly defined areas such as immigration, policing, manufacture of pharmaceutical products, and other goods to ensure uniform standards across the continent.

PAP will also have the power to receive, consider and submit opinions on draft legal instruments as may be referred to it (Article 8(2)(h)) as well as receive and consider reports of the other organs of the AU including the now powerful PRC! The only organs explicitly exempted from submitting reports to PAP are the Assembly, the Executive Council and the Court of Justice.

The revised protocol contains a provision that requires the chairperson of the Assembly to deliver a speech on the state of the African Union at each inaugural session of a new term of the parliament. The Chairperson of the Commission is also required, at least once during the term of each parliament, to present the Activity Report of the Commission to the Parliament. See Article 20(1) and (2).

In effect, the revised Protocol has liberated PAP from the apron strings of the PRC as it will be empowered to receive reports from the other A. U. organs, deliberate and submit their recommendations directly to the Assembly or Executive Council. This is a departure from the current practice where the PRC, under the guise of preparing the work of the Executive Council, engages in oversight over PAP.

For example, a report tabled at the last AU summit by the PRC alleged that the election of PAP President on May 10, 2018 “generated a lot of dissent and division within the PAP”. According to the report if allegations in the media of bad management of staff and funds were true, “they will raise doubts in the minds of African citizens on the credibility of the AU, which moreover is financed through the taxes paid by the latter”. Based on the recommendation of the PRC, PAP’s 2019 budget was suspended pending the conduct of an audit exercise, an action which clearly undermines the independence of the parliament.

The allegation by the PRC is incorrect because from the election record available, two hundred and twenty four (224) parliamentarians voted during the May 10, 2018 election to elect a new PAP President, and the eventual winner, H. E. Hon. Roger Nkodo Dang secured one hundred and thirty-three (133) votes. The wish of the majority prevailed and the issue was settled at the plenary of the Parliament. For the losers to have rushed to their respective PRC members to question the wisdom of the parliamentarians in the manner they voted or even attempt to reverse the outcome of the election other than on the floor of the parliament, ought to be condemned as undemocratic.

In that same report, the PRC accused PAP of not undertaking any activities on fighting corruption, the AU theme of the year or any other campaigns advocating against the scourge. Again, this allegation is incorrect as it is on record that the PAP Committee on Justice and Human Rights participated in a workshop on combating corruption in March, 2018 and presented a report on same at the just concluded Sixth Ordinary Session of the parliament in May 2018 which resulted in passing resolution PAP.4/PLN/RES/04MAY18 titled Wining the Fight Against Corruption: A sustainable Path to Africa’s Transformation.

One wonders why the PRC would make such unfounded and unverified allegations in a report submitted to the Assembly on the basis of which the Assembly acted if not that the PRC intended to undermine the credibility of PAP and portray the institution in bad light thereby putting the ratification of the revised Protocol in jeopardy.

Attendance at sittings
A parliamentarian’s seat can be declared vacant if the member is absent from PAP meetings for such period and in such circumstances as are prescribed by the Rules of Procedure.  See Article 6(3)(f) This is a departure from what currently obtains.

It is a notorious fact that some parliamentarians do not attend meetings of the PAP even when they are in South Africa, without sanctions.  There have been instances of parliamentarians come to the seat of the parliament during sessions just to renew their diplomatic passports without showing up at plenary even for a day. This section will help to instill discipline in attendance to sittings as well as weed out those who are not committed to the activities of the Parliament.

PAP’s Advocacy Missions
It is noteworthy that PAP leadership during the tenures of H. E. Hon. Dr. Idris Ndele Moussa and H. E. Hon. Bethel Amadi had been deeply involved in various campaigns to ensure the ratification of some key A. U. legal instruments such as the Charter on Elections and Good Governance which was ratified in 2012. The current leadership under H. E. Hon. Roger Nkodo Dang has continued with the advocacy campaigns and visited various member states which was misunderstood and made a campaign issue during the last bureau election.

Of particular note is H. E. Hon. Dang’s advocacy mission to the Republic of Zambia where he met President Edgar Lungu who made commitments for the ratification of the revised protocol. Such advocacy missions ought to be encouraged because of the potential to extract direct commitments from the heads of state and leaders of national parliaments.

When ratified, the revised protocol is expected to transform PAP into an institution that holds African leaders and institutions accountable, strengthens democratic rights and help forge greater integration of African countries and peoples.

Article 5 of the Constitutive Act of the African Union lists the Pan African Parliament as the third organ of the A. U. in order of hierarchy, just below the Assembly of Heads of State and the Executive Council. The ratification of the Malabo Protocol will give meaning and effect to this statute.

Is it possible that there are organs of the Union who may knowingly or unknowingly be encouraging crisis of confidence in PAP’s leadership, as a way of diverting attention from discussions on how to expedite ratification of the Malabo Protocol? Is it not possible that there are organs whose role and influence within the AU may be affected as a result of a ratified revised Protocol and who may covertly be working against its ratification?

PAP’s Bureau and stakeholders must continue to pursue with even renewed vigour, advocacy for the ratification of the revised Protocol so that PAP can begin to play its expected role in such areas as the harmonization of laws, policies and structures that will facilitate the implementation of free trade and free movement of persons in the continent.

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