Activating External Support Mechanisms in the advocacy for the Ratification of Pan African Parliament’s Revised Protocol - AFRICAN PARLIAMENTARY NEWS



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Thursday, December 10, 2020

Activating External Support Mechanisms in the advocacy for the Ratification of Pan African Parliament’s Revised Protocol


The Protocol to the Constitutive Act of the African Union (AU) Relating to the Pan African Parliament (PAP Protocol) was adopted at the 2001 Organization of African Unity (OAU) Summit in Sirte, Libya and came into force in 2004 after the required ratifications.

Pan African Parliament (PAP), under that protocol, was given advisory and consultative powers which affected its ability to effectively function as a continental legislative body.

A Revised PAP Protocol was however adopted by the 23rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the AU held in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea on June 27, 2014 (Malabo Protocol).

Article 8 of the Malabo Protocol designated PAP as the legislative organ of the AU with power to propose draft model laws in designated areas for consideration and approval by the Assembly. This marked a departure from the initial protocol which gave PAP advisory and consultative powers.

An inference can be drawn from the above that when ratified, PAP can only make model laws in designated areas which must be considered and approved by the Assembly. The seeming hesitation by some member states to ratify the protocol on account of fear of loss of sovereignty is in my opinion, misplaced.

The protocol requires ratification by 28 member states to come into force but as at November 2020, only 12 countries have ratified it. They are: Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Ghana, Madagascar, Mali, Sahrawi Arab Republic, Sierra Leone, Somalia and Togo. 18 more ratifications are required for it to come into force.

Recall that the initial PAP Protocol was adopted in 2001 and came into force about three years later in 2004. In contrast, the Malabo Protocol was adopted in June 2014 and six years later, has only been ratified by 12 member states! Worst still is the fact that the majority of AU member states (31 of them) have neither adopted nor ratified the protocol!

There is therefore need to begin to activate external support mechanisms that will assist PAP in the advocacy for the expedited ratification of the Malabo Protocol.

Prime Movers

The transformation of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) into the AU was facilitated by some dominant political-economic powers like Libya, South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya and Egypt. Libya under late Muammar Ghadaffi undertook to offset the debts owed by some African states to the OAU which enhanced the successful transition to the AU. Do we still have such leaders in the continent today?

Regrettably, Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt and Kenya that were in the fore-front of the transformation of the OAU into the AU are yet to ratify the revised protocol.  

To change the situation, PAP needs to identify and recognize some prime movers that will champion and be at the fore-front of the advocacy for the ratification of the protocol.

Former PAP Parliamentarians

On May 29, 2015, PAP adopted a resolution establishing a Pan African Parliamentary Network (PAPN) to be made up of former PAP parliamentarians.

PAPN was intended to sensitize national parliaments and the population on the objectives and actions of the PAP and help in its advocacy in favour of the ratification and domestication of AU legal instruments.

Unfortunately, the PAPN which could have provided external support for PAP on this issue is still not operational, five years after the resolution establishing it.

Under the current PAP Protocol, membership of the PAP is tied to the tenure of members of parliament in their national parliaments. Parliamentarians who loose elections or are appointed into ministerial positions cease to be members of PAP.

The implication is that each time elections are held in member states, a good number of parliamentarians do not make it back to the PAP resulting in high turn-over and loss of institutional memory.

Secondly, it has resulted in a large pool of former PAP parliamentarians that can be galvanized to assist PAP in their respective national parliaments in the advocacy for the ratification of the Malabo Protocol.

A functional PAPN will give these former PAP parliamentarians a platform to continue to contribute to the institutional growth of the Parliament.

Ratification of the Malabo Protocol will address the issue of high turn-over in that membership of the PAP will no longer be tied to the membership of the respective national parliaments. Members of the PAP will be elected from outside the national parliaments, with a fixed five year tenure and be eligible for re-election for one further term only.

This means that when ratified, all members of the PAP will have the same entry and exit dates, except in case of vacancies resulting from unforeseen circumstances as opposed to the current situation where as much as a third of the membership of the PAP are replaced every session.

Interestingly, this pool of experienced former PAP parliamentarians, some of whom served as PAP Bureau members will be eligible for election into the PAP under a ratified Malabo Protocol and therefore should have a stake in ensuring its speedy ratification. But they need to be galvanized.

Regional Economic Communities (RECs)

As stated earlier, only 12 AU member states have ratified the Malabo Protocol as at the end of November 2020 and their regional distribution is shown below:


No of countries that have ratified

Countries in the region

Central Region


Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea

Eastern Region



Northern Region


Sahrawi Arab Republic

Southern Region



Western Region


Benin, Chad, Gambia, Ghana, Mali, Sierra Leone, and Togo


West Africa Region has the highest number of ratifications (7 countries) which is probably because the Western Region (Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS) is far ahead of the other RECs in the integration of their region. For example, the ECOWAS Parliament enjoys legislative powers. The region has a ratified protocol on free movement of persons and free trade area agreement and moving towards a single currency. The fear of loss of sovereignty is arguably no longer an issue.

East Africa is another region where the regional parliament enjoys legislative powers but only Somalia has ratified the protocol. Having granted legislative powers to its regional parliament, it is difficult to understand their hesitation in granting legislative powers to the continental parliament. We can therefore move faster!

In the case of the Southern Region, the issue of land has been noted as a big factor. PAP with the type of legislative powers contained in Article 8 of the Malabo Protocol will not have the power to make model laws on land ownership or distribution without the approval of the Assembly.

Civil Society Organizations

Civil society organizations (csos) such as the Centre for Human Rights (CHR) of the University of Pretoria, Mzalendo Trust and Parliamentary Network Africa (PNAfrica) can provide needed support for PAP’s advocacy towards the ratification of the Malabo Protocol.

AfricanParliamentary News recalls that a civil society forum was organized by PAP in collaboration with the Centre for Human Rights on the sidelines of the Second Ordinary Session of the Fifth Parliament of the Pan African Parliament in May 2019. The forum culminated in the signing of MOU with PAP and the eventual establishment of a PAP Civil Society Forum. The engagement with CHR could be broadened to include advocacy for the ratification of the Malabo Protocol.

As a collateral consideration, it is important to remember that most of the AU legal instruments are inaccessible to the members of the respective national parliaments. Civil society organizations can engage the various ministries of foreign affairs of member states and the Permanent Representatives Committee to facilitate and/ or expedite the submission of these AU legal instruments to the national parliaments.

It is noteworthy that South Africa, the host country of the PAP is yet to ratify the Malabo Protocol when it should have been one of the first countries to ratify it. South Africa signed the protocol in February 2019 after 12 countries had already ratified it.

As the host country, South Africa should be in the fore-front of the advocacy for ratification of the protocol. South Africa’s Parliament and its Committee on Foreign Relations should be engaged by the csos on the need to provide leadership even amongst the other countries in the Southern region.

We must also appreciate the fact that a former President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki played a pivotal role in the formation of the African Union and canvassed for South Africa to host PAP even when Egypt wanted to host the Parliament. History beckons on South Africa to once more, show leadership.

Media Engagement

The recent formation of African Parliamentary Press Network (APPN), made up of journalists and media practitioners from across the continent to monitor and provide enhanced visibility for the PAP and national parliaments is a welcome development.

APPN is expected to give robust media support to the PAP in terms of coverage of its activities as well as positive analysis of its vision, mission, core values and objectives as contained in the protocol.

Most importantly, APPN is expected to assist in the advocacy for the ratification of the Malabo Protocol and ensure that the issue is put on the front burner by the various national parliaments and their respective committees on foreign relations. The PAP Bureau may therefore wish to explore ways of formalizing this engagement with APPN to achieve maximum result.

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Disclaimer: Comment expressed do not reflect the opinion of African Parliamentary News