Tunisia President’s indefinite suspension of Parliament and the worrisome silence of the AU - AFRICAN PARLIAMENTARY NEWS



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Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Tunisia President’s indefinite suspension of Parliament and the worrisome silence of the AU

By Olu Ibekwe

It is no longer news that Tunisia has been thrown into political crisis following President Kais Saied’s unilateral decision to sack the country’s Prime Minister, suspend the parliament, strip the parliamentarians of their immunity and assume all executive powers.

What is news is that the African Union (AU) has not reacted or issued any statement condemning or expressing concerns over the dictatorial actions of President Saied.

On July 25 when Saied initially announced the suspension of the parliament, he stated that it would last for one month. But does he have the power to suspend the parliament in the first place?

To worsen the situation, on Monday August 23, he announced an indefinite extension of the suspension of parliament. Saied also announced the extension of the suspension of the immunity of members of parliament.

So far, at least 14 members of the parliament have been reportedly arrested and face legal proceedings.

Judges, politicians and business men have also either been arrested or banned from travel. This implies that the judiciary is under threat and dispensation of justice without fear or favour can no longer be guaranteed.

Media outlets have not been spared as some television stations have been reportedly shut by police and the keys to some of their premises confiscated.

These turn of events are very worrisome because Tunisia had been hailed as a democratic success story in the Middle East and North Africa.

The Pan African Parliament (PAP) which could have acted as an external support mechanism for the Tunisia’s Parliament in the face of curious silence by the AU is having its own challenges. For the first time since its inception in March 2004, PAP does not have an elected Bureau and the AU is yet to come up a plan to resolve the crises that resulted in the indefinite suspension its activities.

One is then tempted to ask if the AU is gradually slipping into the days of Organization of African Unity (OAU) where the OAU Charter stood for the protection of the heads of state and government and the organization served as a trade union which protected them even if they engage in undemocratic/ dictatorial practices.

In order words, is the AU becoming an institution of the African Heads of State, by the Heads of State and for the Heads of State?

Instructively, the transformation of the OAU to the AU marked the beginning of a new continental legal order because unlike the OAU, the AU was formed by a Constitutive Act which established a codified framework under which the AU and member states are to conduct their businesses. It was supposed to reflect a new thinking in African politics in the 21st century.

The Constitutive Act of the African Union was therefore negotiated in a way that ensured that the Union and State Parties functioned in accordance with certain principles which included respect for democratic principles, human rights, the rule of law and good governance.

As a State Party to the Constitutive Act of the AU, Tunisia is bound by the provisions of Article 4(m) which requires the country to show respect for democratic principles, human rights, the rule of law and good governance.

By unilaterally suspending parliament indefinitely, sacking the prime minister, arresting judges and assuming all executive powers, President Saied has violated the letters and spirit of Articles 3(g), 4(m), and 4(p) and should be called to order.

If anyone is suspected of being involved in criminal activities including corruption, the law should be allowed to take its course.

It will therefore, not be out of place for the African Union to insist on timelines within which President Saied should be required to recall the parliament, show respect for the established democratic institutions and the rule of law or risk isolation and suspension from the Union.


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