Pan-African Parliament to hold Retreat with the PRC - AFRICAN PARLIAMENTARY NEWS



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Sunday, December 18, 2022

Pan-African Parliament to hold Retreat with the PRC

By Olu. Ibekwe

The Pan-African Parliament (PAP) and the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC) of the African Union (AU) are scheduled to hold a two-day retreat from 19 – 20 December 2022 at the seat of the Parliament in Midrand, South Africa. The PRC is made up of permanent representatives of member states to the AU in Addis Ababa while PAP is made up of elected representatives of the people of Africa.

It would be recalled that the Executive Council at the 36th Ordinary Session, 6- 7 February 2020, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, EX.CL/Dec. 1081(XXXVI) welcomed proposal for a joint Retreat between the PAP and the PRC to strengthen collaboration between the two Organs and to promote synergies in addressing the challenges affecting the Pan-African Parliament and to agree on a proper modality for the preparations and the expected outcome.

During his tenure as Acting PAP President in 2021, H. E. Hon. Chief Fortune Charumbira initiated moves for PAP to hold Retreat with the PRC to address such issues as the reforms needed at the Parliament, which included MPs’ welfare, organizational structure, and human capital issues. Existing institutional weakness of the Pan-African Parliament and why it is not delivering as expected were also to be placed on the table.

The Retreat was initially scheduled to take place in April 2021 but due to the Bureau election that was to hold in May 2021, it was agreed to defer it till after the Bureau election.

Unfortunately, the May 2021 Bureau election did not taken place and the crisis from the misunderstanding on the application of the principle of rotation in the election of the president of the Parliament led to the suspension of parliamentary activities for almost one year.

The PRC-PAP Retreat remained on the front burner such that following his election as President on June 29, 2022, Hon. Chief Charumbira at the 41st Ordinary Session of the Executive Council, 14-15 July 2022, Lusaka, Zambia, EX.CL/Dec.1174(XLI) renewed the request for the Retreat. As a result, the Executive Council directed the PRC to hold retreat with the PAP to address all the concerns and challenges that affect the delivery and operations of the PAP and reiterated the need to urgently convene the said retreat and report back to the Executive Council in February 2023.

Undeniably, the founders of the African Union had a vision for the establishment of the Pan African Parliament as articulated in Article 17 of the Constitutive Act, as the organ that gives democratic legitimacy to the African Union governance architecture.

The Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the AU in the Durban Declaration in tribute to the Organization Of African Unity (OAU) and on the launching Of The African Union, ASS/AU/Draft/Decl. 2 (I) February 28, 2004 Sirte, Libya, stated:

“We recommit ourselves to ensuring the early establishment of the Pan African Parliament in order to provide the common platform for our peoples and civil society formations to actively participate in discussions and decision-making on the challenges facing our Continent; we undertake to implement appropriate policies for the promotion of the culture of democracy, good governance, the respect for human rights and the rule of law, and the strengthening of democratic institutions which will consolidate the popular participation of our peoples on these issues”.

The Assembly had earlier at its Second Ordinary Session, 10 - 12 July 2003 Maputo, MOZAMBIQUE Assembly/AU/Dec.17 (II), underscored “the urgency of the entry into force of the Protocol to the Treaty establishing the African Economic Community relating to the Pan-African Parliament and the importance of setting up this organ which will ensure the effective and full participation of African peoples in the development and integration of the Continent.”

Additionally, the Assembly Decision on the launching and the establishment of the Pan African Parliament Doc. Assembly/AU/4 (III), pledged its full support for PAP’s efforts in fulfilling their mandate as provided for in the Protocol to the Treaty establishing the African Economic Community relating to the Pan-African Parliament wherein the seat of the Pan-African Parliament was decided to be in South Africa.

Unlike the OAU Charter, the Constitutive Act of the African Union established a codified framework under which the AU is to conduct its business. Specifically, it had provisions that ensured that the Union functioned in accordance with certain principles which included the participation of African peoples and civil society organizations in the activities of the AU and respect for democratic principles, human rights, the rule of law and good governance.

PAP is the third highest organ of the Union as listed in Article 5 of the Constitutive Act. Article 17(2) of the Act states that the composition, powers, functions and organization of the Pan-African Parliament shall be defined in a protocol relating thereto.

Article 11(1) of the PAP Protocol which I might add, was ratified by the member states of the Union, gave the Parliament power to examine, discuss or express an opinion on any matter, either on its own initiative or at the request of the Assembly or other policy organs and make any recommendations it may deem fit relating to, inter alia, matters pertaining to respect of human rights, the consolidation of democratic institutions and the culture of democracy, as well as the promotion of good governance and the rule of law.

PAP also has power to discuss its budget and the budget of the AU and make recommendations thereon prior to its approval by the Assembly as well as work towards the harmonization or co-ordination of the laws of Member States.

It would however appear that the PAP protocol which was duly ratified by the member states of the Union which confers additional legitimacy to PAP, has lately been treated with ignominy. 

A review of the AU budget over the past ten years shows that PAP has not been capacitated to play the role envisioned by the founders of the AU in the establishment of the Parliament. The result is that the people of Africa are being denied of the opportunity to participate in the development and economic integration of the continent. We are talking about the democratic legitimacy of the African Union governance architecture!

It is therefore expected that this retreat will result in the two organs (PAP and PRC) agreeing to work together to achieve the vision of the founders of the African Union in the establishment of the Pan-African Parliament as per Article 17 of the Constitutive Act and the Protocol establishing the Parliament in addition to the mentioned seminal decisions of the Assembly. It is time to match the words and promises with action.

It is also expected that the policy organs of the AU will begin to appreciate the need for some level of operational autonomy in the administration and management of the affairs of the Parliament as envisioned by the founding fathers and articulated in Article 17 of the Constitutive Act and Article 12(5) of the PAP Protocol.

Most importantly, PAP needs to be capacitated in terms of funding, staffing and facilities to play its envisioned role through substantial increase in its budget. PAP’s budget figure in 2007 was about $12 million whereas its budget in 2022 is about $11 million out of which about $8 million is for the payment of staff salary. When adjustments for inflation over the 15 year period is made, then we can see that PAP’s budget in 2007 is much higher that its 2022 budget. One can then begin to imagine the enormity of the budget crisis being faced by PAP.

Of the $11,992,597 2022 PAP budget, about three million dollars is for its programs. There are four statutory sittings in a year each of which costs about $1.3 million which translates to $5.6 million annually. How then can the statutory committees which are the engine rooms of the parliament function without budgetary provisions?

PAP budget rose from $12,626,303 in 2007 to $32,460,996 in 2016 before the steady decline to $11,992,597 in 2022. Total AU budget rose from $132,988,152 in 2007 to $684,423,701 in 2022 while PAP’s budget steadily declined during the same period.

In this regard, it is important to recall, for example the Executive Council decision on the report of the Commission on the domestication of The First Ten-Year Implementation Plan Of Agenda 2063 Doc. EX.CL/963(XXIX) where the Council called upon the Pan African Parliament (PAP) to continue to work with National and Regional Parliaments and ECOSOCC to mobilize its constituency to ensure that Agenda 2063 is integrated as Africa's vision and planning framework through legislative enactment to facilitate institutionalization. Where then is the budget to carry out this assignment?

Article 10 of the PAP’s Protocol states that “the Pan-African Parliamentarians shall be paid an allowance to meet expenses in the discharge of their duties”. The use of the word “shall” in the Protocol denotes a mandatory obligation but in practice, are PAP Parliamentarians paid allowances to meet their expenses? I do not think so.

The retreat should therefore result in an appreciation and understanding of the role of the Pan-African Parliament in the African Union governance matrix and the need to increase PAP’s budget to at least, the 2015/ 2016 funding levels to enable the Parliament to fulfill its mandate. There should also be an understanding that in line with the PAP Protocol, the AU budget and audit reports shall routinely be presented for PAP to express her opinion as required by the PAP Protocol.

We therefore expect that the PAP - PRC Retreat will result in greater cooperation among the two organs as well as an understanding of the vision of the founders of the AU in the establishment of PAP. It is also hoped that the Retreat will address some of the institutional challenges confronting the Pan African Parliament and more particularly the recognition of the need to enhance the “substantiality of its existing funding architecture”.

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