PAP Crisis: African Parliamentarians denounce code of conduct for by-election issued by the Bureau - AFRICAN PARLIAMENTARY NEWS



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Sunday, January 14, 2024

PAP Crisis: African Parliamentarians denounce code of conduct for by-election issued by the Bureau

Members of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) have denounced a purported resolution issued on 11 January 2024 by the Bureau of the Parliament for the conduct of by-election to fill supposed vacancies in the Bureau. This comes as the Third Vice President of the Parliament, Hon. Lucia Dos Passos was alleged to have denied participating in any Bureau meeting where such a resolution was adopted.

It would be recalled that a virtual consultative meeting organized on Wednesday January 11 to discuss the modalities recorded low attendance as evidenced by a screenshot of the list of the participants at the event even as the purported code of conduct was not shared to the parliamentarians to enable informed discussions.

Reacting to the purported development, the Chairperson of the Western Regional Caucus at the Pan-African Parliament, Hon. Alhagie Mbow stated that he did not participate in that consultative meeting “simply because I felt it was wrong to be engaged in an illegal activity. I am guided by ethics and conscience in my actions and I didn’t feel that it was the right thing to take part in such an activity. Parliaments, world over are guided by Rules of Procedure and members must respect that. However, in situations where the rules are not clear, plenary will take a decision on those matters”.

“The purported resolution was full of grammatical defects and the construct of some of the sentences are so poor that I can’t imagine it coming from an organ of the African Union. Our Rules of Procedure are clear and no one will cut corners for their selfish interests. We have the Committee on Rules which has a very clear mandate on elections of the Bureau (if there are vacancies in the first place) and this is contained both in old and new rules. It will be a futile exercise for anyone or group to try to usurp the powers of the Rules Committee” said Hon. Mbow.

Some serving members of the Parliament who spoke with our correspondent, stated that they were not sent links to enable them participate in the virtual consultative meeting. Hon. Sulayman Saho (Gambia) stated that he was not aware of the consultative meeting and did not participate. Another parliamentarian from Gambia, Hon. Suwaibu Touray stated that he “did not participate in the Virtual Consultative Meeting held on Wednesday 10th of January because no link was sent to me even though I was informed that I would receive a Link. He stated that “I did not at all agree with the Communique from the Bureau. The whole process of election is at variance with Rules 15 and 16 of the Rules on Nomination and election of members of the Bureau. He also noted that “there is no such thing as virtual nomination and election in the Rules of Procedure. If we really want to hold free, fair, and credible elections, elections should not be held virtually so that Regional Caucuses shall select their candidates for all the bureau positions”. Hon. Touray maintained that the purported Bureau Resolution is inconsistent with Rule 84 which states that “Caucuses shall select names from amongst its members for nomination for election of President or Vice Presidents”. “The Resolution did not mention that but calls for a Virtual nomination from individual members. The last paragraph mentioned the desire to hold transparent electoral process but I wonder how we can attain that through virtual process. Transparency connotes that the whole process is conducted in the open and without any doubts but virtual process will certainly not be transparent. Secondly, the new members should equally be sworn in and participate in the election process, but virtual process will exclude them from the whole process. When will they be sworn in?”

Another parliamentarian from Cote D’Ivoire, Hon Yao Lazar also stated that he did not receive the link to participate in the virtual consultative meeting but cautioned that parliamentarians should learn to play by the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament.

On his part, the Chairperson of the Committee on Rules, Privileges, Ethics and Discipline, Hon. Thembekile Majola (South Africa) informed our correspondent that as Chairperson of the Rules Committee, it would be inappropriate for him to participate in what he described as an illegal meeting. Under Rule 26(10) of the PAP Rules of Procedure, the Rules Committee is supposed to assist the Bureau in interpretation and application of these Rules of Procedure; consider proposals for the amendment of the Rules of Procedure; and administer the Code of Conduct under the supervision of the Bureau. Rule 92 also gave the Rules Committee the power over the application or interpretation of the Rules and any proposed amendments to the Rules must be referred to the Rules Committee for a report to the plenary. Hon. Majola noted that these provisions are now being observed more in breach.

Speaking to our correspondent, the Chief Whip of the Parliament of Zimbabwe and a former Rapporteur of the Rules Committee, Hon. Pupurai Togarep regretted the recent turn of events at PAP. “We see abuse of the PAP as an organ AU by Hon Gayo and I am shocked why AU is allowing an individual to destroy such an important organ? Is AU imposing sanctions on Zimbabwe through Hon Gayo? Why are they denying countries that have gone through elections to participate in PAP business? Why is the AUC quiet while the Union is being cannibalised by a power hungry individual?

Hon. Togarep recalled that when Gayo was designated to PAP after the 2021 Ethiopia’s election, then leadership of Hon Chief Fortune Charumbira ensured that all members were sworn in before election which made it possible for Hon Gayo to be elected as Second Vice President, displacing Hon. Albino who had already been nominated by the Eastern Caucus as their candidate. Today, Dr. Gayo wants to ensure that he conducts election before the Zimbabwe and other delegations are sworn in. “Why are we allowing him to abuse the rules, acting without a quorum? May be Member States through the PRC, should seriously deal with the intransigent behaviour and impunity being exhibited in PAP with the unfortunate complicity of AUC officials. Otherwise the current leadership of Union is likely to live with a very unfortunate legacy of weakening the founding principles that established the Union”.

On the issue of quorum for members of the Bureau to meet, Hon. Togarep who was the Rapporteur of the Rules Committee in 2021, stated that “When a no quorum situation arose during the last time and Chief Charumbira was left alone in Bureau, he requested the Rules Committee to find a way to aid PAP to function. The Rules Committee, acting under the doctrine of necessity, approved a provision to bring in Regional Caucus Chairpersons to stand in as interim Bureau members until a new Bureau was elected. Hon Gayo could have used the same precedence which was both representative and inclusive but he has refused to recognize or work with any other organ of the Parliament” he said.

A parliamentarian from the Eastern Region observed that Dr. Gayo is operating with the mindset of a military junta that overthrew a democratically elected government and suspended the constitution. “He doesn’t follow any rule and has arrogated to himself the power of a sole administrator. I still don’t understand how the AU governance architecture couldn’t put a stop to his wholesome illegalities back in October but was quick to suspend our rules. This is the height of executive rascality!”

“Under Rule 17, the Bureau does not have the power to pass a resolution without recourse to the plenary. The Bureau may however, recommend to the plenary, the adoption of a resolution. For example, Rule 84 gives the Regional Caucuses, the power to nominate candidates for election as president or vice president. Dr. Gayo cannot amend this requirement through a self serving resolution without going through the Rules Amendment process stipulated in Rule 93(1). So the Bureau cannot take decisions that are inconsistent with specific provisions of Rules of Procedure with respect to the process of nominating candidates by the Regional Caucuses. Dr. Gayo lacks the power and cannot hijack the nomination process” said the parliamentarian.

On the purported Bureau resolution, the parliamentarian said “This has got to be a joke! Is this what PAP.- a continental body has been reduced to? What manner of disjointed, uncoordinated, cut and paste rubbish is this? A resolution is a legal document that’s supposed to flow from a set of principles and pronouncement over a policy initiative or particular position on institutional issue. I’m sure the European Union and other notable international bodies are cracking up at the tarnished image of the 3rd organ of the AU. It’s amazing and a sign of significant institutional loophole that this action by Dr. Gayo could go unabated for this length of time. PRC better wake up.”

A former Second Vice President of PAP who spoke to our correspondent, said “I have never seen such a badly drafted document as this one. Anyway, the proposed modalities violate Rules 14, 15 and 16 of the Rules of Procedure of the PAP. These substantive Rules exhaustively deal with the composition and election modalities for the Bureau. I presume these are the Rules which should guide the election process. Alternatively, it may be prudent to revert to the modalities that were applied by the AU Counsel when he conducted the elections for the President. This document illustrates beyond doubt that the situation at the PAP has become untenable and constitutes a clear and present danger to the collective image of the African Union.”

The Chairperson of the PAP Northern Caucus Hon. Abdelmajid Azzedine condemned the treatment meted to the First Vice President, Hon. Prof. Massouda Mohamed Laghdaf (Mrs.) from Mauritania who was successful in her national parliamentary election and was re-designated to PAP. She along with the other members of the Mauritania delegation were cleared by the Rules Committee and duly sworn in during the Second Ordinary Session of the Parliament. Without any objections, Prof.Laghdaf resumed her seat but in a strange twist and apparent move to pave way for their favoured candidate to emerge Acting President, her swearing in was in an unprecedented manner, set aside with the endorsement of AUC officials. How can the seat of a member of parliament who was cleared for swearing in by the appropriate committee in accordance with the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament, be set aside due to political expediency? Did the PAP Protocol grant the AUC Chairperson such powers? How can the amended Rules of Procedure that is duly adopted by the PAP Plenary be treated with such ignominy? These are some of the issues which we hope that the policy organs of the AU will address at the February 2024 AU Summit.

On the way forward, Hon. Alhagie Mbow said “The way forward is simple, the decision of the Chairperson of the AUC to suspend the amendments to the Rules of Procedure of the Parliament adopted pursuant to the powers granted the Parliament by Articles 11(8) and 12(1) of the PAP Protocol should be set aside. Our amended Rules must be allowed so as to restore sanity to the institution. The current crisis at the Parliament started when our Rules of Procedure was suspended by the AUC Chairperson.”

If there are any inconsistencies of the Rules of Procedure and the PAP Protocol, that inconsistency, must not affect the entire Rule. In a normal democracy and adjudication, that section may be null and void to the extent of the inconsistency only.
A session should be held as soon as possible so that the PAP will sort itself. I strongly believe that when we all sit in a room as responsible members of parliament, common sense will prevail. The fact that the so-call acting president is doing all he can to cause chaos by organizing VIRTUAL MEETINGS, which the old rules of procedure does not support, clearly shows that he has an agenda that is not in line with our processes and procedures and will be stopped in his tracks to ensure peace and dignity prevails in the PAP. Rules must be respected!” said Hon. Mbow.

Pundits have noted that according to the general Provision of the Statute of the African Union Commission (AUC), “The Commission shall be the Secretariat of the Union and shall act as such in conformity with Articles 5 and 20 of the Constitutive Act of the African Union”. In this regard, Article 5 of the Constitutive Act lists the organs of the Union and did not list PAP as a department or agency under the control and supervision of the AUC Chairperson. Article 20 established the Commission and states that the structure, functions and regulations of the Commission shall be determined by the Assembly.

Article 3 of the Statute of the Commission states that “The Commission shall carry out the functions assigned to it under the Constitutive Act, those specified in Protocols thereto, decisions of the Union as well as those established in this Statute”. Therefore, the Chairperson of the Commission lacks the authority to expand the powers of the Commission to include exercising the judicial powers of the Union.

As provided in Article 8.1(w) of the Statute of the Commission, the Chairperson of the Commission should have reported any alleged incompatibility of the amendments to PAP Rules of Procedure adopted on 4 November 2022 with the PAP Protocol to the Executive Council, through the Permanent Representatives Committee (PRC), for necessary action in line with the provisions of Articles 26 of the Constitutive Act and Article 20 of the PAP Protocol. The Chairperson of the Commission is responsible for initiating or implementing the policies of the Union but the AUC is not a policy organ of the Union neither is the Chairperson vested with the judicial powers of the Union to make pronouncements on the interpretation of the Union’s legal instruments.

These legal instruments were ratified by the Member States of the Union and the PRC, being the representatives of the Member States of the Union, should pursuant to Article 8.1(w) of the Statute of the Commission, have been consulted by the AUC Chairperson before issuance of the letter suspending the Rules of Procedure of another independent organ of the Union especially in view of the provisions of Article 17(2) of the Constitutive Act which states that the composition, powers, functions and organization of the Pan-African Parliament shall be defined in a protocol relating thereto. Articles 11(8) and 12(1) of the PAP Protocol which was ratified by the Member States of the Union, gave the Pan-African Parliament the exclusive right to adopt or amend her Rules of Procedure subject to Article 20 which gave the Assembly, the power of interpretation by a two-thirds vote. The founders of the Union established these procedural safeguards to prevent the type abuses, crisis and disruptions that have been visited on PAP since August 2023.

Another disturbing aspect of the crisis is that many countries have been excluded from participating in the activities of the Parliament. About six countries in West Africa that have gone through elections in the last year have been denied the opportunity of participating in the activities of the Parliament because Dr. Gayo appear to want to secure his position first before allowing new members to be sworn in. Nigeria, for example, conducted parliamentary election in February 2023 and almost one year later, her delegation is yet to be allowed to participate at PAP. Country delegations from Liberia, Senegal and Sierra Leone and other countries are yet to be sworn in and the AUC is not seeing this as a violation of Article 4 of the PAP Protocol which mandates that Member States shall be represented by five (5) parliamentarians.  

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