African Parliament demands for functional powers

Kenya's Speaker Kenneth Marende (centre) welcomes South African President Jacob Zuma to open an ordinary session of the second Pan-African Parliament in Midrand, South Africa. The House paid tribute to Uganda on its 50th indepenendce anniversary October 9, 2012.   FILE " NATION MEDIA GROUP

The Pan African Parliament (PAP) is urging presidents and heads of governments of the African Union to give an approval granting it legislative and oversight functions.

The president of the South African based continental Parliament, Bethel Amadi said as currently constituted, the institution only has advisory and consultative functions but it is neither consulted nor it's advice sought in the decision making process of the African Union.

"The resolutions of the Pan African Parliament when submitted through the African Union Commission are never tabled for discussion by the Asembly of Heads of State and Government," Mr Amadi said on Monday at the opening of the Third Parliament's first ordinary session.

Mr Amadi asked Benin President Dr Thomas Boni Yayi, who is the AU chairman and who was the chief guest at Monday's session, to prevail upon his counterparts in other countries in ensuring that resolutions of the continental parliament get the visibility and political relevance "it deserves."

"This small step for the Pan African Parliament would be a big leap forward for the protection of the interests of millions of voiceless people on our continent who are suffering from poverty, hunger, disease, unemployment and civil wars," said the Speaker of the Parliament established in 2004.

The position of Mr Amadi and his colleagues is that if the heads of states and government's approve amendments to a protocal by the AU commission reviewing the transformation of the parliament it would evolve into an institution with legislative powers.

Democratic institutions

The amendments were done following recommendations by heads of State in 2009 asking the commission to initiate a review of the protocal that established the Pan African Parliament.

After a comprehensive review of the proposals in the last three years, the amendments were approved without reservations by the ministers of Justice and Attorney-Generals of member countries in May.

However, two months later, some member states rejected the idea of allowing a continental parliament legislative and oversight functions arguing it would infringe on the sovereignty of individual countries.

Consequently, the decision to approve the draft amendments to the protocal dealing with legislative and oversight functions of the parliament was deferred.

On Monday, PAP sought to allay fears of member States that an upgraded Pan African Parliament would erode the sovereignty of national parliaments with their Speaker arguing that time had come for the continental legislature to begin a gradual transformation with clearly defined legislative functions to enable it meet it's obligations.

"It is time for our people to overcome the fear of progressive change which is inevitable, said the PAP president.

The feeling among members of the Pan African Parliament is that with adoption of the amended protocol, it would provide AU's governance, an organ that has sufficient capacity to facilitate implementation of the Assembly decisions and also develop a legislative framework for continental integration.

"We are convinced that it is time that Africa begins to build strong democratic institutions that would deepen democracy, good governance, transparency and accountability which are the prerequisites for development and stability," the speaker said in Parliament.

South Africa promised to support the amendment and the draft protocol for a continental parliament with legislative and consultative powers.

During the two week sitting, the House will discuss issues on food security in the continent and review how far Africa has gone in achieving millennium development goals and issues of security.

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