JOHANNESBURG, South-Africa, October 12, 2010 / African Press Organization (APO)
The sixth day of deliberations at the Third Ordinary Session of the Second Pan-African Parliament focused on three issues: election observation missions to various countries, peace and security in Africa, and the report on the administrative and financial evaluation of PAP.
On the issue of observer missions, the debate focused on the frustrations of the PAP Members who were part of the joint AU observer missions to Ethiopia and Burundi. Members sited organizational challenges, difficulties related to planning and poor coordination of logistics, language barriers, and low PAP representation. PAP Members called for the return of independent PAP observer missions as was the case in the past and the strengthening of the capacity of the Elections Desk within the PAP.
When delivering the report on the state of Peace and Security in Africa at the Pan-African Parliament, Hon. Marwick Khumalo, Chairperson of the Committee on Cooperation, International Relations and Conflict Resolution made it clear that the continent still has a long way to go in achieving peace and security. “Notwithstanding the remarkable strides that have been made in democratic governance, challenges with respect to peace and security at some flashpoints all over the continent continue to stifle movement toward progress in democratic development,” he said.
In the Central African region, he expressed concern over the continued violence in the eastern parts of the Democratic Republic of Congo alluding that it undermines the peace that has been achieved in the country. He made an appeal to those warring, saying, “We implore the parties to the conflict to come to terms, dialogue, and find a peaceful solution to stabilize the country.”
In the East African region Hon. Khumalo focused among others on Somalia and Sudan. With regards to Somalia, he bemoaned the increasingly deadly attacks carried out by the insurgent group Al-Shabab against the country's Transitional Federal Government. He said, “Suicide bombings, unheard of in Somalia before 2007, have become increasingly frequent and the lawlessness have raised concerns that Al-Qaeda is trying to gain a foothold in the Horn of Africa”. He added that “African troops (from Uganda and Burundi) protecting the Somalia government wage daily battles with Islamic militants who hold much of Central and Southern Somalia”. Khumalo said that the continued anarchy in the East African nation has “allowed piracy to flourish off the country's coast”.
On Sudan, Khumalo focused on the upcoming self-determination referendum that will take place early in January 2011. He expressed concern over oil deposits on the borders of the north and south, saying “we are concerned with the oil deposits around the border of north and south Sudan which could be a source of discontent”. He went on to say that “we propose that a solution be reached with respect to equitable sharing of resources between the north and south Sudan”.
On the issue of the Western Sahara, Khumalo said that it remains a sore point in the North African region. It remains the only country on the continent that is still occupied by Morocco since the 1970s. The stance of PAP on the issue was made clear by the Chairperson: “the PAP is filled with consternation by the massive and repeated violations of human rights in the Western Sahara by Moroccan authorities”, he said. He appealed to the African Union and the United Nations to hold Morocco accountable for their actions and compel Morocco to “respect its obligations and to free political prisoners that it is holding in its prisons”.
In Southern Africa, Andry Rajoelina's leadership in Madagascar continues to give the region a headache. Khumalo admitted that the issue was not an easy one. “The situation in Madagascar constitutes a real challenge for Africa and the SADC Region in particular”, he said. Despite numerous attempts by SADC to resolve the political impasse in the Indian Ocean island, “this initiative has continued to come up against the will of Rajoelina regime to proceed with the elections in disregard of the spirit and letter of the Maputo and Addis Ababa Agreements”.
In West Africa he expressed hope that Côte D'Ivoire might be on the right track. “Following eight years of bickering and posturing in holding elections as a way forward, the critically remaining hurdle of a voter registration has been achieved, thereby clearing the way for elections to go ahead”, he said.
In relation to Guinea (Conakry), he remained hopeful saying that “a glimmer of hope now looms as the presidential run-off date has been set for 24th October 2010 between the two leading candidates”. He urged continental and international bodies to play a role in ensuring that the vote is free, fair and transparent.
He urged the parliament to keep an eye on Nigeria, saying that, “the bombing on the Nigerian 50th independence anniversary celebrations has thrown a spanner in the works”. As the oil rich country prepares for elections next year, Khumalo warned that political rivalry could destabilize the country. “The unfolding developments in this situation have to be closely monitored and managed as to avoid untoward repercussions for the democratic gains so far made”.
A number of common sentiments arose from the debate following Hon. Khumalo's presentation, in particular the need for Early Warning Systems to be developed in order to curb instability in Africa. A number of areas were identified as the reasons for continued conflict; namely, lack of democracy, unconstitutional changes of government, inter-tribal tensions and border disputes. Many parliamentarians said that having the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance could be the answer to resolving the problems facing many countries.
The Ad Hoc Committee on Administrative and Financial Evaluation (CAFE) of the PAP recommended that the august House must engage with national parliaments to avail funds that would make it possible for PAP Members to attend Sessions and Committee meetings. The recommendation comes at a time when some MPs are not turning up for Sessions due to several reasons, among them financial constraints.
Hon. Jetta Fabakary, Chairperson of the Ad Hoc Committee on Administrative and Financial Evaluation of PAP, made the recommendation when he presented a report on administrative and financial evaluation of PAP.
Fabakary said that the new PAP Rules of Procedure were complete, but that it could not be adopted because the Plenary lacked the two-thirds majority that is required to adopt the document. “This problem has remained difficult to resolve because the two-thirds majority that is required is very difficult to attain in PAP. This is due to the fact that some MPs don't turn up for PAP Sessions because of several reasons ranging from reasons associated with the expiry of their mandate to reasons relating to the financial difficulties of some national parliaments in sponsoring the participation of MP's in some of the PAP activities”, he told the Parliament.
Another recommendation made was that the issue of conducting election observer missions under the direction of the AU must be brought to the Plenary such that MPs can debate the issue and form a position on it.
Yet another recommendation is that the responsibility of running the Parliament on a day-to-day basis must be left to the Clerk of Parliament and that he must be recognized as the Chief Accounting Officer on all administrative matters, because the Bureau cannot be the administrative authority as it is not full time.
Members of the PAP scrutinized and criticized the report as presented by the Ad Hoc Committee. While some Members found the report to be comprehensive, others felt that the Committee had done a shoddy job.
Contributing to the debate, Hon. Ambrose Dery from Ghana indicated that many governments have stopped supporting PAP Members to come for Sessions, because they are unable to take the recommendations made at PAP to their various parliaments for debate and consequent passage. He lamented that even though PAP Members come to South Africa for parliamentary proceedings, some of them also come with the aim of touring South Africa for their personal benefits and pleasures. That notwithstanding, he urged the various governments to realize that sponsoring MPs to PAP is an obligation which needs to be fulfilled.
Hon. Master Goya, from Botswana, indicated his apprehension about the report. According to him, the report is methodologically and ethically flawed. He believes no systematic approach was employed by the Committee in interviewing the people who appeared before them to answer questions. He lamented that the Committee did not have pre-formulated questions.
It is worth noting that other MPs representing various countries took time to comment on the various issues raised by the report. While some felt that the unavailability of a Legal Counsel at the PAP to help deal with some of the issues involving the Bureau was an issue of concern, others called for more people to be brought on board for the administration of the PAP to be effective.
SOURCE : Pan-African Parliament (PAP)
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