The Pan-African Parliament (PAP), the legislative body of the African Union, on Wednesday elected Zimbabwe’s Fortune Charumbira as the fourth Vice-President in a five-member Bureau.
In May, the post remained vacant as the southern Africa region, which he represents, had not nominated a candidate.
His election happened in Kigali where the legislative body is currently meeting.
The purpose of the African Parliament, as set out in article 17 of the AU Constitutive Act, is to ensure the full participation of African peoples in the development and economic integration of the continent.
However, the PAP, as members emphasise, is presently not able to do much because it cannot legislate since the House has no power to function as an appropriate legislature.
It cannot, most importantly, make laws that are binding as required of a legislative body.
What the PAP does is oversight of AU organs and look into their delivery as per their respective mandates as well as play an advisory role on matters such as peace and security, agriculture, health.
The ultimate aim is for PAP to be an institution with full legislative powers, and whose members are elected by universal suffrage.
Reform and the Malabo Protocol
Much about the envisaged new Pan–African Parliament hinges on a document known as the Malabo Protocol.
“When the Pan–African Parliament was established in 2004, it was provided for that, later, it will be a fully-fledged parliament which can accomplish all functions as done by other Parliaments; oversight, legislation, approving budget of the AU and others, that are binding,” MP Jacqueline Muhongayire (Rwanda) told The New Times.
“Up to now, the Malabo Protocol of 2014, which was adopted by the Heads of State cannot be implemented since we don’t have the requisite 28 signatures. We have 19 signatures and 10 ratifications. Up to now, we can’t be a fully-fledged Parliament.”
Muhongayire noted that they are just an advisory body and they give recommendations and resolutions from debate of different reports from AU organs but those resolutions cannot be implemented as they are not [legally] binding.
Yusupha Jobe, the Acting PAP Clerk, also told The New Times that lack of a binding common law as envisaged by the founding fathers is a challenge.
“In their wisdom, the founding fathers thought that having this Parliament to put the bricks together, harmonise these laws and rules and regulations would be a good foundation for the united states of Africa. And this is the main issue of the Protocol as well.
Initially, because of the fragmentation, it means it will take time for us to bring along all the differences and try to discuss on how to make sure that everybody is on board rather than impose our will on all others”.
Shedding light on “the differences”, Jobe pointed to a case where countries have laws which permit female genital mutilation while others do not.
Some countries, he said, are soft on terrorism while others are hard on it and, some ban other Africans from entry without visa, while others do not.
“The Malabo Protocol is the starting place to make sure that we have the rights of the legislation. And when we do, then we will be in position to create laws to enable the continent to be able to use them”.
As at October 20, only 10 countries; The Gambia, Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic, Mali, Togo, Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Madagascar, Somalia, Chad and Benin have ratified the Malabo (new Pan–African Parliament) Protocol.
At least 18 more ratifications are required so as to give the Parliament full legislative powers.
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