Former President of Mozambique and Vice President of Sierra Leone address delegates at the opening of the Second Ordinary Session of the Fourth Parliament of the Pan-African Parliament in Midrand, South Africa.
Two guests of honour, H.E. Mr Alberto Joacquim Chissano, former President of the Republic of Mozambique and H.E. Mr Victor Bockarie Foh, Vice President of Sierra Leone addressed delegates at the opening of the Second Ordinary Session of the Fourth Parliament of the Pan-African Parliament that took place in 2 May at the Gallagher Convention Centre in Midrand, South Africa.
Mr Chissano, who was introduced by H.E. Hon. Roger Nkodo Dang, President of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP), commended the PAP for what it has accomplished to date and pointed out that the PAP has become a premier institution in parliamentary diplomacy. He stated that it however remains in the collective hands of African leaders to empower PAP to build a multi-party democratic institution.
“This institution can then in turn ensure the full participation of African peoples in the development and economic integration of the continent; that is run by its citizens and that is also a major player in the global arena.” Mr Victor Bockarie Foh, Vice President of Sierra Leone, emphasised that politics are not a matter of life and death. “It is a matter of the welfare of the people,” he enthused.
Their speeches were delivered to African leaders, Members of Parliament (MPs) of the African Union (AU) Pan-African Parliament (PAP), members of the diplomatic corps and dignitaries who all gathered alongside other stakeholders in the Idriss Ndélé Moussa Plenary Hall, that is suitably named after the late Hon Mr Idriss Ndele Moussa Yayami who was President of the PAP from 2009–2012.
The proceedings commenced with the dignified procession of the President Nkodo Dang entering the house. Shortly after, the AU anthem echoed through the building: ‘Sons and Daughters of Africa... Let us all unite and toil together, to give the best we have to Africa...’
These words were also embodied in the opening speech of President Nkodo Dang who called upon all present to unite and help drive the “28 in 2016” campaign that aims to obtain ratification of the PAP by 28 member countries of the AU. “Help us to no longer merely be a consultative organ. Help Africa to have a Parliament that legislates at the continental level,” he pleaded. “And what would you say about the role that the PAP could play, if it had legislative powers, in relation to the major current problems in Africa, which are: electrification, global warming and the fight against terrorism, to quote only these. Help us help Africa!”
An important part of the proceedings was the formal swearing in of the new MPs of the PAP. The tenure of these MPs will last for as long as they remain MPs in their respective countries, which is typically a period of five years. A key function of the MPs is to act in the best interest of all the peoples of Africa at all times and not to represent their individual countries.
In the spirit of the unity that prevailed at the session, multiple statements of solidarity were given by 14 leaders of Africa. A universal thread amongst the messages that were delivered - was a vote of support for the 2016 Year of Human Rights in Africa with Special Focus on the Rights of Women.
This declaration was made at the AU Summit in January 2014 as 2016 is a veritable watershed in the continental human rights trajectory. It marks a multitude of milestone anniversaries, such as among others, 35 years since the adoption of the African Charter in 1981; 30 years since the entry into force of the African Charter in 1986; 10 years since the African Court has been called into operation and 13 years since the adoption of the Maputo Protocol that addresses gender inequality and the rights of women in Africa.
Ultimately, the opening of the Second Ordinary Session of the Fourth Parliament was an encouraging demonstration of the fact that African leaders unanimously agree that PAP needs to be granted legislative powers to unify and uplift the peoples of Africa - economically, socially and politically.