Parliamentarians’ presence in the chamber amidst “difficult times” is a sacrifice by their respective governments and indicative of the faith that member countries have in Africa and in pan-Africanism. This was the opening message of the Pan African Parliament’s (PAP) President Roger Nkodo-Dang during the Fourth Parliament’s first extraordinary sitting for 2017.
Despite the PAP’s continuous challenges, President Nkodo-Dang referred to several “signs of hope”, including parliamentarian reform emphasised during the AU Summit in July 2016 by African Heads of State such as President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, amongst others. Financing from the European Union (EU) also bodes well for the future of the PAP.
As the guest of honour, Hon. Ekwee David Ethuro Speaker of the Senate of the Republic of Kenya shared a message of goodwill with African MPs. Hon. Ethuro said he was thankful to be invited to address the PAP only five months before Kenya’s next general elections. He expressed his hopes for a peaceful and democratic election.
Hon. Ethuro said in 2013, he addressed the third Legislature of the Parliament after the reestablishment of the Senate of the Republic of Kenya. He emphasised his country’s commitment towards the PAP saying that the President of the Republic of Kenya, His Excellency Uhuru Kenyatta and Hon. Justin Muturi, the Speaker of the National Assembly of Kenya (Hon. Ethuro’s counterpart) will address PAP in August this year.
“You will agree with me that the Kenyan contingent to the PAP has been vibrant and engaging,” he said, referring also to the foundational work by the PAP’s first Clerk, Mr Murumba Werunga.
As the Parliament convenes to announce its new Clerk and Deputy Clerk, Hon. Ethuro wished the House well with the proceedings, saying that the Clerk plays an integral role in election of the President and the Vice-President, minute taking and supervision of staff amongst responsibilities.
Hon. Ethuro said the main concerns he addressed in his maiden speech of 2013 including issues around continental unity, security, peace, democracy, prosperity and stability were unfortunately recurring.“Any student of African affairs will be concerned that poverty, insecurity and terrorism are still plaguing our own continent and people, including threats to the lives and property of the members and staff of this Assembly,” he said.
“As you are an organ of the African Union, representing the sovereign power of the people of Africa, you have a responsibility to realise the African Century and African Renaissance. These dreams of our forefathers are still elusive to a majority of our people. The negative narrative of Africa has changed little from Conrad’s days of a Dark Continent, in spite of all expectations that the 21st Century is the Century of Africa,” said Hon. Ethuro.
He said the House shared with him the expectation that in the long run, the Pan African Parliament would evolve into an institution with full legislative powers, whose members are elected by universal adult suffrage. “Although I must acknowledge improvements in socio-economic parameters such as life expectancy, mortalities, enrolment in schools, access to water, much more work need to be done to claim our rightful place at the apex of the globe.”
He lamented the fact that for the last two years in a row, the Mo Ibrahim trophy lacked recipients while the NEPAD Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) seems to be losing steam; and the PAP’s own treaties are hardly ratified or take too long to be ratified. “Something somewhere is not right,” he said, calling it “depressing” and “disconcerting.
It is an indictment to good governance and the role democratic institutions like parliaments play at all levels, said Hon. Ethuro. “An African continent without collaboration, brotherhood and consultation cannot withstand the political, social and economic upheavals of the 21st century,” he said.
In conclusion, he said that his country appreciates the contribution made by the Parliament in regards to the betterment of the African continent and its people. “It is my hope that the discussions and engagements at this extraordinary sitting will contribute positively as lawmakers to the much-needed development discourse and its realisation in Africa,” he concluded.
Preceding Hon. Ethuro’s message of solidarity, several parliamentarians took the floor to express their grave concern regarding yet another attack on MPs at their hotel over the weekend, upon arrival to attend the Sittings.
The issue of MPs security remains a heated point of discussion since parliamentarians have risked personal attacks and loss of property during several PAP committee meetings in the past two years. President Nkodo-Dang assured MPs that the issue is not being taken lightly, having met with the South African speaker and the Minister of Defence to expedite MPs’ concerns.