Speakers of Regional and National Parliaments in Africa have called on the African Union Commission (AUC) to institute a process that will ensure that proposed the African Union (AU) legal instruments are sent to the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) for legislative input before submission to the Assembly of Heads of State and Government (Assembly) for adoption.

This was suggested at the 11th Conference of Speakers of National and Regional Parliaments at the precincts of the Pan-African Parliament in Midrand, South Africa from 1st to 2nd September 2022.

The Speakers reasoned that PAP consists of parliamentarians from Member States who would ultimately have to ratify those legal instruments, and therefore it makes sense to involve them in the negotiations leading to adoption so as to fast track the ratification process.

The proposal which was made by the Speaker of the Parliament of Sierra Leone, Dr. Abass Cherno Bundu followed the presentation of a report by Ambassador Salah Hammad, Head of the African Governance Architecture that out of the 17 AU legal instruments adopted by the Assembly since 2014, only two have been ratified by the required number of Member States.

It was observed that most national parliaments are usually not aware of these legal instruments until whenever the executive branch of government, decides to send them for ratification, a situation that delays the ratification process.

Dr. Bundu further proposed that all OAU/AU legal instruments with the status of adoption and ratification by each Member State should be tabulated and presented to the Assembly during their Annual Summits in February. The ranking of countries based on the number of ratifications should spur competition among the members of the Assembly.

The Speakers added that those legal instruments ought to be presented to PAP for debates so that MPs from Member States will have the opportunity to make contributions during the drafting stage which will speed up the ratification process.

In a related development, Speaker Bundu has urged the Republic of South Africa to review their visa issuance policy to enable those coming for PAP related activities to do so without unnecessary bottlenecks. He narrated his experience in attempting to travel from Canada where he had gone for a meeting to South Africa to attend the Speakers Conference and then urged the country to consider adopting a “Visa on Arrival” policy for those coming for PAP activities.

At the end of the Conference the National Council of Provinces Chairperson, Amos Masondo, raised concern over various articles of the new Protocol of the Pan-African Parliament (PAP) – Malabo Protocol of 2022. His concern was over the Protocol’s Article 5(1)(a) which provides that the National Parliament, or other deliberative body, shall elect from outside its membership five Members to serve in the PAP.

The Article places an obligation on National Parliaments to elect independent people who are not MPs to represent the interest of the country at a continental level. The Chairperson said it was unclear how these independent people would account to Parliament and what recourse would Parliament have against those independent people if they fail to or refuse to account to Parliament.

Also of concern was Article 5(6) which provides that for the avoidance of doubt, an MP from a National Parliament or other deliberative body is eligible to contest an election to the PAP. The Article further provides that, if elected, the Member shall resign from the National Parliament or other deliberative body.

Masondo said this leaves the Member with no clear line of accountability because MPs are elected to represent the interests of the people in Parliament and to account for every aspect of their work as the representatives of the people.