Senior representatives of the Pan African Parliament (PAP) had a meeting with President Lazarus Chakwera of Malawi to brief and consult him in his capacity as the Chairman of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) with regard to developments at PAP in view of the African Union (AU) Permanent Representative Council (Ambassadors) and Executive Council (Foreign Ministers) meetings due to take place this week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Honourable Senator Chief Fortune Churumbira, the Deputy President of the PAP, in an interview with Spiked Online Media after the meeting with President Chakwera at State House in Harare on Friday, said the PAP consultative meeting with the SADC Chair, who is the President of Malawi was to discuss ways of strengthening regional economic integration since groups like SADC are the building blocks of the PAP.
“The PAP could not hold elections in May this year because of differences between some western and central African region and MPs opposing the AU rotation principle on one hand and the Southern, Northern, some western and eastern supporting the rotation principle with the mantra “no rotation no election”. There were differences in the eligibility for Mali (no legitimate constitutional government and Parliament) and South Sudan (not yet sworn in as MPs in their own country) delegations being sworn in at PAP.
“The meeting with the President of Malawi was to brief and consult him in his capacity as regional chairman with regard to developments at PAP in view of the AU Permanent Representative Council( Ambassadors) and Executive Council (Foreign Ministers) meetings due to take place this week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The meetings are expected to make resolutions and a roadmap to holding a PAP session in November this year,” Chief Charumbira said.
Southern Africa regional caucus position paper on the principle of rotation for the election of the bureau for Pan-African Parliament
The Principle of Geographical Rotation is an established practice within the African Union that has guided the Pan African Parliament (PAP) since its inception in 2004 in the election of its President. The principle of rotation is the heart, the soul, nay, the bedrock of equity, inclusiveness, fairness, justice, and the unity of Africa – values which the PAP and, indeed, any other Organ of the AU ought to hold dear.
The PAP comprises five regional caucuses namely the Central, Eastern, Northern, Southern, and Western regional caucus. The Rotation Principle has been expressly acknowledged and practiced by the PAP since the founding President of PAP, Hon Gertrude Mongella, who presided over the PAP from 2004 to 2009, is from Tanzania (Eastern Region) and was succeeded by the late Hon Idriss Ndele Moussa from 2009 to 2012 who was from Chad (Central Region). Dr. Moussa was succeeded by the late Hon. Bethel Amadi from Nigeria (Western Region) led the PAP from 2012 to 2015. Regrettably, 2015 marked the flagrant subversion of this time-honoured principle.
The expectation in 2015 was that the Northern region which has seven (7) countries and the Southern Region with ten (10) countries and representing a numerical minority when compared to other regions would, at the end of late Hon Amadi’s Presidency, be accorded the opportunity to vie for the Presidency. Regrettably, in 2015, that expectation was truncated when the Rotation Principle was subverted by the candidacy of Hon. Roger Nkodo Dang from Cameroon (Central Region) also subsequently secured re-election in 2018.
The election and subsequent re-election of Hon. Nkodo in effect meant that the Central Region had assumed the presidency on three different occasions before both the Northern and Southern Regions had produced a president. Despite protestations by the Southern Region, the Central Region and its allies leveraged their numerical advantage to subvert a long-standing principle of rotation and, in so doing, undermined the ideal of continental integration that the PAP espouses.
The PAP had on 11 May 2007 passed a resolution adopting rotational presidency by a more than two-thirds majority vote with 149 in favour and 20 against. The resolution provides that “membership of the PAP Bureau, the Bureaux and the Bureaux of Regional Caucuses shall rotate within regions every three years with effect from 2009”. That was the motivation for the aforestated subsequent sequence of rotation in the PAP leadership that was then adopted at PAP which began with the Eastern region, Central and West before the violation that occurred in 2015. As a matter of record, in May 2017 the PAP for a second time passed a resolution adopting a rotational presidency.
In July 2017, the AU Executive Council in EX.CL/Dec.979(XXXI), a decision which was reaffirmed in decision EX.CL/Dec.1018(XXXIII) of June 2018 called upon the PAP to apply the African Union values, rules and regulations in managing all activities of the organ, including rotation of the Bureau and presidency. These two decisions substantively reflected a prior decision of the Executive Council enunciated in January 2016 vide its decision EX.CL/Dec.907(XXVIII) where it clearly mandated adherence to the principle of rotation irrespective of whether the principle of Geographical Rotation is mentioned in the relevant legal instruments establishing those organs, bodies, and/or institutions.
It is this body of AU mandatory decisions that informed the AU Office of Legal Counsel’s opinion by a letter referenced BC/OLC/23.18/10814.21, where he stated that “the principle of geographical rotation is a well-established principle within the Union”. The letter concluded by stating further that “Any Election of the PAP Bureau that doesn’t respect the mentioned decisions on geographical rotations shall be deemed illegal”.
In addition to the afore-stated clear pronouncements by the AU on the imperative that PAP complies with the principle of rotation, it is also instructive to note that within the AU Organs itself right up to the AU Assembly, the Rotation Principle invariably applies and has worked well regardless of numerical sizes of AU Geographic Regions since its formation in 1963. A case in point is the AU Peace and Security Council wherein the five regions alternate leadership in the Organ notwithstanding the different numerical sizes of Member States. The rotation principle is thus not a fleeting norm that any individual and/or region can choose to selectively apply or ignore but is the bedrock of democracy and the very foundation of continental integration and equity.
Doubtless, the AU’s position on the rotational presidency is clear and unambiguous, and with the PAP having passed resolutions on rotational presidency initially in 2007 by two-thirds majority and again in 2017, the argument of “retroactive” application of rotation is disingenuous and constitutes a blatant attempt to negate established rules of practice, norms and procedural tenets of the AU organs.
The resultant insistence by the Southern Region to return the parliament to a position of compliance to this mandatory policy on rotation cannot be construed as a retroactive application of rotation principle when failure to do so will constitute an endorsement of an intervening violation by one region without regard to its prejudicial effect on the interest of the other affected regions whose legitimate expectation to lead PAP cannot be denied for whatever reasons.
It is trite to mention that the televised events at the elective session of the Bureau of the PAP in May/June 2021 precipitated by the conflict of interpretation of the Rotation Principle were undeniably an embarrassment for the continent and sent negative perceptions about the leadership of our continental body. The notable negative impressions are disunity, disorderliness, inequality, monopoly over leadership, domination of regions over others and/or presumed superiority of certain nations and/or regions in the leadership of the African political sphere. These presumptions are antithetical to the values, norms, principles, and traditions of the African Union.
This clearly undermines our quest for continental unity, regional integration, and the promotion of the diversity of leadership amongst the regional caucuses within the framework of the African Union.
“It is on the strength of this principle that the Southern Region Caucus hereby calls on the AU Chairperson, pursuant to Article 3(2)(c) of the Statute of the Commission, to ensure that PAP complies with Executive Council decisions on the rotation of offices.
“We equally urge the AU to take cognizance of the fact that as a result of the inability of PAP to conduct lawful Bureau elections in May 2021, PAP has found itself in the pre-inauguration circumstances where PAP had no Bureau in March 2004. Consequently, we demand that the AU invoke Article 13(1) of the PAP Protocol as they did in 2004 when PAP had no Bureau and accordingly required that the next session be presided over by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission (AUC) until the election of the President who shall thereafter preside. We also demand that the AUC Chairperson should constitute a panel to conduct an election that complies with Executive Council decisions and AU Legal Counsel’s opinion,” Chief Charumbira said..