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Moving PAP out of Addis Ababa is a blow against Pan Africanism

The article below was written in early 2004. Since then South Africa has "won" the bid to host the PAP. The process was undemocratic and unecessary, and should have been left up to the PAP to decide. Addis Ababa has been the capital of Pan Africanism since the founding of the OAU. The decision to disfranchise Addis Ababa should have, at the very least, involved a vote by the PAP and probably a say by all Africans. SA president Mbeki decided otherwise. Ghadaffi has also asked to have the AU Commission moved out of Addis, a move that would completely end Addis Ababa's status as Africa's capital.

As long as African leaders continue to lack transparency in making decisions that affect all Africans, we will fail to build the sense of unity we seek. The location of the PAP is important to all Africans. The PAP is supposed to be the one AU organ over which the public have any control. It is unfortunate that the new era ushered in by the PAP has to begin with an unclear and unnecessary decision to discard Addis Ababa for no discernible reason and no explanation. I am sure that Durban, Cape Town, Pretoria or any of the other great cities SA would make a nice site for the PAP, unfortunately the way the current SA government went about grabbing this oppurtunity undermines my confidence in their ability to respect Pan Africanism and democracy.

Past African treaties are very clear on the issue of regional balance. The PAP should be in a location that is central and near all the regions of the AU. Besides, SA is already an economic powerhouse, whereas the principle of regional balance suggests that the Mbeki government shouldn't concentrate power in SA. Everything about the PAP move to SA is disturbing, especially the way the decision was reached. I ask the Mbeki government to reconsider, and address the concerns that Africans have about where, and how, the PAP's seat is to be located.

Addis Ababa is the Best Seat for Parliament, Not Pretoria
By Dan Kashagama
AUF General Secretary

The African Unification Front is in favour of retaining Addis Ababa as the permanent seat of the Pan-African Parliament. Besides the obvious historic symbolism, Addis Ababa has the headquarters of the AU Commission on which the Parliament is going to depend for services and operational continuity.
The Constitutive Act of the African Union is explicit about the place of Addis Ababa as the headquarters of the African Union (that is, capital of the Union). Since parliament is the most important organ of the Union, it stands to reason that it should be in Addis Ababa. For those concerned about semantics, the word capital derives from the latin for "head". The quaint language adopted by the document drafters responsible for giving AU institutions such titles as "organs" and "headquarters" should not obscure the facts. Addis Ababa has been the Capital and Capitol of Africa since 1963. Everyone knows this fact. This was reaffirmed in the Union Act.

The debate about changing the Pan African movement's city-on-the-hill/capitol/headquarter/center, by removing its most hallowed institution [the PAP] to some other location, violates both the Union Act and established Pan African tradition. Moreover, the entire discourse about finding a new location for the PAP is an exercise of selfish and incompetent politicking began by Ghadaffi, who woke up one morning, threw African history out the window, and demanded that the headquarters of literary everything, should be his home town of Sirte. Already brother-leader Colonel Mu'Amaru abu Minyar al-Gaddafi has set his sights on hosting the Pan African Standby Force. The AUF is opposed to a standby-force (we favor an All-African Army), and opposed to basing it in one state, least of all Libya.

Instead of defending Addis Ababa, the logical choice for the AU government headquarters, Mbeki (and eminent South Africans including Frene Ginwala and Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma) countered Ghadaffi's mad mad declarations by saying the parliament should go to South Africa instead. Then Mubarak waded into this swamp of a debate by presenting Cairo as an alternative. I was waiting to hear Obansanjo chime in to complete the usual quartet of the We Have The Money Club of African States, but Nigeria seems to have stayed clear of this infernal cacophony.

Of course no one should be intimidated by South African delegates. In spite of the resources available to them, and the respect they have won in organizing the African Union, they too make mistakes in judgement. For example, during the opening of the PAP, Frene Ginwala suggested that there was no procedure sealed in the protocol establishing the AU, so voting for President could take place by a show of hands. She should have known better. This suggestion and the potentially haphazard way the election was conducted, was in clear violation of the Protocol of the Pan African Parliament. Article 12 on Rules of Procedure calls for election by secret ballot, unless a prior vote by members had stipulated otherwise.

So what is Mbeki's problem? Is Addis Ababa not obviously a better location than either Cairo or Pretoria. From a purely geographical point of view, Addis is a more central location than either city. Addis already has better Pan African infrastructure than any city in SA...including a new world class airport. SA has so aggressively pursued economic advantage over other African states that it is creating resentment in many parts. The reason they want the parliament in Pretoria is for the economic benefit of SA, not because its going to make it easier to administer the AU.

Moreover, if Abeba became unsuitable as the capital of the AU, it is up to the PAP to decide where they want to be relocated, and they should do so after debating the merits (the PAP can also hold public hearings on the matter). Instead Mbeki and others are pushing for the decison to be made by the Assembly, for their own states' economic advantage, not out of respect for Pan African history, not to say anything about democracy. Mbeki's campaign has made no consideration for the disruption and long-term costs of scattering key administrative facilities that are so closely dependent on each other. He should leave the PAP in Addis Abeba.