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MOZAMBIQUE RATIFIES PROTOCOL TO ESTABLISH AFRICAN PARLIAMENT

Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique (Maputo)
April 16, 2003
Maputo

The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on Wednesday ratified the protocol to establish a Pan-African Parliament, despite reservations expressed by some opposition deputies.

Introducing the ratification resolution, Foreign Minister Leonardo Simao said the protocol formed part of "an African vision oriented towards providing a common platform to African peoples, in order to ensure that involvement in discussions and in taking decisions about the problems and challenges the continent faces today".

Simao explained that initially the Pan-African Parliament would be a merely consultative body, consisting of members chosen from each national parliament. At some stage in the future, however, it might acquire legislative functions, with members elected by direct universal suffrage.

Each African parliament will be entitled to appoint five of its members (of whom at least one must be a woman) to the Pan- African parliament.

The debate was a low-key affair. Most deputies supported the idea of a continental parliament but without any great enthusiasm. David Alone, of the former rebel movement Renamo, complained that the resolution was "a fait accompli", and that "the Assembly is being towed along behind the government, which enters into international undertakings without consulting parliament".

"This Assembly is very far from asserting itself as a sovereign body separate from the government", he claimed. "Who will the Pan-African deputies represent, the Mozambican people or the government ?" On much the same lines, his colleague Linette Oloffson complained that the Assembly had not been involved in any of the negotiations marking the transition from the Organisation of African Unity to today's African Union.

She attacked the African Union and its predecessor as "a sort of trade union for heads of state" which "does not deal with the real problems of the continent".

Luis Boavida noted that the Assembly always faced great financial difficulties, and wondered where the money for Mozambique's participation in a Pan-African parliament would come from.

Simao admitted that, unless the African Union decided to pick up the bill for the Mozambican deputies, joining the Pan- African parliament would have financial implications for the state budget. But he could not say how much, since it had not yet been decided how often the parliament would meet.

Despite the Renamo reservations, the Assembly voted unanimously to ratify the protocol.