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January 21, 2003


What I fear most is that the Assembly of Heads of State of the African Union will squander the unprecedented opportunity to rid us of the tyranny of grandstanding men who have not learned to carry power with grace and taste. We need a Pan African Parliament right now, and we need it to be the supreme organ of the land. We need an African army so that we can channel the patriotic ardor, altruism, adventure and energy of our youths productively and prevent senseless violence that comes when despair has no outlet.

The tragic horrors that have debased humanity in the Congo need not have happened had Africa stood up to the predatory regime in Uganda that has destroyed order in the Great Lakes Region. The inability of MONUC and the Joint Military Commission to deploy more troops allowed Eastern Congo to descend into hell. The African Union has the capacity to mobilize and deploy peacekeepers not only in the Congo, but in Burundi and Cote d'Ivoire. However, the Assembly is paralysed by engrossing conflicts of interest that lead to delays that cost lives.

Over the years the Assembly has wavered on creating a great parliament, and what we have states ratifying now is a consultative and advisory organ with the name of a parliament, and with members who allegedly may vote independently with the knowledge that their state government can recall them. At the 2002 Summit when the Assembly voted to establish the Peace and Security Council, it was substitution for what they should have voted for. They failed to vote for the most crucial article on the agenda, the establishment of the African Army. They put the vote off till July 2003. We hope they vote right this year.

We need a justice system in the AU that is deep and independent, and a single foreign diplomatic service. We want a legislative parliament with members that are independent of state governments, a working and respectable Court of Justice, and a peacekeeping army that are answerable to the people. We must put an end to the unilateral foreign deals, and stop the weapons transfers across Africa. But it is precisely these institutions that the Assembly of Heads of State is dreading to implement, especially the Parliament and the Army.

It is unfortunate that Africa is still hostage to the meagre capacities of the Assembly of Heads of State that meets once a year. The Assembly consists of 50 people who are not accountable to the citizens of the African Union for the decisions they make during the Summit, and yet they continue to make all significant bureaucratic and judicial appointments, attach caveats with powers of arbitrary recall of AU officials, and embed all manner of claw back clauses into treaties appended with protocols that are designed to take years before ratification. And all this for what, to preserve sovereignty that they barely have? Perhaps it is time to scrap the Assembly of Heads of State.

The creation of the African Union has raised expectations for hundreds of millions of people. The African Union needs new leaders with a different ethos, who have the capacity to articulate a new position in the world, who can disentangle Africa from the old methods of government. Across the world there is freshness to activity concerning Africans, and unlike the past eras, the rest of the world today is inspired by a vast need to bring to fruition the hopes that have been defined by a century of African struggle. In the effort to reorder the international relations, many people all over the world are looking towards Africa in search of richly textured and culturally relevant alternatives to uninspiring ideologies of rage and fear.

It is our job to channel the new energies towards global reform that is meaningful and lasting, not just for Africans, but for the rest of the world as well. It is our duty to go beyond mere protest, to define a new vision of human security, and to bring to life a different order of world politics. Today’s generation of Africans, perhaps more than any other generations, owes both our ancestors and the posterity of all humanity, a legacy of the ages.

The Pan African Parliament has the potential to recruit the brilliant legislative minds in Africa and the diaspora, and to be the platform for the peoples voice. The structure of the Assembly of Heads of State is not responsive enough, nor can it satisfy the need for public participation in the policy and decision making process of the African Union. The parliament can be the conduit for the great aspirations of Pan Africanism. Please, let the people in.

Kind Regards,
Dan Kashagama
AUF General Secretary