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Protocol and Documents Concerning the Parliament of the African Union


The Parliament, which is mandated by the Union Act that established the African Union, was supposed to come into existence in July 2002. Addis Ababa is the confirmed seat of the African Parliament. The Pan-African Parliament is one of the eight organs or institutions provided for in the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community signed in Abuja, Nigeria.

In the time remaining before its formation, several drafts detailing the structure of the parliament have been circulating for several years. In November 2000 in Pretoria a conference convened to create a structure for the parliament as a legislative assembly. However, concerns over the timing and the potential resistence to the idea by the heads of states of the various republics led to a phased plan.

When it is established, the parliament will function as a consultative body without any legislative powers for a 5 year period. In 2007 the parliament was to have become a popularly elected legislative assembly.

The final structure of the legislative assembly is implied in the protocols attached to the Protocol of the Pan African Parliament, and in the African Union Act. The parliament will be unicameral. The majority of its members will be elected through proportional representation.

On February 21, 2001 a conference of African Senates and second chambers took place in Nouakchott, devoted in particular to the future of these institutions and attended by some forty delegations. Issues identified at the conference revealed the desirability of decentralisation, recognized the need for stabilising the bicameral system in Africa, and examined the principle of the two chambers as a factor in strengthening the law.     


The origin of the Pan-African Parliament can be traced to the Abuja Treaty which was signed by African leaders in Abuja, Nigeria, in June, 1991 and which came into force in May, 1994. After the Abuja Treaty, the Fourth Extra-ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government held in Sirte, Libya from 8th - 9th September, 1999, adopted the Sirte Declaration. Among other things, the Sirte Declaration called for the speedy establishment of the institutions [including the Pan African Parliament] provided for in the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community signed in Abuja, Nigeria.

A subsequent meeting was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from 17th to 21st April, 2000 convened by the Secretary-General of the OAU, Dr Salim Ahmed Salim and composed of Legal Experts and Parliamentarians who considered a Draft Treaty on the establishment of the African Union and a Draft Protocol of the Treaty establishing the African Economic Community relating to the Pan-African Parliament. This was followed by the 36th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) which convened in Lome, Togo from 10th to 12th July, 2000. The meeting approved and adopted the Draft Constitutive Act of the African Union and the Pan-African Parliament.

The African Union is a transformation of the existing OAU institutional framework into a qualitative higher form of integration and cooperation which is expected to be better placed to meet the aspirations of the peoples of Africa for greater unity and solidarity in line with the vision of the Founding Fathers of the continental organisation.

In line with the Abuja Treaty, the main objective of the African Union is to achieve complete political, social, cultural and economic integration of the African continent and to transform the whole continent into a Free Trade Area, with for example, common external tariffs as well as strong economic linkages in such key sectors as agriculture, trade, finance, transport, communications, industry and energy. In addition, the African Union intends to use the existing sub-regional economic groupings on the continent such as the Southern African Development Community (SADC), among others, as its building blocks.

During the period 5 - 17 November, 2000, about 191 delegates from 41 OAU Member States comprising Speakers, Deputy Speakers, Ministers, Deputy Ministers, Ambassadors representing Member States at the OAU, Clerks, Parliamentary staff and officials from the ministries responsible for foreign affairs attended the historic meeting of Parliamentarians at the Holiday Inn, Pretoria, South Africa. The Zambian Delegation to the meeting in South Africa was led by Hon. Amusaa K. Mwanamwambwa, MP, Speaker of the National Assembly and comprised ten delegates. The meeting was the first of its kind to be organised specifically for Parliamentarians from Member States of the OAU since its founding 37 years ago.

The main objective of the meeting in South Africa was to examine and finalise the Draft Protocol to the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community Relating to the Pan-African Parliament. The South African government released a statement that it "wishes to affirm that the objectives of the Pan African Parliament, which include the promotion of democracy and good governance on the continent, are in keeping with our overall objectives of promoting the principles of the African Renaissance. In keeping with the spirit of the Sirte Declaration, which aimed at effectively addressing the new social, political and economic realities in Africa; eliminating the scourges of conflicts and poverty on the Continent, the South African government welcomes the opportunity to host the Pan African Parliament Meeting."

The delegates expressed support for the establishment of the Pan-African Parliament as a way of involving the African peoples in the on-going process of political and socio-economic integration on the continent. They were, therefore, prepared to chart the way forward by determining the type of Pan-African Parliament, which would enjoy the support, and confidence of the African peoples. Guided by this principle, the delegates went through the Draft Protocol article by article and made considerable amendments. The amendments were referred to the OAU Council of Ministers and the Assembly of Heads of State and Government for consideration, in Lusaka Zambia in July 2001. A final Protocol is being prepared.

The establishment of the Pan-African Parliament is one giant step forward in ensuring that this deliberative continental body, once operational, will act as a common platform for all the peoples of Africa and their grassroot organisations to get more involved in discussions and decision-making on the problems and challenges which beset Africa.