30 April 2004
Africa’s President Mongella has to Set Up a Government
By Dan Kashagama
Gertrude Mongella became the first president of Africa in what amounts to an institutional revolution. After decades of extraordinary conflict and controversy, Africans are finally in a position to create a lasting and stable political order. Although Mongella is a well-known international personality, it is important to raise her profile in her new role as president of a great country that holds 10% of the world’s population, 20% of its landmass, and which has a powerful and influential Diaspora.
President Mongella still has to set goals for her term of office, and the members of parliament will have to start transforming their vague campaign pledges into detailed policy. The easiest way to proceed would be for the president to look at how to accelerate implementation of the Abuja Treaty. However, in doing so the president and the parliament have to be extremely careful not to let bureaucrats define their role or put limitations on how fast they can move. The parliament has to schedule longer sessions and proceed to secure financial independence from the states and from the commission.
The parliament must break the idea that the Union is an intergovernmental organization and promote the Africa Union as the country that it is. The PAP cannot appear to be surrendering its initiative to Commission or the Assembly, and President Mongella has to ensure that the Commission serves simply as the parliament’s secretariat primarily, and as a Civil Service for the Union. It would be a mistake if she were to give the Commission a carte blanche to run the Union. The Commissioners have an obligation to promote the Parliament over and above Commission.
The fact that the PAP has a consultative capacity until 2008 does not mean that the president cannot take bold initiatives that are binding on the Assembly. It only means that the parliament has to craft progressive bills that are palatable to the Assembly. That is not hard to do, especially considering that all of the members of the Assembly are in favor of unification.
The Assembly of Heads of State, like the public, always has the obligation to reaffirm, modify or reject parliamentary resolutions, whatever the status of Parliament. It would not, therefore, be right for the PAP to censor itself in anticipation of a negative reaction by the Assembly. It is, however, necessary for the PAP to be strong, proactive, smart and effective. The parliament's power comes from earning the public's loyalty and the Assembly's respect, and by showing leadership.
Moreover, in the past, resolutions that have failed to pass in the Assembly have failed because they were crafted poorly, in language that was insensitive to the concerns of the states leaders. Unfortunately this couldn’t be helped because only overworked bureaucrats and disoriented delegates, were in charge of crafting the proposals. The AUF has created draft bills that have a straightforward and simple structure for interested PAP and Assembly members to use. The bills are on issues that are critical to the Union, and can be used as are a tool for enabling convergence in foreign policy, establishing an integrated African defense force, etc.
With the parliament now in place, it is possible for smart and effective bills originating from a variety of public sources to satisfy the concerns of the members of the Assembly, and still advance and achieve the objectives of the Pan African movement. It is president Mongella’s job to formally tap into this public vein, and also to make the process of Pan African government accessible to the public. She should nominate a cabinet of political organizers to assist the presidency and the parliament to mobilize the states, empower the public, engage the media, and reorient Africa's bureaucracies.
The parliament should not have to rely only on the old bureacracy and states initiatives. It is time for the PAP to start setting up the Union Government. The President needs an executive with people who can reach out effectively to all sectors of the African and international communities. The parliament will be more effective if it can rely on an executive whose mandate and employement is directly dependent on the parliament, an executive that actually lives and breathes Pan Africanism.