Statement by H.E. President Joaquim Chissano, President of the Republic of Mozambique and Current Chairperson of the African Union at the Inauguration of the Pan African Parliament, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, March 18, 2004:
I have the pleasure to begin my statement by congratulating, on behalf of those present and on my own behalf, the Parliamentarians, who have just taken office, with the certainty that they will duly fulfill the aspirations and the wishes of our people.
Distinguished Members of the Pan-African Parliament,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The act taking place now represents a step further in the context of the profound ongoing changes in Africa, this impoverished, underdeveloped and marginalized Continent, about which many think that nothing but conflicts, despair and misery can be expected.
Having seen Africa grow, from a Continent subjugated by colonialism, apartheid and exploitation to a Continent of free and independent states, I do believe that, Africa not only has a future but that the future of the world hangs on this Continent.
I cannot resist retelling an old prophecy which goes as follows:
“Oh Mother Africa, you are in no way small among the Nations, because your womb produced heroes who dared dream the dream of generations of Africans. From your womb were born giants who will wipe your tears away which many a time fell on seeing your children fall in the gloomy circle of misery and suffering.”
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The event that brings us together today is a consecration of perseverance of the ideal for which the Founders of our Organization have fought for – to see an Africa that assumes and asserts itself as one, where the Pan-African thinking and feeling should be present in each one of us.
When establishing the Organization of African Unity back in 1963, here in Addis Ababa, our predecessors laid the foundation of the embryo that would grow, develop itself and become a mature and sound body, which we have become today. This maturity has been built over long years of hard struggle for regaining our dignity and freedom. This maturity today carries with it the responsibility of enriching ourselves and rebuilding in each historical phase, a heroic experience of liberation.
Our mission is to read correctly the current challenges and equation of the changes that should be made in the structure of our Organization of African Unity, as well as within the conceptual framework of its operation, in order to equip it adequately to face the present situation. Bearing in mind the vast and complex nature of the work ahead of us, in designing the organizational structure of our Union, we deemed it necessary to establish, among other organs, the Pan-African Parliament and mandate it to ensure full participation of African peoples in the economic development and integration of the Continent. We also entrusted it the mission of bringing together the African peoples, thus contributing to the creation of greater Pan-African awareness and the sentiment of belonging to the same family with a common destiny.
The organ that we are establishing today brings together representatives from different families or political sensitivities and ideologies. They emanate from the rich diversity and democratic processes existing in our countries.
However, by taking oath before all of us, and Africa, you have solemnly committed yourselves to embrace the sole ideal of serving Africa, contributing with all your strength and energies to build the African Union, a Union that stands for unity and cohesion of its members.
With your action, you will contribute to the promotion of an ever-growing climate of political convergence through discussion, deepening and codification of values that will overcome the barriers that still prevent us from full integration.
Therefore, there is great hope and expectation pinned on the establishment of the Pan-African Parliament and on your work in particular.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Pan-African Parliament is established at a time when Africa is facing enormous challenges. The establishment of the African Union has raised the expectations of our peoples of seeing the numerous difficulties that affect their lives resolved. These expectations may be heightened for the speedy manner in which we have been able to establish the African Union institutions and organs. Indeed, in less than two years, after the first session of its Assembly, the African Union can be proud of itself with the inauguration and operationalization of the Peace and Security Council. The Assembly, the Executive Council, the Permanent Representatives’ Committee and the Commission are already in full operation.
So, we have the imperative need of doing our level best in order to avoid dashing the expectation of our peoples, and for fear of alienating and undermining the enthusiasm and faith that they have in our Union.
We are also gathered here at a moment when, more than ever before, democratic equation poses itself in clear and undeniable terms. The consolidation of democracy in Africa is an assurance of the sustainability of the efforts we make in the various forms to struggle for the affirmation of our continent. But the democratic debate is far from over and Africa cannot keep away from such a debate. Our continent must become one which upholds its own voice, instead of being one which people talk about. Africa has a lot to contribute to the development of contemporary political thought.
Thus, the Pan-African Parliament has the great challenge of becoming the promoter and catalyst of this debate in all the segments of the African society. This debate has to synthesize and systemize the African experiences of community participation in the development process of the societies.
I am confident that the thoughts about our reality may inform the process of codification of the democratic experiences on the continent.
It is our view that these experiences should, among others, be governed by what is dear in the African experience in practicing democracy, namely, the culture of dialogue, consultations, tolerance, forgiveness, reconciliation, accommodation, mutual help and sharing.
It has to be borne in mind that the greatest challenge facing the Pan-African Parliament is the task of exhausting all the avenues of contributing to the fast growth and development of our continent. It is also the relentless fight against poverty that is ravaging most of our countries.
Without economic development, our political processes, our institutions will always be compromised. Their credibility and legitimacy will leave a lot to be desired. The capacity of financing and managing our electoral processes is of paramount importance. However, economic development is the interplay of various factors, amongst which, peace is the most relevant and immediate.
Without peace, all our plans will be but a utopia. The conflicts that are affecting our continent are a true threat to our development efforts. Actually, conflicts perpetuate poverty, destroy economic and social infrastructures, and scare off potential investments. Conflicts are largely the direct cause of the economic and social backwardness of our continent.
It was against this background that in Algiers, in 1999, we decided to prioritize the resolution of conflicts, as the focus of our action.
We are pleased to note the positive developments that have taken place in the process of conflict resolution, as noted in the cases of Cote d’Ivoire, Burundi, The Sudan, Angola, Liberia, Sierra Leone, DRC, among others.
In Lome, in the Year 2000, we had another important development in the process of looking for factors that promote the preservation of a more stable environment in Africa. I am referring to the Declaration on the Unconstitutional Changes in Africa, in conformity of which we have stood firm and consistent. To consolidate the efforts we undertake in order to bring peace to our continent, we need to renew our determination of fighting against a phenomenon we consider eradicated in Africa. I am talking about the mercenarism, against which we have to take relentless and dissuasive measures for it not to recur.
At each stage of its existence, our continent has had to face Herculean challenges, but it has been able to deal with them accordingly. The establishment of the OAU in 1963 was the sublime way in which the continent could organize itself to face the challenges then: the liberation of the continent from the colonial yoke and from exploitation.
To face the current challenges, which are growing in number and complexity, we have deemed it appropriate to endorse NEPAD, which is a program aimed at developing Africa, of the African Union. NEPAD mirrors the vision of the continent on how to face the current and future challenges.
It is, therefore, a fortunate coincidence that the Pan-African Parliament has this fundamental instrument from its very inception.
As an immediate action, I trust the Pan-African Parliament will follow up the tasks related to the Peer Review Mechanisms, in cooperation with the Panel of the Wise.
To do so we need to consider our objectives through brotherly interface for a better analysis of our means, correct our mistakes, eliminate our shortcomings and improve our governance.
The role the Parliament may play in encouraging the Member States to adhere to the Peer review Mechanism will be critical.
Adhering to such a Mechanism is a concrete expression of the decision taken by Member States to be guided by a set of principles and patterns that can foster good governance, democracy, observance of human rights and social justice. It is also a way of participating in a collective effort aimed at finding a solution to the countless problems faced by our peoples, in an environment whereby we can all learn from one another and consolidate the good experiences. It would be praiseworthy and dignifying for our continent if, in a short span of time, all Member States adhered to the Mechanism. That would be a clear manifestation of our determination of walking along the same path.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Pan-African Parliament we are inaugurating will, for some time, be the forum of the representatives of African Parliaments. Thus, members of this Organ have the critical task of working towards the gradual laying down of the pillars that will sustain the true Pan-African Parliament. It is necessary to contemplate the rich diversity of the parliamentary practices of our countries, in order to identify the elements or traits that may show us the way we should follow, so as to reach the desired harmonization.
Bearing in mind the challenges that Africa is facing with respect to the development agenda with its partners, particularly at multilateral level, we hope that the Parliament, within the framework of its activities, will mobilize its counterparts in other countries so that they are able to positively promote the debate on African issues within the governments of their respective countries. I am here referring to issues of external trade and negotiations with the European Union, among others, about Africa’s external debt.
Furthermore, this organ will also have a greater role to play in the efforts towards facilitating the free movement of people and goods within the African Union’s space.
Indeed, the areas of intervention of this organ are wide. However, in order to play an effective role this organ has to undergo restructuring in view of its relevance to the internal organization and its deliberations. The Parliament should, as a matter of urgency, approve its Rules of Procedure. In the same vein, it would be most appropriate and wise that, during its initial sessions, the Parliament focus extensively on NEPAD in order to have an intensive knowledge of this program and to be able to articulate NEPAD’s priorities in its Plan of Action.
We would also like to propose that the Parliament hold brainstorming sessions with the various bodies of the Union, Regional Economic Communities, with a view to working out better strategies and ways of articulating and establishing interaction between them.
Mr. Chairperson of the Commission,
Honorable Speakers of Parliaments,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
With the launching of the Pan-African Parliament, Africa could not feel more dignified. This event shall bear witness to the fact that all those who think that Africa’s future is bleak, are definitely wrong. Thus, the whole world shall be watching to see what added value this organ is going to contribute to our plan of building a strong and prosperous African Union, and a reliable partner for the various regions in the world.
Africa has already proved that she is capable. Unfortunately, it appears that our destiny means we should prove this every single day of our existence. Thus, we all bear a great responsibility. I am fully convinced that, today, as in the past, we shall succeed.
Africa’s day shall arrive. It must arrive because for the men, women, and youths of Africa, who are united around the ideals that our heroes fought and died for, we cannot but expect victory.
I thank you.
A luta Continua
Je vous remercie
March 25 2004
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