4/23/2024
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Rawlings Charges Parliament To Be The Voice Of The People

Ghana’s former President and African Union High Representative for Somalia, Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings has called on African Parliaments to defend and pursue the aims and aspirations of the electorate.


Ghana’s former President and African Union High Representative for Somalia, Flt Lt Jerry John Rawlings

President Rawlings called on ³MPs to move away from the lethargy of hear hear to the action of serving as the beacon of the masses ­ the weapon of progress and the tonic that consolidates democracy on our continent.²

He said if Parliaments were more assertive, the political unrests in the Northern part of could have been prevented.

³These could have been prevented if our parliaments were more assertive and ready to invoke impeachment clauses where leaders were subverting the national interest through the violation of human dignity, corruption and a blatant disregard for the letter of the law.²

In an address delivered to the Pan-African Parliament in Johannesburg on Monday, the African Union High Representative said: ³If as Parliamentarians we fall for either the allure of office, the whims of a political party or the control of the executive, how can we effectively scrutinize government activity?²

President Rawlings is the Guest of Honour at the Pan-African Parliament Speakers Conference taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa. Speakers from regional and national parliaments are participating in the two-day event.

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He told the gathering that Parliament has a huge role in creating political security and stability and called on the Pan-African Parliament to serve as check and balance on the quality of legislative processes offered by Parliaments across the continent.

The former Ghanaian President called on African governments to do more to consolidate the peace and security in Somalia.

He said: ³Africa has long suffered the humiliation of allowing others from elsewhere to intervene in its internal conflicts. We come from Africa, understand the socio-economic situations within most of our countries better and therefore have a better capacity to seek lasting solutions to these problems. It is about time we come together truly as one continent to head where necessary to defy the influence of external parties by showing friendship when our brothers are in need.²

Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings accompanied President Rawlings.

Please find below the full text of President Rawlings¹ address.

ADDRESS BY H.E. JERRY JOHN RAWLINGS, FORMER PRESIDENT OF GHANA AND AFRICAN UNION HIGH REPRESENTATIVE FOR SOMALIA AT THE PAN-AFRICAN PARLIAMENT SPEAKERS¹ CONFERENCE ­ OCTOBER 17, 2011

Mr. Chairman, Your Excellency Iddris Ndele, President of the Pan-African Parliament, Nana Konadu Agyeman-Rawlings, President of the 31st December Women¹s Movement, Ambassador Boubacar Diarra, Special Representative of the Chairperson of the African Union Commission to Somalia, Vice-President of the Pan-African Parliament, Excellences, Right Honourables, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is an honour to be part of an august gathering of Speakers of Parliaments from across the continent.

I am particularly happy to be here because it is an opportunity to speak about the situation in Somalia also. We all need to offer our political, moral and financial support towards alleviating the political and social situation in that country.

This conference, I believe will be reviewing amongst others the Protocol establishing the Pan-African Parliament and the ratification of African Union decisions on the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. These issues are vital to political development on the continent and I will therefore deviate a while from the subject of Somalia and offer my thoughts on some pertinent issues negatively affecting Africa¹s socio-political development.

Parliaments on the continent have a huge role to play in creating political security and stability within their individual countries and beyond. An organization such as yours should provide the check and balance on the quality of legislative processes our parliaments offer as an estate of the realm.

Parliaments have an internationally recognized role of debating and passing laws and scrutinizing the role of government. A member of parliament is elected by the people to represent their views and take decisions on their behalf, taking due cognizance of the national interest.

We all do appreciate that democracy is dynamic, that is why I have on various occasions called for the institution of democratic principles that respect the cultural nuances of individual countries and I believe it is time that the role of the electorate in having a certain control over their MPs is given due thought and attention, just as I have also believed that a political head without principles is doomed to failure.

Excellences, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen: If as Parliamentarians we fall for either the allure of office, the whims of a political party or the control of the executive, how can we effectively scrutinize government activity? How can we be assertive against the government and other institutions of state without falling victim to one punitive action or the other?

Across the continent majority of our citizens are not happy with government practices in spite of good policies. They see political parties ripping into each other in the media over policies that have already been endorsed by Parliament. The parliamentary majority who are almost always the party in power usually pass bills that may not necessarily have the approval of their constituents. But unfortunately most of our parliamentarians have become hapless and simply do not have the confidence to vote against policies that are unpopular and sometimes detrimental to national progress and development.

Parliaments have to change such negative posturing if they expect to have relevance in the socio-political development of the continent. Right from Somalia through to Cote D¹Ivoire, Tunisia and Egypt, the legislature has lacked the confidence to scrutinize the role of the Executive leading to a loss of confidence in the role of parliament.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Could we have prevented the political unrest in parts of the continent?

I am convinced we could have prevented at least the latest trend of political unrests that has removed governments by popular unrest. These could have been prevented if our parliaments were more assertive and ready to invoke impeachment clauses where leaders were subverting the national interest through the violation of human dignity, corruption and a blatant disregard for the letter of the law.

In effect, Ladies and Gentlemen, the political and judicial impunity of government and its leadership had and have become unbearable.

The institution of parliament should be ready to defend and protect the fundamental ethics of freedom, justice, probity and accountability. Parliaments have to enforce a level of transparency in the political field. It is pointless to have the power to pass laws only to fail to scrutinize the performance of the executive as far as the implementation of the letter of the law is concerned.

The fact that your institution is based here in South Africa provides a conducive political environment to bring, if not the best, a very high standard of democratic responsibility, allowing us to voice out some of the negative tendencies in our countries of origin.

Some of us tasted the people¹s revolt in the 1980s. Looking around can we say that the 80s have taught us any lessons? Have we learnt any lessons from the current upheavals in the Northern part of Africa? Will the transitional governments of Egypt and Tunisia carry out their moral mandate by rectifying and solidifying the rationale behind the civil revolution? Let us not betray the aspirations of the people. Let us as Parliamentarians scrutinize governments¹ actions and offer sound counsel for political growth.

Distinguished Guests, ladies and gentlemen, this is not a call on Parliament to become all-powerful and uncontrollable. This is a call for Parliament to become a true voice of the people. This is a call for MPs to respect, understand and pursue the aims and aspirations of the people. This is a call for MPs to move away from the lethargy of hear hear to the action of serving as the beacon of the masses ­ the weapon of progress and the tonic that consolidates democracy on our continent.

I appreciate that this audience comprises mostly speakers of parliament, but I hope that our Right Honourables will endeavor to share these concerns with their members of parliaments. As leaders of various parliaments you are obliged to inspire your members by offering them the leadership and sense of direction that will give them the confidence and positive defiance required to pursue a new age of legislative process in Africa.

Mr. Chairman, it is gratifying to note that the Pan-African Parliament is undergoing a process of transformation from a consultative body to a full legislative body with legislative and oversight powers. The Parliament¹s announcement that it will scrutinize the processes taking place in Somalia with respect to the distribution of relief aid as well as the process of political transition is very welcome.

Some 2.5 million people in Somalia still face the threat of famine and a strong statement of concern from the Pan-African Parliament endorses the concerns raised by many that there should be an effective monitoring and management of relief aid and other forms of assistance being provided towards the transitional process.

I travelled to Mogadishu last week, days after a barbaric suicide bomb claimed the lives of over 80 people, mostly students applying for scholarships to study in Turkey.

We must condemn in no uncertain terms the cowardly act targeted at young people seeking to study for the good of their country. The extremists have resorted to this cowardly act of killing innocent people because they have lost the military battle against AMISOM.

Ladies and gentlemen, as my delegation drove through the city center, I was touched by the sense of quiet defiance of the people. Five hundred metres from the scene of the recent bombing, the streets were packed with vehicular and human traffic. Small business and shops seemed to be booming all over the place.

A lot of work has been done by the under-resourced but bold African Union Forces drawn mainly from Uganda and Burundi with the support of TFG forces and the Al Sunna Wal Jama.

Mogadishu is getting back to normal and Al Shabaab¹s only weapon is to hide behind these cowardly suicide bombings which until recently were alien to the continent.

Mr. Chairman, while complimenting the role of the African Union Mission, we have to impress on our various governments to do more for the consolidation of peace, security and institutional development in Somalia.

Somalia does not consist only of Mogadishu. There has to be a plan to ensure that the whole of the country is liberated. This requires a combination of efforts including negotiating with the various clans and factions to pursue a one-Somalia agenda.

Somali stakeholders recently committed themselves to a rejuvenated political roadmap aimed at ending the transition in August next year with the ratification of a new constitution and the holding of elections. Ambitious as it is, it is a strong sign that there is a general fatigue over the prolonged transitional phase and those of us who are participating in this process appreciate the need for Somalis to offer confidence to the AU, the UN and many countries such as Turkey, Kenya and Ethiopia who are increasingly shouldering huge responsibility in assisting the war-torn country.

The United Nations Security Council on September 30 endorsed the revised roadmap; ³Recognizing that peace and stability in Somalia depend on reconciliation and effective governance across the whole of Somalia and urging all Somali parties to renounce violence and to work together to build peace and stability.²

The resolution also urged ³the Transitional Federal Institutions to increase their transparency and combat corruption to increase their legitimacy and credibility, and to enable continued support from the international community.²

Ladies and gentlemen, Somalia is not a lost cause. The process of peace-building and political stability while mainly the responsibility of Somalis can only be effective if we all offer our support.

Africa has long suffered the humiliation of allowing others from elsewhere to intervene in its internal conflicts. We come from Africa, understand the socio-economic situations within most of our countries better and therefore have a better capacity to seek lasting solutions to these problems. It is about time we come together truly as one continent to head where necessary to defy the influence of external parties by showing friendship when our brothers are in need.

When we take such a leadership role, it would boost our confidence and even serve as a weapon against future conflict. A lot of internal conflict is influenced from outside the continent so let us put in place a more unified front, empower the African Union and be more proactive to resolving issues on the continent before others stretch their interfering and sometimes intimidating hands.

Let us join hands, ladies and gentlemen, in congratulating all those countries that have shown great support for the peace process in Somalia and are still supporting the humanitarian situation. It is a tall list but I wish to thank South Africa, which sent its former Defense Minister to Mogadishu last week, Uganda and Burundi, whose troops are on the ground and whose Defense Ministers have spent days in Mogadishu in the past few weeks, Egypt, Sudan, Turkey and a host of others who have shown true love to the people of Somalia.

Gratitude also has to go to organisations such as Medecins Sans Frontieres, OXFAM, Gift of the Givers, private individuals and the British public who had by yesterday donated 72 million pounds to the victims of the Horn of Africa drought as well as those distributing on the ground ­ OCHA and Red Cross.

The onus is on the Somalis to recognize they have a responsibility to take control of their own destiny in a positive manner so they can continue to garner the support they have received so far. We have a responsibility as Africans to offer our support but so do the Somalis and we will continue as facilitators to the peace process to harp that point home.

Mr. Chairman, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen: I wish to thank you all, especially President Iddris Ndele for the opportunity to join you here today. I hope you will have fruitful deliberations during the two-day conference so that at the end of the day it would impact positively not only on parliaments across the continent but on the development of a trusted democratic process for Africa.



 





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