The chaos that characterised proceedings at the Pan African Parliament (PAP) over a rotational presidency of the body points to deep-seated divisions in an institution that is supposed to champion continental unity, analysts say.
PAP failed to conclude its presidential election after the Southern African bloc demanded a rotational presidency while West Africa and some East African nations were opposed to adoption of the concept.
Namibian MP Mr McHenry Venaani accused West Africa of imposing a dictatorship of numbers, a position backed by South African legislator Mr Julius Malema and his Zimbabwean counterpart Ms Barbra Rwodzi.
University of Namibia-based international relations expert Dr Ndumba Kamwanyah said the impasse stemmed from the continued failure by Africa’s leaders to converge on common development agendas.
“This is an issue that is coming from a long time ago even when the now African Union was formed as Organisation of African Unity where one group was pushing for a fully united Africa while others have always wanted to preserve their independence and sovereignty.
“I think both the Francophone and Anglophone countries are driving the wrong argument because to unite the continent we care less about where the PAP president comes from but the principles driving the organisation now and in the future,” Dr Kamwanyah said.
“I am afraid the ugly scenes which characterised proceedings at the PAP are now defining the whole continent and are also an indication that we still have a long walk to a united continent for as long as we don’t deal with fundamental issues. The PAP leaders are trying to treat the symptoms without identifying the causes. The real division comes from a clear lack of interest in moving forward in creating the Africa we all want.”
The Namibia University of Science and Technology’s Professor Admire Mare said the PAP debacle reflected badly on internal democratic processes.
“It shows a parliament which has failed to deal with internal contradictions in a more progressive manner. It sends the wrong kinds of messages to spectators and puts egg on the face of African politicians and its citizens.
“Most of the divisions are colonially inherited and sponsored. Most of these countries still rely on funding from our erstwhile colonisers hence it’s easy to deduce that these divisions have geopolitical and economic interests of superpowers.”
After verbal and physical confrontations at the PAP sitting in Midrand, South Africa, the spokesperson of the organisation’s secretariat, Mr Jeffrey Onganga, announced that the indefinite suspension of the elections.
Southern Africa was pushing for Zimbabwe’s Chief Fortune Charumbira to take over the PAP presidency, East and West Africa backed Mali’s Haidara Aichite Cisse.
Chief Charumbira is acting president.
PAP is led by a Bureau which is composed of a president and four vice-presidents, all drawn from the African Union’s five regions.
South African MP Mr Malema said: “The forefathers that came before us wanted to eliminate unnecessary contestations amongst Africans by coming up with democratic principles which would cover all regions. If you are concerned about the unity of the continent and are not serving the interests of colonialists and imperialists, you will not have a difficulty with a principle that will unite Africans.”
South African National Assembly Speaker Thandi Modise weighed in: “The PAP is a fundamental instrument for our continent. I believe it must continue to be the home of African democracy, and continue to represent the people of Africa.
“We must remember that the PAP was set up to ensure the full participation of African people in the economic development and integration of the continent. We must all live up to it. Our potential will only be harnessed through unity.
“It is time that we recognise that unity is not how we show might. Unity will not come about on how we show wealth, unity is about slowing the pace to enable the slowest among us to keep up.”
AU Chairperson Mouusa Faki Mahamat was appalled by the events in Midrand.
“The shocking scenes of violence at the #PanAfricanParliemnt today tarnish the image of this honourable institution,” he tweeted. “I appeal to all parliamentarians to recover their composure and comply with the rules and procedures of the institution.”
Reporting by Tiri Masawi in Windhoek & Leslie Chimbama in Harare