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Africa: Pan-African Parliament to Become Continent-Wide Legislative Body

(Nov. 23, 2010) It was reported on November 22, 2010, that the Pan-African Parliament is on the verge of becoming a continent-wide legislative body with the authority to make laws binding on all members of the African Union (AU). (Fred Oluoch, Pan African Parliament Soon to Make Laws Binding AU Members, THE EAST AFRICAN (Nov. 22, 2010), The Parliament is an AU organ established through the Protocol to the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community Relating to the Pan- African Parliament. The Protocol was adopted in March 2001 and entered into force in December 2003. (List of Countries Which Have Signed, Ratified/Acceded to the Protocol to the Treaty Establishing the African Economic Community Relating to the Pan-African Parliament, AU website, (last visited Nov. 22, 2010).)

Although currently restricted to exercising an advisory role, the Parliament is expected to eventually become a legislative body. The Protocol provides that although the Parliament will be restricted to advisory and consultative powers at the beginning, it should eventually be given the authority to make laws. (Protocol, arts. 2(3) & 11, AU website, (last visited Nov. 22, 2010).) The Parliament, during its Third Ordinary Session (held Oct. 4 -14, 2010), debated its transformation into a legislative institution. (Oluoch, supra.) However, the ultimate decision as to when the Parliament will assume legislative functions, if it does so, and its legislative jurisdiction lies with the Assembly (composed of the heads of State and government of the African Economic Community (AEC)), and it will require an amendment to the Protocol approved by at least a two-thirds majority of the Assembly. (Protocol, supra, arts. 3, 11, & 24.)

The objectives of the Parliament, both in its current status as an advisory body and after it assumes legislative functions, include:

· facilitating the effective implementation of the policies and objectives of the OAU [Organization of African Unity, the predecessor of the AU]/AEC and, ultimately, of the AU;

· promoting the principles of human rights and democracy in Africa;

· encouraging good governance, transparency, and accountability in Member States;

· familiarizing the peoples of Africa with the objectives and policies aimed at integrating the African continent within the framework of the establishment of the African Union;

· promoting peace, security and stability;

· contributing to a more prosperous future for the peoples of Africa by promoting collective self-reliance and economic recovery;

· facilitating cooperation and development in Africa;

· strengthening Continental solidarity and building a sense of common destiny among the peoples of Africa; and

· facilitating cooperation among regional economic communities and their Parliamentary fora. (Id. art. 3.)

Each member state is represented in the Parliament by five parliamentarians reflecting the diversity of political opinions in its national legislative body. At least one of the representatives is required to be a woman. (Id. art. 4.)