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04.06.2007 General News

Ghana civil society proposes elected African Parliament

By Ayuure Kapini Atafori

Ghanaian civil society groups have proposed the setting up of a legislating African Parliament directly elected by universal suffrage based on proportional representation as one of the means of establishing and consolidating United States of Africa.

The convener of Ghana- African Union Civil Society Coalition, Emmanuel Akwetey, on behalf of the coalition, also proposed the expansion of the Executive Council of the African Union to include chairpersons of the ministerial conferences.

Dr Akwetey made these proposals, among others, at an interaction with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Regional Co operation and NEPAD, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, in Accra Friday. The interaction was under the theme, "Informing Ghana's Position on the AU Summit and Grand Debate." It was chaired by Nana S K B Asante, Asokorehene and former president of Ghana Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Another proposal the coalition made is the creation of an Executive Commission with president and vice president to be appointed by the Assembly of Heads of states for six years and the appointment of commissioners by the Executive Council. The coalition also proposed that consultation with the Economic, Social and Cultural Council of the AU should be enshrined in all deliberations of the Assembly.

In addition, the coalition urged the AU to establish financial structures to harmonise internal African trading and financial exchange as well as set up national commissions on AU Affairs to include Civil Society Organisations, and disseminate decisions and accelerate implementation of the Continental Union Government.

The AU summit takes place in Accra from 2nd to 3rd July. The interaction brought together CSOs, professional bodies, academia, the business community and the media to engage the Foreign Minister in dialogue in an attempt to inform Ghana"s position on the AU summit and the grand debate for the US of Africa.

The coalition is made up of about 30 CSOs including the Growth and Poverty Forum, Action Aid, Trade Union Congress, Third World Network, Oxfam, Global Call ton Action against Poverty-Ghana, Institute of Democratic governance and Organisation of African Trade Union Unity.

The coalition is working to mobilise people's participation in the forthcoming AU summit. It also co-ordinates all civil society activities before, during and after the summit at the national and pan -African civil society levels.

Despite the establishment of the AU in 2002, there is widespread acknowledgement that the pace of setting the United States of Africa is slow. So a strong continental machinery is required to accelerate the progress of the US of Africa. A proposal has, therefore, been made for the step-by-step establishment of the US of Africa in three phases.

The first phase, which involves the establishment of the Union Government, begins this year and ends 2009. The second phase envisages that the Union Government will be fully operational and prepare the constitutional basis for the take off of the US of Africa, and slated for 2009 to 2012.

The third phase takes off where the second ends and will be completed by 2015. At this phase, all the required structures of the US of Africa at the level of the states, the regions and the whole continent will be put in place.

In a speech read on his behalf by Hanson Hall, head of the Africa and AU Bureau at the Foreign Ministry, Nana Akufo-Addo gave an overview of the strategies and timetable decided by African Heads of State and Government for the creation of the continental Union Government and US of Africa.

Nana Akufo-Addo said the AU decided in January this year that Ghana should host the summit with the sole agenda of forming a Union Government. He said there is a majority position among African leaders that a gradual approach to the establishment of the US of Africa should be adopted, while a minority is in favour of immediate continental integration.

During the interactive session, K B Asante, a former diplomat, contended that the gradualist model was an old-long argument that has no validity as evidenced by historical developments in Africa. Victor Gbeho, a former diplomat and Foreign Minister, argued that Africa spent a long time on the gradual approach to no avail, adding "gradualist approach is an excuse for the many who do not accept African unity."

Kwame Ninsin, Director of Information and research at IDEG, recalled Ghana's historic role in African unity, and suggested that the AU leaders chose Ghana to host the July summit because they took cognizance of its role in pioneering Union Government.

Professor Ninsin said the country must meet the expectations of the leaders by fashioning out a proactive strategy for the summit to consolidate Africa's unity.