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PAP meets to elect new leadership but questions remain over rotation policy

A member of the Pan African Parliament kicks out at ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina during scuffles over the election of the parliament's new leadership.
A member of the Pan African Parliament kicks out at ANC chief whip Pemmy Majodina during scuffles over the election of the parliament's new leadership.
Image: Screengrab

The Pan African Parliament (PAP) could descend into chaos again when it sits to elect new leadership this week.

At issue is the so-called principle of rotation which, if implemented, could see the election of the first PAP president from the Southern African Development Community (Sadc).

The principle provides for the PAP presidency to rotate among the five regions of the AU — North, West, East, Central and Southern Africa. It is followed by the AU in all its organs as a means to unite the continent. 

Of the continent’s five regions, the Southern African and North African regions are the only two that have not held the presidency since its inception in 2004.

According to sources within the PAP, the north is happy not to stand as it is still sorting out regional issues and to allow the Sadc to run.

The Sadc caucus has been campaigning for Zimbabwean MP Chief Fortune Charumbira for the presidency. But his former campaign manager and Malawian MP, Yeremiah Chihana, also threw his name in the hat a few weeks ago, a development which is likely to divide the region.

But this may be the least of Sadc’s problems as PAP insiders this week indicated that while there was an agreement on the rotation principle at the AU, without the principle being enacted or ratified by the PAP it is not enforceable.

According to the sources, not all the AU regions have accepted the principle and so far it was just a “gentleman’s agreement”.

The principle is likely to come up for discussion in September when the body meets to discuss policies and after the relevant structures have been established.

“It is nothing more than a gentleman’s agreement for now,” said a highly-placed PAP insider who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“It will depend on the goodwill of the other regions, otherwise there is no law or rule that stops them from contesting the position.”

The sources said South Sudan’s Albino Aboug’s candidacy was further evidence that rotation was unlikely to be implemented. South Sudan is part of the East Africa region.

“If it was to be implemented, we would only be having candidates from the north and south,” said one source.

In a letter to PAP delegates last week, Aboug wrote there was nothing new in the election of the PAP presidency and elections should be conducted by following the rules without fear or favour.

“We know it is the MPs themselves nominated by five regions who manage the elections of the bureau and count the votes. We know it is the duty of the clerk to call for nominations from all five regions, both for the president and four vice-presidents. There is nothing new.

“That is how the PAP has managed elections of the bureau in the past. Nothing has changed until the rules are amended.”

Aboug is a former child soldier who later studied in the US. He said if elected, he would seek to unite Africa to bring progress to the continent.

“I am committed to maintain a clean governance of the PAP so that all resources are accounted for and members get as much support as possible to do their work.

“Though nominated by my caucus, I will become your president, each one of you from all countries. I have suffered the ravages of war and represented African youth at the highest levels globally. I know the first hand challenges facing the youth and women in particular. We must do all we can through this parliament to become the voice of the voiceless in our continent.”

PAP sources have also spoken of rumours of a possible disruption by the Sadc caucus if the rotation policy is not implemented.

“We hear of a possible breakdown of the session because the south will insist on rotation, but it is not on the agenda and it can’t be on the agenda because there are no structures and relevant officials to make it possible to have a policy. For now, rotation is a pie in the sky,” said one insider.

There will be no deliberations on policy. The only item on the agenda is elections.

Election of the president is on Tuesday and elections for the bureau on Wednesday,  the caucuses and committees, on Friday the session closes.

Policy discussions will only come after a president and all officials have been elected and when the session officially sits, which is expected to be later this year.


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