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01 Jan 2002 00:00
The African Union (AU) will not merely be a continuation of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) under a different name, acting Foreign Minister Zola Skweyiya said on Thursday.
Instead, the AU will reflect a greater openness and willingness by African governments to be “mutually scrutinised” in areas such as human rights, he said.
Skweyiya was the main speaker at the opening of a meeting of MPs from across Africa, assembled in Cape Town on the eve of the formation of the AU and the Pan-African Parliament.
The AU’s mandate was much broader than that of the OAU, he said. It included the principles contained in the charter of the OAU, as well as the goals of the Abuja treaty regarding social and economic development.
The union would also have a greater capacity to deal effectively with the political challenges of peace, security and stability, and assist in implementing the continent’s economic recovery plan—the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (Nepad).
“The AU has come at the ideal time as an instrument for implementing Nepad and bringing about an age of prosperity and progress in Africa.”
The union would also be the continent’s principle organisation for achieving “political and socio-economic integration between states and peoples,” Skweyiya said.
National Assembly Speaker Dr Frene Ginwala said the time was long overdue for African parliaments to “come together to discuss substantive issues on matters that affect our continent”.
“We need to share perspectives and exchange views, so that we may collectively determine our role as parliamentarians in ensuring that the voice of the people is heard and heeded in this momentous period of our continent’s history,” Ginwala said.
National Council of Provinces chair Naledi Pandor, told the meeting no true African democrat had ever rejected the idea of African unity.
There was a “renewed energy” on the continent, for the hopes and aspirations of historic African leaders to be realised, she said.
The meeting of African parliamentarians, which ends on Friday, is being hosted by South Africa’s Parliament in the National Assembly chamber.
It is likely to be the last large gathering of African MPs before the formation of the AU and the Pan-African Parliament in Durban next month.
Delegations from each African Parliament, led by their Speaker or Deputy, as well as the heads of regional parliaments and parliamentary forums, were invited to attend.
A number of topics relating to the formation of the AU are expected to be discussed.
These include the processes towards establishing the union and its organs, the AU Protocol, and the economic integration and development of the continent, building on the existing regional initiatives, such as SADC and ECOWAS, as well as Nepad.
Civil society involvement in the AU processes, and the dispute resolution processes and mechanisms envisaged for the union—taking into account existing initiatives and organs—will also be discussed, a statement said.
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