Forum for past African presidents, prime ministers advocated

BY: Samuel K. Obour

Former President Rawlings

A former Egyptian diplomat, Ambassador Ahmed Haggag, has proposed the establishment of a forum for past African presidents and prime ministers to share their expertise with their current counterparts.

The forum, which he said should be championed by the African Union (AU),  would ensure that current African leaders did not repeat mistakes of the past but rather benefited from the knowledge and expertise of their predecessors.

Speaking  at the opening of the 41st training course  for young  African journalists in Cairo, Egypt, the former career diplomat observed that most of the former heads of state were now engaged by universities outside the continent.

He spoke on the theme: "50 Years after the OAU Foundation".

According to him, similar attempts in the past to bring together such a wide array of knowledge on governance and leadership failed because of lack  of commitment.

The criteria for joining the forum is that the heads of state should have been democratically elected and also completed their terms of office democratically.

Organised by the Union of African Journalists with the support of Egypt's Ministry of Media, the programme brought together 20 journalists from Ghana, Egypt, Mali,  DR Congo, Angola, Niger, Guinea, Djibouti, Mauritius, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Tanzania, Malawi and Mauritania.

It is aimed at re-orienting journalists across the continent to make conscious efforts to promote peace, regional integration and further enhance the relationship between Egypt and other countries on the African continent.

The training programme coincides with the golden jubilee of the AU (formerly the Organisation of African Unity), which came into being on May 25, 1963. It later became AU in 1999.

While commending the erstwhile Organisation of African Unity for leading the crusade against colonisation in Africa and ensuring that almost all African countries were freed from the shackles of colonisation, Mr Haggag noted that it was regrettable that its replacement, the AU, was reorganised in haste and without enough consultation.

While some see the AU as a new body with a stronger will to promote the interest of the  continent, the former ambassador said the failure of the then leadership to consult African leaders and the African Parliament and even the people before pushing the agenda meant that the AU had no teeth to bite.

The new AU charter established a Pan-African Parliament with representation from all parts of the continent. However, the Pan-African Parliament has no legislative power to enact laws that bind all African governments.

"If the Pan-African Parliament is the epitome of democracy, but it has no legislative power and cannot make laws that can be adopted across the continent, our leaders are afraid that a vibrant Pan-African Parliament may interfere in their countries," he said.

 Mr Haggag acknowledged that while the Consultative Act gave the union power to intervene by force where there is genocide, for instance, Africans should be given the opportunity to decide the direction of the union as is done in other parts of the world, including Europe.

Mr Haggag, who spoke at length on elections on the continent, said it was not enough for AU observers to visit countries a few days to elections but ideally, they should monitor the elections from the campaign level to ensure that a level playing field is created for all.

Responding to a question, he said African leaders who had perpetrated serious  crimes against humanity were not put on trial on the continent because of the vindictive nature of African politicians and the inadequate confidence they had in the judiciary in some countries on the continent.

"Most of the leaders are vindictive. They are not concerned about justice. When people are released after trial,  the people claim the court is corrupt.We can agree to try our perpetrators in our courts but we have not reached there yet," he said.

In spite of all the challenges confronting the AU, Mr Haggag said the continent had no excuse but had to ensure that the AU became successful in pursuing a path that would be beneficial to the continent.

In that respect, he called on African journalists to lead the way in pushing the African agenda against poverty, insecurity and promotion of regional integration.

Story: Seth J. Bokpe