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African Union Inaugurates Pan-African Parliament - 2004-03-18

The African Union Thursday inaugurated its Pan-African Parliament in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa. The assembly will start with largely symbolic powers.

The African Union has inaugurated its Pan-African Parliament, with over 200 delegates from AU member countries present to mark the occasion. Its first president is Tanzanian politician Gertrude Mongela.

Desmond Orjiako, A spokesman for the African Union, explains the role of the Pan-African Parliament.

"We have a lot of hope in the Pan African Parliament. We expect them to be the ones who will legislate on issues of social, political, and economic concern to the continent," he said. "We expect that they should bring about greater unity and solidarity to Africa."

Planning for the Pan-African Parliament has been in the works for three years.

Mr. Orjiako says, for the first five years, the Parliament will act primarily as an advisory body for the African Union.

Kenyan Foreign Affairs Minister Kalonzo Musyoka, who recently attended an African Union meeting, is optimistic about what the Pan African Parliament can accomplish.

"African Parliament will be one of the institutions that will be helping to capture the African dream of having, eventually, United States of Africa. African Parliament will actually be a unifying platform," he said.

Mr. Musyoka says the assembly will serve as a model for Kenya and other countries.

"You can always have a comparison (of) good practices and what challenges face domestic parliaments, for instance, and how best to deepen democracy," he said.

The parliament will, at first, meet twice a year, but its seat has not been picked yet.