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Author Topic: Rawlings: Africa needs to have a strong voice  (Read 651 times)

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Rawlings: Africa needs to have a strong voice

Address by H.E. Jerry John Rawlings, Former President of the Republic of Ghana 10th
Anniversary Celebrations of Pan-African Parliament - Johannesburg, South Africa, March 18, 2014
Mr Chairman,

Excellencies Presidents Jacob Zuma and Mohammed Abdel Aziz,

Excellencies colleague former Heads of State and Government,

The Chairperson of the African Union, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma,

The President of the Pan African Parliament, Hon. Nnaemeka Amadi,

Speakers of Parliament,

Former Presidents of the Pan African Parliament,

Ministers of State,

Members of the Pan-African Parliament,

Members of the Diplomatic Corps,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is an honour to join you here today to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the Pan-African Parliament.

The rationale behind the establishment of the Pan-African Parliament has been well spelt out by several speakers at today’s event and I will not go into that. The Parliament has executed its advisory and consultative role as the legislative organ of the African Union quite creditably over the past ten years.

It is thus appropriate that the theme for the celebration is: Ten Years Of The Existence Of The Pan-African Parliament: Reflections On Its Role.

The truth is that we cannot discuss the role of the Pan African Parliament without placing significant emphasis on the African Union. The Pan-African Parliament was established as part of the ambitious plan to unify the continent and to integrate it not just economically, culturally and socially, but also politically.

After ten years in existence, there are questions about the autonomy of the Parliament and its lack of legislative powers. There are also important questions about how the continent can be truly independent if its Parliament continues to depend on donor support rather than agreed subventions from member states.

The Pan-African Parliament has undeniably played a significant role in establishing various protocols of the African Union, thereby enhancing the AU’s relevance. The Parliament has also offered significant support towards strengthening legislatures across the continent. These structures are key to the eventual integration of the continent.

Notable amongst your roles is the monitoring of elections across the continent. Your declaration of the August 2013 election in Zimbabwe as free and fair while others sought to denigrate the process was commendable.

If as a continent we are keen to let our voice be heard, then we cannot continue to procrastinate on the matter of integration. Integration may sound ambitious for a huge 54-member organization, but continued delay further relegates our continent to the depths of irrelevance.

Ladies and gentlemen, there are several developments across the globe that cannot escape our attention, especially because many of these developments have affected our continent in the past few years. Developments in Syria and Ukraine may seem irrelevant to our continent, but they are not. They are not much different from the terrible events that unraveled in Côte d’Ivoire in 2011 and in Libya in the same year.

As a continent we cannot continue to allow some members of the developed world to interfere and intervene in our affairs while we become passive observers. Today Libya is but a pale shadow of itself with militants ensuring on a daily basis that political authority does not take root.

It is significant to note however that in the midst of the political turmoil Libya finds herself in, its national football team put up a brave and determined fight to win the CHAN Football tournament earlier this year. The result was a clear manifestation of the fact that beneath all the pessimism and negativity is a spirit of determination, which has to be nurtured, guided and supported into a positive governance structure.

As a continent we cannot look on while elected Presidents are plucked out of their countries and humiliated in such a crude manner. Some of us chose to blame Laurent Gbagbo and Gaddafi for the fate that befell them. We are equally to blame for looking on as the global powers entered our continent and virtually staged coups in our countries.

Our continent needs to merge its power into one meaningfully strong voice. We need to question why the West is so uncomfortable about the Ukraine and Crimea issue when evidence abounds of gross Western interventions in the recent past, as earlier stated, and in the distant and not too distant past.

Ladies and gentlemen, all these interventions have been justified by the current unipolar authority as an attempt to protect its interests, so wherein lies the illogicality of the action by Russia, where the bulk of the population are ethnic Russians who voted in Sunday’s referendum to unite with Russia and secede from the Ukraine? Wherein lies the illogicality of Russia protecting its various military bases and oil distribution outlets in that region? If this was good for the goose, why is it also not good for the gander?

It is clear that in spite of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the bipolar leadership of the world, Russia's undiminished status and the emerging power of China still worries and irritates the West's desire to be at the helm of a sole unipolar power.

The late Mandela was the only international figure whose voice could hold President Bush and Prime Minister Blair in check in Iraq. International appeals to them fell on deaf ears and this is in spite of the fact that they had used the pretext of weapons of mass destruction to enter Iraq. It was the height of impunity to use a false declaration at the UN to enter Iraq when they did and to go as far as they went.

A few days ago defeated US Presidential candidate Senator John McCain stated that Russia is a gas station parading as a country run by a corrupt, autocratic regime. I thought his comments were so unfortunate because his description of Russia is the story of several parts of Africa today. The so-called unipolar power of the West has rather reduced the quality of democratic power in Africa. Multiparty democracy has been unable to contain corruption and injustice. On the contrary all the negatives of good governance is what is at place – nepotism, corruption, human rights abuse, the breakdown of the moral fabric of our society, electoral theft is what McCain will find on my continent under their watch where their media continue to whitewash some of the most corrupt regimes and personalities while demonizing the patriots. It is significant that McCain aptly described Russia’s actions as reflecting “a growing disregard for America’s credibility in the world.”

The world would much rather want to respect and admire the United States than resent and fear the United States. Senator McCain and others need to constantly examine why Pope John Paul described economic practices following the collapse of the bipolar world as the savagery of capitalism.

Throughout the global ups and downs the world has been enduring, one man who has emerged full of respect and admired for his fair-mindedness is Putin. And the mass of people wanting to identify with him is real.

The position of the West and their media with respect to the Ukraine issue is shocking. Their inconsistencies, their hypocrisy and the massive misrepresentation are an insult to the intelligence of the world. Far lesser circumstances have elicited the overreaction as well as political and military intervention of the West. And yet a stronger justification, from a historical point of view, from a security/military standpoint and the recent political behavior in Ukraine is was precipitated Russia’s reaction.

Is right right only when the West says so or is wrong wrong only when the West says so? Some of their actions go against the grain of judicial consciousness of humanity.

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen: Africa has power in numbers and resources. It has power in size and cultural uniqueness. This can be forged into a powerful voice of reason.

The time has come for Africa to shake itself out of the culture of censorship and restraint and to assert itself. We have the right to speak against the global power play in Syria and Iraq. We have the right to prevent the negative interference by the former colonial powers in the many conflicts in its former territories and we have the power to resolve our own problems if we choose to. Let us not allow this opportunity to slip by.

Distinguished guests, Ladies and gentlemen, I wish to congratulate the Pan-African Parliament on its tenth anniversary. We will offer our support as you enter the next decade and I am convinced that sooner rather than later members will be elected by universal suffrage.

I wish to commend members for recognizing the need for gender balance in your quest to serve our continent. You have already had one lady President in the person of Ambassador Gertrude Mongella and you currently have two lady Vice-Presidents. Congratulations.

Do have a successful anniversary and continue to be relevant to the wave of change required to bolster the fortunes of this proud continent of ours.

Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen: Thank you.

Knowledge Is Power – Seek For It


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