Pan-African parliament launched

The African Union (AU) has called for peace at the launch of a pan-African parliament saying an end to the many conflicts on the world's poorest continent could spur development and attract investment.

    Chissano attributes African backwardness to conflicts

    "Without peace all our plans will be but utopia," the AU chairman, Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, said in a speech launching the assembly at the 53-member union's headquarters in Addis Ababa.


    "Conflicts are largely the direct cause of the economic and social backwardness of our continent," he said.


    The African Union is a continent-wide body intended to foster a common approach to development in a continent scarred by conflict in Liberia, Burundi, Sudan, Somalia, Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo.


    It wants the assembly, modelled on the European Parliament, to give Africans a bigger say in how they are governed.


    Focus on democracy


    But with several African states ruled by leaders who seized power in coups or won elections regarded as flawed, some analysts say the union should focus on developing democracy at a national level before launching grand and costly institutions.


    The cash-strapped AU has already asked members to raise their contributions to fund its operations.


    "I know most of them, they are serious people committed to make a difference in Africa"

    Gertrude Mongella,

    The assembly, due to hold at least two sessions a year, is to provide a venue for debates on human rights, democracy, culture and good governance, the AU says.


    It will have only consultative and advisory powers in its first five years but is eventually intended to have legislative powers and will also seek to harmonise laws of member countries.


    No talking shop


    The newly elected assembly speaker, Getrude Mongella from Tanzania, said the parliament would not be a mere talking shop.


    "I do not expect that members would meet simply to discuss trifles. I know most of them, they are serious people committed to make a difference in Africa," she said.


    "The pan-African parliament will also take the issues concerning globalisation and its impact on the economies of African countries very seriously," she added.


    Each AU member has five representatives in the 265-member assembly, picked from each state's national parliament.

    Currently, there are only 195 members since to date only 39 countries have ratified the protocol setting up the pan-African body.


    AU officials said a decision on whether South Africa or Egypt will be the parliament's permanent home would be taken at a heads of state meeting in July.

    SOURCE: Reuters


    Interactive: Take a tour through divided Jerusalem

    Interactive: Take a tour through divided Jerusalem

    Take a tour through East and West Jerusalem to see the difference in quality of life for Israelis and Palestinians.

    Stories from the sex trade

    Stories from the sex trade

    Dutch sex workers, pimps and johns share their stories.

    Inside the world of India's booming fertility industry

    Inside the world of India's booming fertility industry

    As the stigma associated with being childless persists, some elderly women in India risk it all to become mothers.