Great Lakes security, Mayotte tensions urgent topics at major ACP-EU parliamentary meeting

By Joel Savage and Joyce Van Gederen

Addis Ababa, 20 November 2013: More than 200 Members of Parliament from ACP and EU member states will meet in the Ethiopian capital this week to discuss issues of shared concern at the 26th session of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly from 25th to 27th November.

Key issues on the agenda for ACP countries include South-South cooperation and triangular cooperation, the rule of law and the role of an impartial and independent judiciary, pastoralism, and the institutional cooperation between the African Union and the European Union, amongst others.

Urgent resolutions are expected on the situation in the Comoros archipelago, including the France-Comoros territorial dispute over Mayotte Island, as well as security issues in the Great Lakes region. The meeting is aimed at promoting active political dialogue and cooperation between African, Caribbean and Pacific representatives and their counterparts at the European Parliament.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariyam Desalegn and Speaker of Ethiopia’s House of Peoples’ Representatives Abadula Gemeda Dago are set to open the main plenary alongside JPA Co-Presidents Joyce Laboso of Kenya and Louis Michel of Belgium. The programme also includes catch-the-eye debates with EU Development Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, the Presidents-in-Office of the ACP Council of Ministers, as well as the European Council.  Mr. Piebalgs will also report on the actions taken by the Commission on previous JPA resolutions.

“The Joint Parliamentary Assembly is one of the most important organs of the ACP-EU partnership that facilitates frank and open discussions between political leaders from ACP and EU member countries. It is a unique tool for cooperation whereby members cover highly relevant and often sensitive issues that affect our people,” stated ACP Secretary General Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni. “Preparatory committee meetings of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly were launched today, before we join our European colleagues for joint deliberations next week.”

Members of parliaments from 78 ACP countries are invited to take part in the dialogue, alongside an equal number of peers from the European side. The Joint Assembly occurs twice annually, with regional sessions also held throughout the year in the ACP regions.

On the 22 November 2013, ACP: African Members of Parliament called for intensified support from the ACP Group and the international community for the worsening security situation in the Central African Republic, during political meetings held this week in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

“The ACP Group should make an early warning of the [potential] eruption of war in CAR. We need to put a fact-finding mission on the ground… All parliaments are duty-bound to respond and support efforts made by international bodies on the issue,” said Tanzanian MP Hon. Mussa Azzan Zungu, at the 34th session of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly.

Clashes last December between the Seleka rebel movement and the CAR government culminated in a coup in March 2013. Regional efforts quickly established the National Transitional Council (CNT), as well as an interim government and an 18-month roadmap towards free and fair elections in 2015. The ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly passed a resolution in June supporting these efforts.

But Tchad deputy Hon. Adjedoue Weidou pointed out that the transitional period towards the planned 2015 elections has been jeopardised by escalating violence.  More ethnic and communal tensions have erupted in recent weeks between Seleka and other groups in the north-western part of CAR, killing more than 200 people and displacing at least 170,000.

It compounds the ongoing acute humanitarian trauma, including the displacement of tens of thousands of Central Africans, both internally and as refugees in neighbouring countries. Serious human rights violations have been reported, inflicted by armed groups, such as killings, rape, torture and enlistment of children into their forces. The UN estimates more than 1.5 million CAR nationals in need of humanitarian assistance as a result of the food crisis and past and present violence.

“Holding the elections at the beginning of 2015 requires the pacification of the entire Republic,” said Central African delegate Hon. Laurent Ngom-Baba. He said it was imperative that no effort be spared to support the work of the African-led International Support Mission to the CAR at all levels.  It is expected that a declaration on the issue will be finalised by ACP parliamentarians by the end of their meetings next week on Wednesday 27th November.

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