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Pan African Parliament Should Help Africa Criticise Itself - Mbeki
September 17, 2004

Business Day (Johannesburg)

September 17, 2004
Posted to the web September 17, 2004

Jonathan Katzenellenbogen , International Affairs Editor

THE first session of Africa's parliament, at its new home in SA, opened yesterday at Gallagher Estate in Midrand. It was marked by celebrations, prayers, and expectations that it would form part of the African renaissance.

But outside Gallagher Estate about 450 activists from the local branch of the main opposition party in Zimbabwe, the Movement for Democratic Change, held a peaceful demonstration and handed in a petition asking for help to bring about free and fair elections in their homeland.

In his address at the opening of the brand new body's first session yesterday, President Thabo Mbeki said the Pan African Parliament should help Africa to criticise itself and to create a new space for Africans to forge a collective identity.

Mbeki said: "We have the obligation constantly to criticise ourselves as we constantly measure the distance we have travelled to meet the hopes and aspirations of the masses of our people."

The Pan African Parliament's president, Tanzanian Gertrude Mongella, who will play the role of speaker, said that over the next four weeks the body would focus on the adoption of rules and procedures, and examine and debate the African Union's (AU's) mission, the New Partnership for Africa's Development, and the African peer review mechanism.

Mbeki said the eyes of Africa would be on the new parliament as it carried out its work during its second sitting from today to October 7.

So far 46 of the 53 member states of the AU have ratified the body's protocols, and have sent delegations to the inaugural session in Midrand.


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