July 8, 2004

To host pan-African parliament

South Africa will host the new pan-African parliament, leaders at the African Union summit have decided. The decision was made after Egypt, the only other contender, withdrew. "We are very happy to serve the continent in that way," South Africa's Foreign Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said from Addis Ababa. Loosely modelled on the European Union parliament, the body, set up to debate continent-wide issues and to advise AU heads of state, is intended to be more robust than the Organisation of African Union body it succeeds.

In responding, South Africa's newspapers, have given a mixed reaction. Whilst some papers welcomed the decision, others say the privilege of hosting the pan-African parliament will not come cheaply to South Africans. "No doubt there will be groans from taxpayers over footing a bill whose size has not yet been determined," says The Citizen. It also comments that the honour of hosting the parliament comes with obligations to take the right moral decision and that South Africa will be seen as a showcase for Africa. Enhancing South Africa's reputation and the prospect of more jobs are seen as some of the positive effects. "There's a sense that even though the cost might be quite high, there will be spin-offs in terms of job-creation at the parliament," our correspondent said. It is not yet known where the parliament will be based, although the capital, Pretoria, and Gallagher Estate, an area north of Johannesburg, have both been suggested.
The AU summit failed to resolve how it will fund its operations, although the African Union Chairman Alpha Oumar Konare has ambitious plans. Highlights from the three-day AU summit include:

- Agreement to send 300 AU troops to Darfur in Sudan to protect civilians and ceasefire monitors
- Plans approved for Africa's development, but no agreement on how to raise $1.7bn to fulfil its vision
- Nepad's Peer Review Mechanism makes progress as Angola, Lesotho, Malawi and Tanzania agree to sign up to it; while Rwanda and Mozambique volunteered to be first among the 22 countries to be reviewed, in a scheme that is hoped will attract investment
- Mini-summit held to revive Ivory Coast's peace process
- Report dropped criticising Zimbabwe's human rights record
- South Africa chosen to host pan-African parliament
- Nigeria's President Olusugun Obasanjo elected AU chairman
- Outgoing chairman Chissano announced the adoption of Kiswahili as the continental body's
working language. (Mail & Guardian, Johannesburg / News24, South Africa / The Post, Lusaka)


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