APRM official underscores media role in governance

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) - As some member countries of the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) get ready to embark on the second generation assessment, the chair of the peer review panel, Prof. Mohamed-Seghir Babes, has challenged the continent's media to step up their reporting on the peoples' perceptions of good and bad governance.

"In every assessment mission we have a special place for the media. They are the ones who report the best on what the people consider as bad governance. Journalists are our major partners," Babes said Monday at a meeting with members of the press on the sidelines of
the 16th ordinary session of the Assembly of the African Union underway here.

Fourteen of the 29 APRM member countries have completed their review process on various thematic areas, including democracy and political governance, economic governance and management, corporate governance, and socio-economic development.

The APR Forum recommends measures to improve wherever there are shortcomings and requires every assessed country to report back within a year about its action plan with regard to the assessment.

"It is a decision of the panel that we open up to the press and get feedback from journalists. We want the media that are free and responsible in their reporting, but also respect others. This is an area we consider to be universal and absolutely necessary," said Prof. Babes, who
took over the forum chair in July 2010.

Emphasizing freedom of expression and freedom of the press as fundamental principles of good governance, he said African governments should heed the values of transparency in all areas of governance.

"We need to be transparent and the more transparent we are the better. We should exercise leadership collectively to ensure that in all countries there is freedom of expression and freedom of the press," said Babes, noting that the APRM is a unique initiative undertaken by African leaders and no similar system existed anywhere in the world.

"This explains why countries of the G20 attach great attention to what we are doing because it has a moral authority ... otherwise we would be just like any other bureaucracy," he said.

Though participation in the APRM is open to all 53 AU member states, only 29 had as of January 2011 acceded to the mechanism by signing its memorandum of understanding.

APRM members are Algeria, Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mozambique and Nigeria.

Others are DR Congo, Rwanda, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda and Zambia.

Since the launch of the mechanism 10 years ago, the APR Forum has completed review processes of Ghana, Rwanda, Kenya, South Africa, Algeria, Benin, Uganda, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali, Mozambique, Lesotho, Mauritius and lately Ethiopia.

"We are increasing the pace at which we work, but this is also a learning exercise of self-assessment. All these stakeholders have to put in place some kind of structure for capacity building so that we can collectively own this activity. If all will take part, it makes this exercise stimulating," Babes explained.

According to Babes, Ghana and Kenya were about to launch a second-generation assessment and the APR Forum was looking at what progress these countries have made and ascertain if they were meeting the requirements for the next stage in respect of professional ethics.

On Ethiopia, whose review report was considered 29 January 2011 at the 14th Forum of heads of state and government in Addis Ababa, Babes said the country was a "special case" with regard to its history that centred on permanent sovereignty in all decisions it had taken for centuries.

He said Ethiopia, unlike other African countries that suffered colonialism and slave trade, had similar historical conditions under which it evolved with such countries as France, Germany and Italy.

While the stigma of slave trade and colonialism remain in other African countries, he said that Ethiopia moved from a feudal system, turned into a Marxist-Leninist state and now it has progressed to a new governance. "These are the things we keep in mind during review missions," said Babes.

"We have got a specific context in which we link African countries to universal fundamental rights. Heads of state have to consider cross-cutting issues such as elections, corporate governance, management of natural resources and economic management. Their views might not be the same but aim at giving a reviewed country the mirror of its action plan," he elaborated.

As the rest of the world expects Africa to play its role in global affairs, Babes said the APRM would facilitate the management of systems that seek to promote development of the people and enable Africa to catch up with other regions.
-0- PANA AR/SEG 31Jan2011

31 january 2011 12:31:26

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