African leaders take steps to strengthen democracy, good governance

By Abwao Oluoch- PANA Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (PANA) -- African leaders have taken a landmark decision to create the continent's good governance arm, the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM), as an independent body within the African Union (AU) to lend credence to democratization.
The African leaders, who spoke after a daylong review of six countries for compliance with democratic ideals, reiterated that the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) would remain an integral body within the AU.
Africa's Eminent Personalities Panel chair, Prof.
Adebayo Adedeji, who leads the seven-member APRM Panel, said the creation of the APRM as an independent institution within the AU would improve its effectiveness in reiterating Africa's democratization.
"It has been decided that NEPAD will be integrated into the AU.
The Heads of State reiterated the decision and also decided that the APRM is created as an autonomous institution within the African Union to meet alongside its six-monthly meetings," he said.
The good governance system made major progress on Wednesday when Togo and Mauritania officially put up formal applications to join the good governance club, in which they would be committing themselves to a series of democratic principles.
Mauritania and Togo are among the few states to have entered a rejuvenated African Union's the sanctions list for unconstitutional changes of government.
Their intention to join the good governance club is a pointer to a major shift in Africa's democratization process.
"It is a great innovation in Africa.
In spite of the challenges, we need to open up, which is much more different from the days when we were unwilling to discuss the internal affairs of the other countries.
The heads of state have agreed to be peer reviewed," Adedeji said.
Adedeji said the countries to be reviewed were required to establish independent executive councils to undertake the peer review process.
"We have enrolled another state, the 28th member of the APRM and Togo is to be the 29th member out of 53 states.
This is like joining a club.
Those who join make certain commitments to good governance," the Nigerian scholar told PANA.
African leaders achieved major firsts during this year's six-monthly review of the countries that have subscribed to the APRM ideal, originally designed to show Africa's commitment to good governance in response for better global partnerships.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, who chairs the APRM Panel, said the institution was not an end to the crises facing the African states, but provided a forum for correcting institutional weaknesses discovered in countries that had been reviewed.
Critics have previously pointed out that the failure to hold African states to account on their good governance pledges risked the credibility of the review process.
But the African leaders, who met a day before the heads of state and government assembly meets in the Ethiopian capital, said the APRM was a forum for peers to review themselves and discuss their shortcomings in a way that was constructive to development.
"APRM is a process that involves countries identifying their shortcomings and identifying ways of rectifying them.
The forum is not a magic that can be used to remove problems in the member states.
It is a forum to impress on the states to address shortcomings," Prime Minister Zenawi said.
Algeria, Benin, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and South Africa were among the six states that presented their half-yearly review reports to the heads of state panel.
Uganda and Nigeria have agreed to take the review with their reports expected to be released within the next six months.
African Union Chairman John Agyekum Kufuor, who is also Ghana's President, gave a long and detailed account of progress in Ghana during the day-long meeting.
The Ghanaian leader said it was important for African countries to be reviewed to see where they were weak democratically and to also discuss among themselves steps to rectify the weaknesses identified in the process.
"It is a process of showing to the member states a way to reflect themselves in a mirror so they would tackle their image.
This (APRM) is a body meant to help our Union," President Kufuor told a news conference after the meeting on Wednesday.
The AU chairman said the APRM and other structures within the organization had made it possible to have a reconciliation framework in Kenya under the APRM structures.

30 january 2008 21:58:00




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