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Home / The Central African Parliamentary Network

The Central African Parliamentary Network

 

Description

At the ECCAS summit in June 2002, a protocol was adopted to establish a so called ECCAS Parliamentary Network (Réseau des Parlementaires de la CEEAC, REPAC). This development can be put in line with the new security role given to the Community. As stated in the Protocol’s preamble, this decision was in fact mainly motivated by the States’ awareness that Human Rights need to be guaranteed in order to allow citizens to participate in decision making processes.  The Parliamentary Network is understood as a space for dialogue and consensus building for the population’s representatives.

The preparation of the effective set up took however considerably long and REPAC is not yet in place. Its creation has been prepared during the last seven years. After the adoption of the REPAC Protocol, negotiations over financial support started with ACBF in 2005. An agreement could only be reached after two years. Following this agreement, a joint seminar on REPAC was organised in Bata in 2007 to gather the Central African national Members of Parliament and officially launch the preparation process. Since 2009, an ECCAS coordinator has been nominated to bring the process to an end, develop annual work programmes, organise staff nomination and equipment of the Network’s secretariat, and prepare for the first elections of regional deputies. The official inauguration of REPAC is planned for December 2009. In view of this now approaching start, the coordinator is also responsible for taking all necessary measures for the election of ECCAS deputies within the national Assemblies and the start of activities.

The long duration and tediousness of the set-up phase was mainly due to the difficulties in finding adequate financial support for the project and capacity-building measures. No budget was foreseen by ECCAS itself. After long negotiations that took in total two years, the African Capacity Building Fund (ACBF) agreed to allocate a, somehow relatively small, contribution. However, the set-up process is still regularly delayed by the considerable slowness of decision taking within ACBF. Moreover, States were considerable slow in ratifying REPAC’s protocol. Still today, the ratification process is not completed. 

Once established, REPAC shall be located in the city of Bata in Equatorial Guinea. Its 50 seats shall be filled by five deputies from each of the 10 Member States, elected for a period of five years by and among the national Parliamentarians.  The competences attributed to REPAC will be restricted to giving advice on matters related to the ECCAS treaty, notably on the following issues: Human Rights and fundamental freedoms, social integration, citizenship, environment, science and technology, minority rights and gender issues as well as on policies aiming to promote networking and integration in educative systems, public health, communication and energy. Moreover, the Network shall be entitled to provide statements on issues regarding free mobility and the revision of ECCAS’ founding treaty. REPAC is supposed to meet twice a year for a session of up to 15 days, headed by an internally nominated President and assisted by a Secretariat.

As long as the Network is not in place, ECCAS regularly organises seminars to prepare the national parliamentary deputies for the official start of activities.

 

Powers and competences

During the first years after REPAC’s establishment, the election of Community deputies shall be done by and among national Parliamentarians. This reflects the situation of most other regional Assemblies in Africa. In the long term, it is foreseen to transform the Network into a regional Parliament with members elected by direct and universal suffrage.
To ensure the independence of the Parliamentary members and the separation of powers within the Community, article 12 of the REPAC Protocol specifies the incompatibility of the function as REPAC deputy with those as member of a national government or national Court, member of the ECCAS Court, or any other position within the Community’s institutions and bodies.

The control functions, and responsibilities in general, attributed to the regional Parliament are in contrast rather limited. Indeed, as has been said above, REPAC’s deputies shall only be entitled to give advice on all regional matters, as long as issues of Human and fundamental rights, citizenship, environment, communication, education or free movement are concerned. In return, they shall have no real legislative power. In this perspective, their ability to effectively control and influence the decision making process will be considerably weak. Decisions on the regionalisation process’ orientation and major policies will most probably remain in the hands of the Heads of State. Consequently, REPAC’s capacity to exercise effective control powers will remain considerably weak and restricted.

 

The future of REPAC

The recent advance in the preparation of REPAC’s inauguration, scheduled for December 2009 can be considered as very promising. However, it is not yet evident whether REPAC will be able to effectively soften ECCAS’ intergovernmental nature and serve as engine for the integration process. Also, it remains to be seen if, in the long term, REPAC’s competences will effectively be enlarged and a Community Parliament established to replace and strengthen the current Network, as planned today.

In particular, this development will depend from the commitment and willingness of the States as main decision making power in the regionalisation process.

Currently this willingness is not evident for several reasons.

A first factor that initially slowed the advancement of the project’s implementation since its approval in 1998 and adoption in 2002 has been the difficult and uneven ratification process. The set up of REPAC was initially linked to the ratification of the founding protocol by the Member States. However, in 2007 the requested number of ratifications was still not deposited. To accelerate the process, the Conference of Heads of State decided - by referring to article 25 of the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties - to provisionally apply the text. This circumstance seems however to indicate a certain division between members who support the project and more reluctant ones.

A second concern can be raised regarding the lack of funds made available for the preparation and launch of REPAC. No resources were provided by the ECCAS Member States. This lacking support further prolonged the set up process as it implied the necessity to apply for external funding. It was only after long negotiations that funding was finally provided by ACBF. And still this amount will not be sufficient to ensure the effective functioning of the Network.

An additional issue that is likely to negatively affect the scheduled implementation of REPAC is the problem to find adequate premises. Although it was agreed in the Protocol to locate the Network in Equatorial Guinea, up to now no appropriate building has been found to house the offices of the deputies, the Bureau and support staff. The coordinator in charge of preparing the establishment of REPAC is still located in the Gabonese capital Libreville, where ECCAS’ Headquarters is based. 

In summary, there seems to be a significant gap between rhetoric and reality that largely challenges the real power and effective role of the REPAC Network. Although the establishment of this institution has been agreed on the paper, the previous delays in implementation can be linked to the failure of some States to ratify to founding protocol and to provide financial support and adequate premises for the preparatory commission and the Network, once established. Moreover, as analysed above, the power granted to the deputies seems too limited to give the Network a decisive role within the regionalisation process. This weakness seems to indicate a general irresolution and reluctance of Central African political leaders towards the idea of further deepening the regionalisation process in a way that implies a sharing of power and responsibilities, and subject them to Community scrutiny and control.

 
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