ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, August 23, 2019,-/African Media Agency (AMA)/- The African Union Commission, through the Department of Political Affairs, is continuing the AU engagement with political parties in Africa as key agents of democratic and participatory governance. The AUC brought together more than twenty (20) representatives of various political parties in East Africa in a workshop held in Arusha, Tanzania to be held today and tomorrow. In embarking upon this new programme of the AUC, the Department is guided by the 2007 African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG), which urges African Union Member States to “strengthen political institutions to entrench a culture of democracy and peace,” (art.12.2). This new programme is also meant to contribute towards realizing Aspirations 3 and 4 of the Agenda 2063-The Africa We want, which envision “an Africa of good governance, democracy, respect for human rights, justice and rule of law” as well as “a peaceful and secure Africa” respectively.
In his opening remarks, Director of the Department of Political Affairs of the African Union Commission, Dr. Khabele Matlosa informed the participants that the African Union Commission has been making deliberate efforts to ensure citizen participation, including through political parties. “Political parties are key to the advancement of citizen political participation in Africa. Thus, political parties can make or break democratization and peace building. They are key actors during elections, and critical players in the formation of governments (parliament, executive and the judiciary); the first two institutions being constituted largely through political parties”.
Dr. Khabele further stated that within the framework of the AU Constitutive Act, AUC has the mandate to develop political parties, which are essential to democratization and good governance. The AUC has made considerable progress on supporting electoral processes in Africa, observing an average of eighteen (18) annually; and providing technical assistance to Election Management Bodies (EMBs); hence, the decision, in 2017, to develop the AU Political Parties Program. AU has gathered Political Parties in Arusha, Tanzania to ask the big question “How can we customize the AU program on political parties to address the specific context of East Africa, working in close collaboration with the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and other relevant regional institutions such as the East African Court?” Dr. Matlosa encouraged the participants to link their discussions with the theme of the year – the Year of Refugees and Forced Displacement, and encouraged them to invest more in early warning efforts the curb forced displacement of people. He further informed the workshop that one of the flagship programmes of the Department of Political Affairs is “Silencing the Guns”. It is also befitting that the AUC has declared 2020 as the year of silencing the guns. Dr. Matlosa called on political parties to play a role in terms of conflict prevention.
Dr. Matlosa concluded by recommending the institutionalization of the AU Political Parties Program, and aim towards institutionalizing an Annual Continental Political Parties Forum that will enable political parties from the continent, a platform for the sharing of best practices through dialogue.
Mr. David Onen, Principal Political Affairs Officer for the East African Community (EAC), reiterated the importance of engaging with political parties on the continent. He underscored that the initiative is one of the key programmes of the EAC in line with the principles of enhancing, strengthening and adhering to good governance as enshrined in the EAC Treaty, but more particularly, inclusiveness and participation of all stakeholders. Mr. Onen expressed that going forward; EAC would similarly rollout a similar programme within the East African Community, following the agreed framework of the AUC.
The Department of Political Affairs of the African Union Commission introduced the Political Parties Programme to Political Parties in East Africa in a regional workshop that is taking place in Arusha, Tanzania, on 21-22 August 2019. The main objective of this programme is to strengthen the capacity of Political Parties in AU Member States, in line with ACDEG. More specifically, this Progamme will entrench a culture of democracy, political pluralism, management of diversity, tolerance and peace in Africa, given the centrality of political parties towards achieving these noble African shared values.
The five (5) main priority areas of this programme, as defined in the Guidelines for Engaging with Political Parties, developed by the Department of Political Affairs (DPA) include:
- Strengthening interparty dialogue to address political intolerance;
- Promoting and strengthening inclusive politics to address marginalization of women, youth and persons with disabilities in leadership positions within political parties; and
- Strengthening the internal management and functioning of political parties to address a lack of intra-party democracy;
- Enhancing knowledge generation on political parties to address the gap between knowledge on best practices and policy-making processes; and
- Promoting standards and best practice on peaceful political transition.
In this regard, the Department of Political Affairs (DPA) of the African Union Commission (AUC) will conduct five (5) Regional Workshops this year on Political Parties Engagement Programme.
The main goal of the regional fora is to introduce the AU Political Party Program to political parties with a view to solicit their input on the key focus areas of the program. The expected outcomes are:
- Increased awareness of the AU political party program by political parties across the continent;
- Improved engagement with political parties on the key focus areas; and
- Enhanced ownership of the program by political parties on the continent.
The first regional Workshop was organized for the West African region and took place in Accra, Ghana on 28-29 March 2019.
Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of the African Union Commission.
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