Corruption is draining resources in the African Continent

August 30th, 2022

The Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU) held its Annual Conference from 27 to 30 June 2022 in Tanzania under the theme, ‘The Africa We Want: From Aspiration to Reality’. In his welcoming speech at the opening ceremony, President of the Tanganyika Law Society (TLS), Dr Edward Gamaya Hoseah, said that the theme of the conference coincides with the blueprint that aims to make Africa a powerhouse. To make Africa an important continent in the next 50 years. He added that the ‘Africa we want’, should bring Africa and its people prosperity, unity, inclusiveness, gender equality, freedom, and sustainable development.

Dr Hoseah said in the context of PALU, there should be a sustainability of the rule of law in Africa. ‘We want to see an independent judiciary. Most importantly we want to see independent Bar associations across the continent,’ Dr Hoseah added. He said PALU wants to see the people in Africa attain justice for all. He pointed out that most importantly PALU wants to see the transformation of young legal practitioners in Africa, and that legal practitioners should be properly trained on the ethos and ethics of the legal profession. He called on senior legal practitioners to ensure that they take on the challenge to impart knowledge, skills, capacity building, through placement and similar programmes.

President of the Sudanese Bar Association, Osman Mohamed Al-Sharif, said the theme was properly chosen and timely. He added that the theme presents challenges to all Africans. He said that his organisations believes that the PALU conference will be able to work out practical solutions, as well as recommendations for challenges that countries are facing since their independence. He added that his organisations trust that legal practitioners who gathered at the PALU conference are competent and capable, and compatible to contribute and to enhance the legal profession.

A representative of the German Federal Bar, Riad Khalil Hassanain said that legal practitioners must stand together for the development of the rule of law, in their respective countries, and through their values and principles of the independent legal profession. He added that legal practitioners must ensure that their colleagues are offered an updated framework condition for carrying out their work. He pointed out that his organisation has partnerships with organisations such as PALU, to follow professional and policy development in other countries. He said because the work of a legal practitioner has stopped long at the national borders. He added that the theme of the conference could not be more topical and global.

Speaking at the conference, outgoing president of PALU, Dr Emeka Obegolu, said that PALU seeks to use the legal profession to add value to the African society. He pointed out that the conference should be used as an opportunity for serious introspection on their contributions for better quality within the African continent. He said that PALU cannot achieve its organisational goals, unless it optimises its organisational and institutional capacity, beyond membership and other material support. ‘We have a duty to contribute intellectually to the organisation, let us please offer and commit to serving the PALU membership with dedication,’ Dr Obegolu added.

He added that PALU intends to use the conference to commence a comprehensive database for its members and partners for their vision for Africa. He pointed out that as his address was the last as president of PALU, and that the theme allows him to make recommendations of law and governance in Africa.

He spoke about the dismal state of press freedom, and said that according to reports, press freedom has seen the largest decline from any other fundamental freedom of Africa over the last decade. He pointed out that governments continue to use pressure, imprison, and use other forms of harassment to suppress independent reporting. Dr Obegolu added that PALU will request the African Union (AU) to amend art 12 of the AU African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, which calls on state parties to promote principles and practices, necessary for the democratic culture, specifically to include media freedom.

Dr Obegolu said that the AU should also include free press as one of the key conditions necessary for free and fair elections as outlined in ch 7 of the Charter. Dr Obegolu also spoke about leaders who come up with tactics to stay longer in office. He said that the AU should set up a declaration for expected time limits on how long a leader should be in office. Regarding economic competitiveness, Dr Obegolu said that while Africa is one of the growing economies, it is also home to the less competitive in the world. He pointed out that the high level of corruption and the low level of education makes Africa an expensive and risky place to do business.

Dr Obegolu added that the key components of a functional democracy and efficient institution, responsible government policies and strong rule of law are some factors contributing to a competitive economy. ‘We call upon the African Union and regional economic communities to include efforts to strengthen democracy and governance to their economic development and integration strategies’.

The Secretary General of the East African Community, Dr Peter Mutuku Mathuki, said the conference should unpack the question of ‘what Africa [do] we want?’ He pointed out that this cannot be a statement anymore but should be practical. ‘As we speak today, we are talking about high prices of goods and fuel’. He pointed out that it is simply because of a situation that is far from Africa. ‘The war in Ukraine and Russia is directly affecting Africa, and therefore, it is time to say let us build our Africa, that is sustainable, that is not so dependable on what is happening,’ Dr Mathuki said. He added that looking at the lessons learned during COVID-19, one was not even sure if they were going to be moved to another country for treatment. He said one needs to be content with what they have where they are.

Dr Mathuki pointed out that everyone has a role to play and a role to make Africa a better place for all citizens of Africa. He added that the legal minds should also help to ensure that Africa has strong institutions that are governed by the rule of law and good governance. He said once that is in place other things will follow. Dr Mutuku said this can be achieved through partnerships such as PALU, to make sure that Africa leads in the global arena, and to ensure that each person takes accountability for what they do.

Dr Mathuki said African counterparts must be able to be accountable and uphold the rule of all, to ensure the democracy. He added that democracy is not something that is very easy, that it is a costly affair. He urged legal practitioners to keep listening to institutions to see where there are gaps, where there will be an environment where business can thrive, where citizens can move free, where there is trade policies and easy access to facilities that can enable people to do business. He pointed out that currently, stability, peace and security are the main challenge, and it should become the responsibility of each person, that moving forward there is peace in Africa.

Keynote speaker and former Tanzanian Prime Minister, Mizengo Kayanza Peter Pinda, said that he applauds PALU members for building an Africa that adequately requires intendable working with African governments, African Union, intergovernmental institutions, and non-government institutions. ‘Organising yourselves in this manner has the potential, not only for you to work better, strengthen yourself as professionals, but also to provide a model and inspire other professionals, businesspeople, academia, women’s associations, youth associations. To be able to work better amongst themselves and for all of you to be able to work better together’, said Mr Pinda. He challenged PALU members to adopt the often-cited paradigm of the late United States President John F Kennedy, when he said: ‘Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.’ He said what more PALU members can do for the African people is even more significantly important.

While speaking about the theme of the conference, Mr Pinda added that he knows that legal practitioners play a role, however, there are so many more areas that they can do more. He pointed out that PALU’s objectives include a requirement for every individual African legal practitioner and an individual African to move from rhetoric and sentiments to practical actions and steps that aligns with the agenda of building the ‘Africa we want,’ which accords well with the AU Agenda 2063.

Mr Pinda said that when African countries were fighting for independence, each one of them first fought colonialism. He added that after the liberation, African countries decided to confront the three enemies of the African people, namely, poverty, ignorance, and disease. He said at the same time the independence of political leaders also adopted Pan-Africanism as a philosophy and a strategy to unite the continent.

Mr Pinda said post-independence many things have happened on the African continent, some positive but others have hindered the development. ‘The continent is still faced with governance challenges. We have witnessed the resurgence of military coups [and] terrorism is wreaking havoc in many countries,’ Mr Pinda added. He pointed out that PALU members have a task ahead and have a duty as Africans, to see to it that Africa at least does what people expect. ‘And for us the Africa we want should move from aspirations to reality,’ Mr Pinda said

Mr Pinda said corruption is draining resources in the African continent. He added that it has exacerbated the plight of African capital resources. ‘I am informed that PALU is involved in programmes to combat illicit financial flaws from Africa. I challenge you all, including myself now, to look at the African Union Agenda 2063 and its aspirations and see where we fit in and be able to implement the part that we can and be able to report back to the AU, and to the people on your periodic progress that you have made,’ Mr Pinda said.

PALU was founded in 2002 by African Bar leaders and eminent lawyers, to reflect the aspirations and concerns of the African people and to promote and defend their shared interests. Its membership comprises of the continents over five regional lawyers’ associations, over 54 national lawyers’ associations and over 1 000 individual lawyers spread across Africa and in the diaspora. PALU’s main objective is working to advance the law and the legal profession, the rule of law, good governance, human and peoples’ rights and socio-economic development of the African continent.

The President of the Law Society of South Africa, Mabaeng Denise Lenyai, was elected one of the PALU Vice-Presidents for Southern Africa at the conference. Other Executive Members of PALU include:

  • Kari Abdoul-Bagui: President
  • Thomas Dingamgoto: Vice-President Central Africa
  • Bahame Tom Nyanduga: Vice-President Eastern Africa
  • Aicha Boudiaf: Vice President Northern Africa
  • Joyce Oduah: Vice-President Western Africa
  • Pheona Nabasa Wall: Secretary General
  • Coco Misamu Kayudi: Deputy Secretary General
  • Koffi Sylvain Attoh-Mensah: Treasurer
  • Dr Edward Gamaya Hoseah: TLS President

Kgomotso Ramotsho Cert Journ (Boston) Cert Photography (Vega) is the news reporter at De Rebus.

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