The Prime Minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Professor Sylvestre Ilunga Ilunkamba, has pronounced his country’s support to efforts to transform the SADC Parliamentary Forum into a SADC regional parliament as his country assumed the presidency of the SADC PF.
Lukumba spoke about the need for a SADC parliament when he officially opened the 48th Plenary Assembly Session of the SADC Parliamentary Forum on Friday.
The DRC virtually hosted the plenary, which brought together over 120 members of parliament and other delegates from 14 of the SADC PF member states over two days.
He recalled that in September 1997, in Blantyre, Malawi, the Summit of Heads of State and government established the SADC Parliamentary Forum with the ultimate goal of transforming it into a regional parliament to ensure a strong representation of the region’s population.
He reaffirmed the DRC’s support to the transformation process and encouraged other member states to be relentless in pursuit of this long-cherished dream.
“It is up to us to work hard. The creation of this parliament would allow our people to be directly represented and to see their concerns brought by elected representatives. The SADC Parliament will also facilitate the harmonisation of our legislations for better integration. As a pillar of its diplomatic agenda, the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo recognises its driving role in the area of regional cooperation and integration,” he said.
Lukumba said the DRC and SADC had a close and long-running relationship. He seized the opportunity to express gratitude to countries that had stood by DRC in her times of need.
He said: “In the aftermath of the aggression war in 1998, SADC troops, made up of Angolan, Namibian and Zimbabwean contingents, supported our troops to put an end to the foreign invasion. Currently, the International Brigade, made up of South African, Tanzanian and Malawian soldiers, is the spearhead of the UN force against negative forces in the eastern part of my country. The DRC will forever be grateful to our sub-regional organisation and to the troops that fell in the battlefield to defend its territorial integrity and sovereignty.”
Additionally, the PM said SADC played a pivotal role in the promotion of peace during the Inter-Congolese dialogue, which led to the establishment, from 2003 to 2006, of a 1+4 transitional government – one president and four vice presidents – and the adoption by referendum in 2006, of the country’s constitution.
“It is all thanks to this Constitution that the Democratic Republic of the Congo was able to organise the 2006, 2011 and 2018 elections. The latter gave rise to a civilised and peaceful transfer of power. This is an achievement that we must, at all costs, preserve despite the internal divisions within the coalition in power in our country,” he said.
The prime minister told the plenary that while the world was focused on the Covid-19 pandemic, his country was also fighting the Ebola outbreak.
While this was a double blow for the DRC, he invited SADC member states to learn from the DRC’s response to Ebola and apply those lessons against Covid-19. He commended swift measures taken by some countries to stem the spread of Covid-19 and to revive their economies.
Speaker of the parliament of Botswana Phandu Tombola Chaha Skelemani proposed a vote of thanks after the PM officially opened the plenary. He said it was unacceptable that SADC is the only region in Africa without a regional parliament.
Skelemani said when established, the regional parliament would not only contribute towards the region’s economic and political integration but would also serve as a representative institution for the SADC citizenry. He was convinced that a SADC parliament would become the legislative arm of SADC and would complement the role of the SADC Summit and the Council of Ministers through its oversight role and model law-making powers.
He thanked the PM for his poignant acknowledgement of SADC’s role in supporting the peace process in the DRC over the years. He reiterated the fact that this role by SADC attests to the interconnectedness of the SADC region and “is recognition of the mutual dependence among Member States of our region and that is the essence of regional integration”.
The plenary has unanimously elected the Speaker of the National Assembly of the DRC, Jeanine Mabunda, President of the SADC PF for the next two years. An MP from Madagascar, Dr Lovanirina Célestin Fiarovana, was elected vice president of SADC PF unopposed.