In March 2017, a five member delegation of Uganda’s representatives to the Pan African Parliament headed down South in Midrand, South Africa to participate in the continental assembly’s meetings.
The representatives included Hon. Ogenga Latigo (Agago North), Hon. Anifa Kawooya (Ssembabule district Woman MP), Hon. Okot Ogong, (Dokolo South), Hon. Babirye Kadogo (Woman representative Buyende). and Hon Jacquiline Amongin (Woman representative Ngora).
The MPs deliberated on a number of issues, including women’s participation in economic development, particularly women’s ownership of land, the free movement of Africa’s people and the African passports, signing memoranda of understanding with various international organizations as well as promoting intra-Africa trade.
Women and land
On the sticky subject of land, women legislators from across the continent have decried what they have called the persistent marginalization of women in the control of land – which is the most important productive resource on the continent.
The lawmakers said that despite being the majority in a population of over one billion people in Africa, women continue to be sidelined when it comes to ownership of land because of unfair legal, customary and social conventions.
The concern about women’s lack of access to land is a critical factor because women contribute 80 percent of food production in Africa.
They argued that the current large scale land based investments rampant on the continent, was the biggest threat to women’s access to land because it results in the loss of livelihoods, displacement and landlessness.
An African Passport
During the same session, African legislators were tasked to lobby their governments to support the adoption of the Protocol on the Free Movement of Persons on the continent by January 2018 .
Khabele Matlosa, the Director of Political Affairs in the African Union Commission, who made a presentation to the Committee of Trade, Customs and Immigration briefed members on the progress of free movement and the issuance of an African passport.
Khabele told MPs that free movement of persons, goods and services, far outweighed the real and potential security and economic challenges that may be perceived or generated” .
He explained that once the draft Protocol on Free Movement of Persons, Right of Residence and Right of Establishment is finalized, it would be presented to the AU Summit for adoption.
It is anticipated that as per the decisions of the AU policy organs, the Protocol will come into force simply upon adoption without the normal requirement of 15 ratifications by member states.
Legislators however voiced concern about the challenges associated with free movement of persons, with others saying that they were already burdened with the problem of refugees in their countries.
They also voiced concern about the public mistrust about free movement of people, of foreigners taking up jobs and of governments’ concern about the risks paused by criminal elements crossing national borders.
Hon. Felix Okot Ogong (Dokolo South) argued that Africa needs to promote economic integration and intra-Africa trade first, since internal displacement and refugees are already a challenge.
“We cannot talk about free movement of people in Africa when we have internally displaced people.
If I am not travelling to trade and I am not a tourist, why should I travel? We must travel to trade so that we promote the development of Africa,” he said.
The draft protocol defines free movement of persons to mean unrestricted mobility and migration of African citizens across borders for various livelihood needs. The current draft of the Protocol covers aspects of entry, residence and establishment.
The legislators resolved that in regard to the common African Passport, states need to agree on its implementation and enact the necessary legislation in their own countries.
An all-African passport is part of the African Union’s Agenda 2063, which envisions an Africa that is integrated and united.