The 64th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference Kicks off in Uganda Amid Calls for Cooperation for the benefit of the Fraternity.
The 64th Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference kicked off this morning amid calls by the keynotes speakers for genuine cooperation among Member States for the benefit of the people of the Commonwealth Fraternity.
Speaking when he officially opened the conference, the President of the Republic of Uganda, who is also the deputy Patron of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Conference for 2019, H.E. Yoweri Kaguta Museveni called on Commonwealth countries to use their numbers -approximately 2.5 billion people, to mutually cooperate in areas that would catalyse the transformation of their people and to help them alleviate the common challenges facing mankind today.
"The Commonwealth countries could use their numbers to mutually promote investments, work together on security, cultural exchanges and also examine the options on trade, but without disturbing the Free Trade Area Arrangements in Africa," President Museveni said.
He took a swipe at some countries within the organisation for their supposed interference with the forms of democracy in other states without due regard to the latter's historical orientation and their social-political demographics that influence their form of democracy. He called on such Member states to avoid creating crises in their attempts to coerce their fellow Member State that have different ideas about the form of democracy they ascribe to.
" As members of the Commonwealth, we all share the principles of democracy according to the principles of the Harare Declaration on Democracy of October 1991. Nevertheless, the forms of democracy are also different although the substance must be the same : one person, one vote , by secret ballot at regular intervals," he noted.
President Museveni noted that a time had come for countries to respect the sovereignity of other nations, adding that the people of each country are capable of making a decision on their future and destiny. The President who also read a message of goodwill from the Patron of the Commonwealth Association, Queen Elizabeth II cited the people of the United Kingdom, whom he noted have the capacity to decide their fate after their exit from the European Union.
He observed that unlike other international governmental organisations, the Commonwealth family has the advantage of common language use; a phenomenon of great potential if properly used. He called on Member States to consider preferential trade agreements among themselves, even as he quickly added that States outside of Africa would have to negotiate with Africa as a whole within the principle of the Common Free Trade Area that the continently has recently adopted.
To forge a common path forward, President Museveni, whose remarks were characterised by deep reference to pre-colonial and post colonial global experiences, advised the over 500 lawmakers from 53 countries gathered at Munyonyo Resort, to lead their nations in banishing ego-centrism, greed and bigotry and embrace technological innovation as a remedy to the current challenges facing mankind across the globe.
On her part, the host Speaker, the Rt. Hon. Rebecca Kadaga whom many including President Museveni lauded for the exceptional organisation of the conference, stated that there was need for legislators in modern democracy, to rise to the challenge and respond to the high expectations that those they represent have on them.
"As Parliaments, we are the bridges between the government and the people. They rely on us to speak for them and to plan for them a future that is better than the present and the past. This Conference's theme awakens us as elected representatives of the people to adapt, engage and evolve to match the challenges we face," Speaker Kadaga submitted.
At the same time, she reminded the delegates that there is a growing focus on greater scrutiny of Parliamentarians, coupled with a demand for accountability and transparency. She was quick to observe that public trust in Parliaments is flagging in most countries even as people increasingly expect more of their representatives.
Others who spoke during the colourful conference launch include the Chairperson of the Executive Committee of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association and Deputy Speaker of Cameroon,Hon. Emilia Monjowa Lifaka. She extrolled the remarkable progress the organisation has realised since inception and promised that the association would continue to pursue the ideologies of good governance and parliamentary democracy even as the forum pursues capacity development for its legislators while fashioning them to respond to the emerging challenges across the globe.
While giving his remarks on behalf of all attending Legislatures, the Speaker of the National Assembly and the Chairperson of the Executive Committee of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association (Africa Branch) Hon. Justin Muturi, thanked President Museveni and Speaker Kadaga for the state of the art organisation that has characterised the on-going week-long conference. He urged the delegates to take the opportunity to interact and learn best practices even as they deliberate on the conference's focus points.
Parliamentarians attending conference which ends on Saturday are expected to deliberate and make resolutions on rapid urbanization, terrorism, the efficacy of Parliament interventions on climate change; science and technological innovations, facilitation of people with disabilities as well as sexual harassment.
The forum will also explore interventions to address youth unemployment as well as how to include young people in decision making, and mentor future leaders of the Commonwealth.
Earlier on, Speaker Kadaga led the delegates in observing a minute of silence for the victims of the disastrous hurricane in Bahamas-a member state, which led to loss of hundreds of lives. Due to the disaster, Bahamas was unable to participate in the conference.
Over 800 Parliamentarians and Parliamentary staff from the 180 national and subnationals branches, drawn from 52 out the 53 member states of the association are attending the conference. Gambia, who left the association a few years ago are set to be readmitted during this conference.
The Speaker of the National Assembly Hon. Justin Muturi who is the Chairperson of CPA Executive Committee (Africa Region), and who also sits at the top body of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, is leading the Kenyan delegation.
He is accompanied by the Leader of Minority in the National Assembly, Hon.John Mbadi, CPA Kenya Branch Executive Committee Members, Hon. (Dr.) Makali Mulu, Hon. Muriuki Njagagua, Hon. Aramat Lemanken and Hon. Janet Sitienei. Others are Hon. Gladys Wanga, Hon. Dennitah Ghati, Sen. Mohammed Faki and the Clerk of the National Assembly Mr. Michael Sialai.