Why are African parliaments ineffective?

Over-billing of the maintenance of 200 vehicles of Senegalese parliamentarians, diversion of about 1.65 trillion Ariary to Madagascar, Senate budget, and unnecessary in Senegal, etc. These dysfunctions undermine the African parliaments, forums for the expression of peoples. But faced with the various crises that Africa is going through and in the face of these dysfunctions prejudicial to the citizens, should we point the finger at the only parliaments?


Of the 217 deputies in the Tunisian parliament, only three took part in all the sessions according to the October 2016 report of the NGO Al-Bawsala, which oversees political transparency, legislative, and executive work. Unfortunately, members’ attendance and absenteeism are encouraged by the ambiguity and contradiction of the texts, on the one hand, and the lack of dedication of the members themselves on the other. In Burkina Faso, for example, the presence of elected representatives in the plenaries is mandatory according to the rules of procedure, but the same texts authorize votes by delegation, which encourages the absenteeism of elected officials and makes it difficult to punish absentees.


MPs’ productivity is another problem since, once elected, they take their positions for granted and think they are not accountable to anyone. They offer little or nothing, and even when the executive makes legislative proposals, they do not bother to study them. This is the case of the pastoral code in Chad in 2014. The combination of functions can also explain this productivity problem. In Burkina Faso, for example, the incompatibility of the parliamentary mandate with other purposes affects only public or para-public services. Many MPs are businessmen or business leaders who are always busy. This combination prevents elected officials from concentrating on their parliamentary missions, which compromises their productivity.


Another problem is that MPs do not get involved in the debates that precede the votes because of a lack of motivation or skills. When it is for the people to act, few members are ready to do it because they are either businessmen who work on their behalf or simple vultures who seek the benefits offered by the position. There is also the question of skills. In Côte d’Ivoire, Articles 70 and 71 of the Electoral Code, which define the eligibility of candidates for the deputies, do not speak at all about the educational level of future deputies. Businessman leaves free-scope for people with low skills to access responsibilities without the required qualifications.


The recent senatorial in Côte d’Ivoire show that in Africa, citizen representatives are much more prions sponsored by senior political or business executives who want to control the political scene. Out of sixty-six seats, the ruling coalition has won fifty. Also, 33 other senators will be appointed directly by President Ouattara, which gives him an absolute grip on the institution. For such representatives, the interest of the people should go after that of the sponsor. The opposing minority is considered an enemy, so all its proposals will be annihilated regardless of their relevance. This is the case in the DRC where Aubin Minaku, president of the National Assembly, is in charge of the presidential majority,

In September 2016, in Mali, this time, four members of President BK’s RPM joined ADP Maliba, who also left the presidential majority. While they complain about the policy of IBK that no longer meets their aspirations, the fact that they have rallied the party of Aliou Diallo, a main financial backer of the campaign IBK, suggests gloomy areas.

These deputies seek many of the benefits that the businessman’s party can offer, which in turn orchestrates these defections to weaken IBK’s camp. These deputies thus reinforce his presidential claims. Several National Assemblies suffer from this parliamentary transhumance. If countries like Morocco have started a fight against this practice, the majority of African countries do not succeed.


The other major problem is corruption. In July 2017, the DR Congo deputies each received about $31,000 as severance pay at the end of their term. But almost a year later, they continue to legislate peacefully and refuse to repay the amount collected. As in the DRC, many parliaments are faced with this kind of embezzlement, but on the whole, MEPs seek by all means to recover their money spent in campaigns since the campaigns are financed from their pockets or thanks to sponsors. It must be recognized that rules of procedure are not enough, and justice faces parliamentary immunity. The financial control committees present in all the parliaments,

Passivity of other stakeholders

Citizens have their share of responsibility when it comes to the skill and wickedness of the men they choose to represent them. African voters tend to elect candidates who belong to their clans or ethnic groups without being interested in their political programs. And since many voters remain less educated or simply ignore the importance of legislation in the life of their states, they do not know who among the candidates best embodies their aspirations. As for the most sophisticated citizens, they wonder what the point of voting is if the results are known in advance. Presidential candidates take advantage of this ignorance and/or resignation to manipulate voters.

The media and civil society have an important responsibility. Invested in a mission of awakenings of conscience, they let themselves be dragged into the political game and put themselves at the service of the politicians. They manipulate information and deliver to citizens false promises and lies that allow politicians to position themselves as holy saviors in the eyes of the people.

In short, dysfunctions in African parliaments are numerous, and if they are related to the personality of the elected officials, it must also be admitted that the rules of the game that govern political life largely explain the crisis of confidence between the African parliamentarian to his electorate.

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