Lawmakers from the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries convening in Kigali on Saturday pushed for a strong Africa Caribbean Pacific (ACP) parliamentary network and particularly emphasized the need for their European counterparts to respect the dignity of Africa.
The decision was made during the preliminary session of the 55th session of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly ahead of the ACP-European Union (ACP-EU) Joint Parliamentary Assembly that starts next week to address issues related to sustainable development.
Speaking to Sunday Times on Saturday, lawmakers reiterated calls for a partnership of equals already made by their colleagues regarding making the ACP, as an institution, more credible and more forceful as regards Africa's interests.
Abjourouvi Yawovi Missiame, a delegate from Togo said the meeting is a good opportunity "to make our contribution and to be in equal position" with the Europeans.
Missiame said: "We don't want to see African values being put down. Africa must be respected and in an organisation like this we have to prove that we are Africans who are proud of our dignity and we have to make our point of view get respected by our friends from Europe".
He noted that ACP lawmakers are now, unlike before, insisting on respect and having their voices heard seriously and don't accept that things will be guided by the Europeans.
"In the past, they accepted the orders proposed to them but now they refuse. They want equality and fairness. I strongly associate myself with my colleagues from other countries like Gabon or Gambia who spoke urging for the restoration of African dignity."
Weidou Adjedoue from Madagascar said: "I am fully in favour of what has been said so far, about the dignity and respect to African members in the ACP-EU. We have talked about the rules but that is just an instrument to help us fulfill our objectives.
"But the main thing has already been stressed by honourable members in the conference; to at least make an appeal to the world, and especially the European Union, to respect every single member of the conference. And I congratulate those who have spoken on behalf of Africa as a whole."
ACP countries have often noted that while their EU counterparts are interested in the former's abundant natural resource wealth, member states also care about their own demands especially those aligned to their right for development through industrialization and value addition.
During the 53rd ACP Parliamentary Assembly held in Bucharest, Romania, in March, the Secretary General of the ACP group, Patrick Gomes, among others, spoke about the need for a strong parliamentary dimension in the outcome of the negotiations in Brussels.
At the time, Gomes noted that the AU had given its positive recognition of the continuity of the ACP as a bloc, particularly in the post Cotonou negotiations despite an earlier position that the EU would negotiate the protocol on Africa with the AU in a separate arrangement.
The ACP-EU Partnership Agreement, signed in Cotonou, in June 2000, was concluded for a 20-year period from 2000 to 2020.
It has been the framework for the EU's relations with 79 ACP countries.
Its fundamental principles include equality of partners, global participation (States and non-state actors), dialogue and regionalization.
But the Cotonou Agreement is due to expire by end February 2020 and, a new agreement is supposed to be finalized and approved by then.
In 2010, ACP-EU cooperation was adapted to new challenges such as climate change, food security, regional integration, state fragility and aid effectiveness.
In March, Gomes also noted that the budget of the ACP Secretariat should not be a case where the member states pay lip service to the Secretariat without making their annual contributions.
At the time, the Secretariat was suffering shortages in its budget and was considering getting a bank draft to cover some costs before it received a payment from one of the member states.
Reports indicate that the ACP Secretariat budget is constantly underfunded by an average of 50 percent because of late payment of contributions and arrears from member states.
On Saturday, Missiame said: "It is important that member countries commit to fulfil their financial contributions to organisations such as ACP so that they run smoothly. We have countries not contributing and when they don't; our voice becomes very weak compared to those who do finance."
The Vice Speaker of Rwanda Edda Mukabagwiza interacts with Tchad's MP Adjedoue Weidou during the 55th session of the ACP Parliamentary Assembly in Kigali yesterday. / Sam Ngendahimana