On the eve of the Parliamentary Conference “Russia-Africa” organized as part of the International Forum on the Development of Parliamentarism, the Chairman of the State Duma Viacheslav Volodin held a number of bilateral meetings with speakers of parliaments from Africa.
The second international forum under the theme “Development of Parliamentarism” was held on July 1–3 on the initiative of the State Duma. The questions that were raised at the separate meetings included, inter-parliamentary cooperation, development of national economies, protection of sovereignty and citizens’ rights, peace and security, fighting terrorism, unemployment and poverty.
In all the meetings, Volodin reiterated that Russia has attached great importance to the development of inter-parliamentary diplomacy and would always appreciate to have regular interaction with their fellow African parliamentarians on a bilateral basis and to work out effective mechanisms for dealing with global challenges.
During the meeting with the President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Angola, Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos, Volodin noted that it was necessary for African parliamentarians to overcome modern challenges together.
“There are many challenges in the world, and it will be right to discuss them and seek for solutions to these issues together. This relates to the adoption of model laws, the harmonization of legislation in addressing issues of countering terrorism, drug trafficking,” said Volodin.
In his turn, the President of the National Assembly of Angola said that this was his first personal meeting with the Chairman of the State Duma. “This is the first meeting, but we hope there will be further meetings,” said Fernando da Piedade Dias dos Santos.
Dias dos Santos strongly believes that forum on “Development of Parliamentarism” and regular conferences on “Russia-Africa” could become a catalyst and conduit to address many pressing global and regional issues, and called international terrorism one of the key threats facing the world and the decision to counter it should be found together.
“The increase in the number of terrorist attacks took place because cultural and religious issues often divide people, the number of young people joining terrorist organizations is growing. It is necessary to seek solutions to these issues to ensure peaceful cultural and religious coexistence of nationals,” he stressed.
Russia’s efforts highly appreciated
On Russia's leading role for peace and security, the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Kingdom of Morocco, Habib El Malki, at the bilateral meeting emphasized that he highly appreciates the role of Russia and its President Vladimir Putin in the international arena.
“We reaffirm the leading role of the Russian Federation headed by President Vladimir Putin in international affairs. Under his leadership, we are working to strengthen the protection of the principles of security and trying to ensure the rule of law throughout the world. All this makes us to share the principles of the foreign policy of the Russian Federation, which, as we should not forget, are the basis of the United Nations,” said Habib El Malki.
“The foreign policy of the Russian Federation is focused on the future. This confirms the interest in the African continent, we believe in a well-balanced and peaceful future,” stressed the Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Kingdom of Morocco.
Ethiopia has been one of Russia's key partners in Africa for more than 120 years. “Russia and Ethiopia have a long-standing relationship. We are very grateful for the assistance that Russia traditionally provides to Ethiopia,” the Speaker of the House of Peoples' Representatives of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Tagesse Chaffo, said.
“We are united not only by political and diplomatic relations, but also by cultural ties. We are united by our common past — the great poet Alexander Pushkin. I always cross Pushkin Square on my way to work,” Tagesse Chaffo added in remarks with the Viacheslav Volodin.
Development of relations with Zambia
Zambia hopes that the conference on Russia – Africa will help Russia to develop relations with the entire African continent. The Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Zambia, Patrick Matibini, also stressed efforts in developing inter-parliamentary relations, and noted in general, as “very influential and really promising.”
Volodin and Matibini discussed the intensification of bilateral cooperation between Russia and Zambia, in particular, in areas of education, medicine, technology and agriculture.
Volodin expressed hope that the Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Zambia would visit Russia more often, “and this will be an impetus to the development of our bilateral relations, we have a great potential for developing relations, it is necessary plan joint development projects and useful programs and to implement them for mutual benefit.”
Enhancing cooperation with Congo
President of the National Assembly of the Republic of the Congo, Isidore Mvouba, during the meeting with Viacheslav Volodin, said that the International Forum “Development of Parliamentarism” was truly successful.
Isidore Mvouba recalled that the President of the Republic of Congo gave a speech at a plenary meeting of the State Duma in May. “He spoke of the need to develop a multipolar world, because we now live in a world where there are many dangers,” said the President of the National Assembly of the Congo.
Peaceful coexistence as a necessity
Speaker of the Upper House of the Federal Parliament of Somalia, Abdi Hashi Abdullahi, said that many countries of the world produce weapons of mass destruction, and as a result, tension is consistently growing, but we believe that we can change the world and prevent war, redirect money and increase food production in order to keep our planet alive.
“I believe that there is the power of cooperation, the power of creation of regional or wider continental blocks. This will lead to a new future, where there will be peace, as well as welfare, and we will fight poverty,” said the Speaker of the Upper House of the Federal Parliament of Somalia.
Strengthening inter-parliamentary ties
Faustin Boukoubi, Chairman of the National Assembly of the Gabonese Republic, noted that parliaments have enjoyed legitimacy because the deputies are people's elected representatives, and it is important to preserve this legitimacy. It is important to take into account the interests of the people, “it is necessary that the population understands that their opinion is taken into account at the national level,” said Faustin Boukoubi.
“At the international level, the situation is almost the same,” he said. Intergovernmental organizations are not controlled by the population, “therefore, of course, we must strengthen the role of parliamentarians in such a way that decisions are made more reasonably,” said Faustin Boukoubi.
He also spoke in favor of preserving the sovereignty of each individual country, including in the era of digitalization.
On her part, Margaret Mensah-Williams, Chairwoman of the National Council of Namibia, called for work to harmonize and bring together the laws of various countries.
“We need to harmonize our laws. We may have different approaches, but we have more in common than differences. We have reason to learn the best practices from each other,” she said, and further called for the introduction of uniform trade rules for all countries and for avoiding the policy of trade barriers.
Mensah-Williams thanked President of Russia Vladimir Putin and Russian authorities, stressing further that “Russia has always provided assistance to Namibia in the struggle for the independence.”
Namibia and Russia continue to maintain great bilateral relations,” said the Chairwoman of the National Council, highlighting the technical assistance from Russia, as well as the fact that there are a huge number of doctors in their country who studied during the Soviet time and now in the Russian Federation.
Recognizing the legitimate global role
Speaker of the House of Representatives of Egypt, Ali Abdel Aal Sayyed Ahmed, noted that the forum was being held at the time when economic, political and cultural conflicts are taking place in the world. “Parliaments, as representatives of nations, play a very important role in countering these conflicts and are at the forefront of combating these challenges,” he said and stressed that it is necessary to find solutions together to overcome these problems.
The development of parliamentarism can play an effective role in this, he said, and further explained that parliamentary platform is an important mechanism that can contribute to further in-depth discussion of the issues facing the whole world. He also urged to discuss the role of young people as the “main nerve of society” in the development of parliamentarism.
Aal Sayyed Ahmed unreservedly appreciated efforts made by the State Duma “for bringing participants together for a common purpose of deliberating on the widest range of topical issues, such as global security, global sustainable development, the fight against poverty and environmental problems. This is exactly what people need.”
Indeed, he noted that Russia’s international activity constantly marks by a vast geographic outreach of its contacts, the drive for a constructive solution of pressing international problems and the improvement of the atmosphere of friendship among nations.
Looking ahead as friends
Earlier, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has praised the legislators’ role in promoting the entire complex of Russian-African cooperation and welcomed the intensifying contacts between the Russian Federal Assembly and African parliaments.
“The experience of cooperation between Russian and African lawmakers, including at multilateral inter-parliamentary events, shows that our approaches towards building interstate communications are similar or even the same,” he said.
“We have been consistently advocating the strengthening of the legal and democratic principles of the international life, respect for all people’s identity and their right to independently choose ways of their political and socioeconomic development,” he said.
The parliamentary conference on Russia – Africa has become an important stage in the preparations for the first Russia–Africa summit scheduled to take place in Sochi on October 24 and will be co-chaired by President of Russia Vladimir Putin and President of Egypt Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who currently chairs the African Union.
By Kester Kenn Klomegah
The author writes frequently about Russia-Africa and the BRICS.