President rallies integration in Africa to up negotiation power

President William Ruto during the Pan-African Parliament Summit on Climate Policy and Equity in South Africa. [PCS]

President William Ruto has rooted for more integration among African states, challenging them to open doors to each other and establish the continent as a powerhouse.

Addressing the third Pan-African Parliament in Johannesburg, South Africa, on Wednesday, the President said African countries lag behind in negotiations with other regional blocs, such as the European Union, because they do so as individual states.

Ruto, who got a standing ovation after his speech, challenged the Pan-African Parliament to play at the level of Europe, saying it was time for African leaders to rethink integration strategies.

"In Africa, we still want to keep power in our corners... how does a country with 10 or 20 million people engage with the European Union with 400, 500 million people on an equal footing? The globe is acting in concert. We cannot afford not to act together," he said and urged the continental Parliament to hold leaders to account.

He said African Heads of State had decided to meet foreign leaders as equals, making reference to the upcoming Russia-Africa summit, saying it was the only way to respect the architecture of the African Union.

"What kind of engagement do we expect when 50 heads of state are told to speak for one and a half minutes? The best that you will get are photographs," he added.

Ruto's remarks come amid a consistent push to have Africa establish a framework that will up its stakes on the global front. Previous integration efforts, such as the push for a United States of Africa, have come a cropper.

The President said the Pan-African Parliament was "a critical organ of the African Union," which should help formulate sustainable solutions.

"This Parliament rises higher and goes farther than the sum of its legislative, representative and oversight mandates for Africa. It provides a fundamental deliberative forum where the peoples of Africa gather to reason exhaustively together and develop African Solutions to Africa's Problems," he said, urging the need for financial independence from foreign superpowers.

"How do we say we are finding African solutions if they are funded by development partners?" Ruto posed, saying it was time for Africa to stop playing the hapless victim in need of aid.

"I am persuaded that our generation of African leadership has the historic mandate to retire this unhelpful profile and in its place articulate a more accurate and compelling portrait of Africa that is both faithful to fact, yet also developmentally aspirational," he said.

He accused the warring Sudan parties of pursuing selfish interests at the detriment of millions of innocent civilians.

"The generals there are bombing everything - roads, bridges hospitals and destroying airports - using military hardware bought by African money. We need to tell those generals to stop the nonsense," he said adding that, "military capacity is for fighting criminals and terrorists, and not for fighting children and women and destroying our own infrastructure."

He decried Africa's helplessness in addressing the Sudan issue, owing to dependence on foreign states to fund peace efforts.

Ruto also proposed climate action as an endeavour African states can pursue together, citing the continental summit to be held in Nairobi in September.

"This will not be another moaning summit... we will boldly tell the world we will contribute positively to a solution."

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