President John Dramani Mahama has called on the leadership of Parliaments in Africa to educate the public on the role of Members of Parliament to erase the negative perceptions they have about them.
He said although Members of Parliament play significant roles in the formulation of laws to deepen democracy, the public mostly reduced them to a bunch of politicians interested in feathering their own nests.
President Mahama made this call when he addressed the opening session of the 15th Commonwealth Speakers and Presiding Officers Conference Africa Region in Accra on the theme: Raising the confidence of the citizenry in the legislature: The role of the Speaker.”
The conference, the first in Ghana attracted Speakers and Presiding Officers from Cameroun, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa and Zambia among other African Commonwealth members.
The week-long conference would among other things enable member countries to discuss parliamentary development and give them the opportunity to learn to serve the people by achieving their lofty goals.
President Mahama said by educating the public, Speakers and leadership needed to let the people know that the performance of parliament was not limited to taking partisan positions during debates, but included the deliberation on issues that tended to bind all citizens irrespective of their status or geographical location.
He said in Ghana and Africa for that matter, the public expectations from Members of Parliament especially financial and other demands were growing by the day, thereby placing them in precarious positions and the only way they could extricate themselves was through adequate education.
The President however explained that the public could not be blamed for making too many demands from Members of Parliament as most of them promised a lot during their canvassing for votes, adding that providing adequate education would create a better understanding of their role.
President Mahama said although Africa had raised their democratic bar by including the participation of the Civil Society Organizations and other pressure groups, a lot was needed to strengthen the democratic institutions to change the negative perceptions of the people.
Senator Ike Ekweremadu, Speaker of Economic Community of West African States Parliament said Ghana deserved to host the conference because of the democratic credentials she had earned over the years.
He gave the assurance that the house would work hard to maintain the reputation African Parliament had gained over the years by taking up the right procedures for political and democratic dispensation in the continent.
Senator Ekweremadu said one of the key areas the conference would tackle was capacity building for members to live up to their tasks. GNA