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General News of Thursday, 14 January 1999

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Ghana to host West African parliament next May

Accra (Greater Accra), 13 Jan. '99 - Ghana today advocated the establishment of a West African Parliament to complement diplomatic initiatives for sub-regional integration. Mr Justice Daniel Francis Annan, Speaker, said today that, as a first step, Ghana will host the first ever West African Speakers Conference in May, this year. He was addressing the Sixth Public Forum of Parliament under the theme: ''Parliament at the threshold of the 21st Century'' which, among other things, aimed at bringing parliament closer to the doorstep of the people. "It is the belief of Ghana that, to complement diplomatic initiatives aimed at enhancing sub-regional integration, the legislatures of the various countries in the sub-region need to initiate moves to bring the parliamentary institutions of West Africa together while retaining their individual and separate identities''. Mr Justice Annan said the conference, to be attended by 16 Speakers in the region, will deliberate on general issues relating to the parliamentary process and seek to establish an annual forum for West Africa Speakers as a prelude to the ultimate establishment of a West African Parliament. ''It is our hope that by the time of the conference, Nigeria would be a fully fledged parliamentary democracy and could take its rightful place,'' he added. Mr Justice Annan said countries in the sub-region are in one way or the other linked with each other through historical, cultural, ethnic and linguistic ties. In addition to this, there is a large volume of informal trade and other transactions across each other's borders. ''There are more factors that unite us than separate us. The need is becoming increasingly imperative for us, therefore, to come together to pursue goals that are mutually beneficial to all''. On international relations, Mr Justice Annan said the house, through various delegations to international parliamentary conferences, has been able to foster co-operation and goodwill with other parliaments. ''These developments are a clear evidence of the increasing recognition of the institution of parliament as a critical partner in the sustenance of our new democratic culture''. He expressed his appreciation to the donor community, diplomatic missions, UN organs and various local and international organisations for their sponsorship .