African legislators have kick-started the process of developing legislation on policing in Africa. Titled, “The Draft Model Police Act”, the proposed legislation addresses issues of governance, human rights and justice. It also spells out the role, functions, powers and duties of a police officer including appointment, promotion, conditions of employment, resignation and retirement.
The draft law was presented for debate to the Pan African Parliament by the Chairperson of the Committee on Justice and Human Rights, Hon. Ignatienne Nyirarukundo on Wednesday.
Nyirarukundo said the objective of the law is to promote legislative reform on existing legislation governing the mandate, organizational structure and performance of law enforcement agents within the African Union member states.
“The law will significantly contribute to policing in Africa and complement existing reform initiatives of the African Union Commission on human and people’s rights,” she said adding that “The model law will support democratic governance and the rule of law, upholding and promoting equitable and free access to justice.”
Legislators were however conscious to note that the proposed legislation raises national sovereignty concerns and secondly PAP does not have full legislative powers as embodied in the Constitutive Act of the AU. At the moment, the continental assembly only has advisory and consultative powers and cannot make laws.
Not more than five member states, have ratified the Malabo Protocol that would give the Assembly powers to make laws. Even then, the assembly of Heads of State and Government would decide the subject areas that PAP may propose draft model laws. At least 28 Member States have to ratify and deposit the Protocol for PAP to have legislative powers.
“We need the model law because Africa has been associated with a regime style of policing where the police serves the state and not the people,” Hon. Bernadette Lahai from Sierra Leone said. “The model law should be taken to national countries for further discussion such that it’s in conformity with the national constitutions.”
Honourable Okot Ogong (Uganda) suggested that as part of wider public consultation on the proposed law, the Legal or Rules committee should hold public hearings with various stakeholders and submit a report to the House for consideration by the Members.
The Assembly now proposes to consult and enrich the model law with the various nation states’ legislations and then submit it to the AU Heads of States and Government for endorsement.
This will not be the first model law the AU has endorsed. Model laws have been adopted on issues of shared concern on the continent. In January 2016, the AU Heads of State and Government Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, officially endorsed the Model Law on medical products regulation. This was designed to help African countries address gaps and inconsistencies in regulatory legislation and enable harmonisation. Other model laws in place are the Access to Information for Africa; and the model law on Biosafety in Technology among others.