The Pan African Parliament (PAP) has approved a motion and established a committee to investigate its President (Speaker), Roger Nkodo Dang, who is accused of a host of allegations including sexual harassment.
The decision came during a closed door sitting held Thursday afternoon which followed a series of meetings called after staff at the PAP went on strike forcing the cancellation of a scheduled sitting in the morning.
The sitting was called off/suspended as the procedural House staff, who together with their colleagues accused the President of nepotism, abuse of power and sexual harassment.
The PAP was meeting for its third sitting of the ordinary session, having not met the previous day, a public holiday set aside for South Africa’s general elections.
When members converged for the sitting, there were no clerks, who assist with procedural duties including calling out of items to be discussed in the House. The House was also scheduled to receive and debate the PAP Strategic Plan for the period 2019 – 2023.
PAP President, Roger Nkodo (Cameroon), however announced that the plenary could not proceed as planned.
“The staff are on strike and we cannot therefore meet,” he said adding that he, together with selected legislators including Uganda’s Prof. Ogenga Latigo, would meet the staff.
Members rejected the plan by the President alongside the MPs to meet the disgruntled staff, instead asking him to proceed with the meeting with the other vice presidents, who form the Bureau, the body charged with the administration of the institution.
In a document circulated by the PAP Staff Association (PAPSA), the staff said that the 4th and 5th PAP held under the leadership of the current President are marked by nepotism, personality cult of the President and fear, lack of motivation and respect of their rights.
Nkodo was first elected PAP President in May 2015, replacing Nigeria’s Bethel Amadi. He was re-elected in May last year to serve a second three year term.
“[Nkodo] abuses his privileges and misuses his office and abuses his authority by making serious assaults verbally and threatening staff members. The deterioration of the general working climate within PAP due also to clientelism and favouritism as the method of administration with serious disregard of rigour, competence and merit have affected productivity and efficiency of the work of staff members,” reads part of the document.
The document signed by the President of PAPSA, Isa Djaddo, also
highlighted the deterioration of relations between the institution and other
organs of the
African Union especially the Permanent Representatives Committee and the Executive Council; disregard of AU Staff Rules and Regulations; issuing falsified reports; and conducting official travel without the PAP Secretariat.
“Some of the female staff complained of sexual harassment, assault and intimidation; and promising of favors if they give in to his demands. They will testify in camera to investigators,” reads the document.
Staff also blamed the President for pushing through the swearing in of two additional representatives from Cote d’Ivoire on Monday taking their representation to seven, above what is provided for in the PAP Protocol and Rules. The two MPs from the country’s Senate have since been suspended from the House.
Staff appealed for protection from the House from all threats and intimidation, and to ensure that they work in a better environment, and to “advise, warn or take necessary action to prevent the abuse of the staff by the President and save the image of PAP”.
In the closed door meeting, President Nkodo denied all allegations levied against him by the staff.
On Friday however, Nkodo backtracked on the motion leading to a protracted push by MPs to agree to the establishment and selection of members to serve on the committee.
“I’ll go to court, not this committee; I am rejecting the committee right from the start,” he said.
Two MPs were eventually selected from each of the regional caucuses of Eastern, Southern, Northern, Central and West, and will be joined by the chairpersons of the House committees on Rules and Human Rights.
The adhoc committee will consider all the allegations presented by the staff and report back to the plenary on Wednesday next week.