In October, history will be made as the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) elects its President, and for the first time, it will be an African woman at the helm.
This momentous occasion will take place during the 147th Assembly of the IPU, where 179 Member States will gather from October 23 to 27, 2023, in Luanda, Angola.
The elected IPU President will serve from 2023 to 2026.
This time, Africa boasts four distinguished female candidates, each vying to lead the governing council. Among them are Ms. Catherine Gotani Hara, the Speaker of Malawi; Ms. Adji Diarra Mergane Kanouté, a Member of Parliament from Senegal; Ms. Tulia Ackson, the Speaker of Tanzania; and Ms. Marwa Abdibashir Hagi, a Member of Parliament from Somalia.
The last IPU President from the African continent was Abdelwahad Radi of Morocco, who served from 2011 to 2014. Mr. Radi’s election as President was significant, as he was serving as a legislator at the time.
Traditionally, IPU Presidents are elected from among Members of Parliament rather than Speakers. Speakers often have national responsibilities at their respective Parliaments, even if they pledge to prioritize their IPU duties.
A historical review of IPU Presidents reveals that most of them have been active MPs in their home countries. The President of the Inter-Parliamentary Union plays a crucial role in overseeing the organization’s activities and functions.
Their responsibilities include presiding over meetings, representing the IPU at international events, and fostering cooperation among member parliaments. Furthermore, they are instrumental in promoting dialogue and collaboration among parliamentarians worldwide, aligning with the IPU’s mission of advancing democracy, peace, and sustainable development.
Whichever of these four exceptional women is elected will create history as the first female IPU President.
Senegal, one of the candidate countries, has a noteworthy connection to the IPU, as its candidate previously served as the Vice-President of the IPU Executive Committee until March 2023.
Tanzania’s candidate, Ms. Tulia Ackson, currently chairs the African Geopolitical Group of the IPU, though her leadership credentials have garnered mixed opinions within the African community.
Somalia, on the other hand, is a relatively new entrant to this role, with Ms. Marwa Abdibashir Hagi representing the country’s at the global event.
The Federal Parliaments of Somalia issued issued a joint statement on September 15, expressing the belief that in her candidacy in response to a statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Somalia’s decision to endorse Ms. Tulia Ackson, despite Ms. Marwa Abdibashir Hagi’s bid for the position.
Ms. Ackson’s most formidable challenge will likely be Ms. Hagi. The two share a common regional background, and Ms. Hagi possesses a rich educational background, having traveled extensively throughout various African countries in support of African IPU legislators. This unique combination of factors makes her a formidable contender in this historic election.
Haggi expressed her heartfelt gratitude for the opportunity while acknowledging the significance of the role in a message to members.
“This journey is not simple, but I firmly believe that I can strongly advocate for your priorities,” Haggi affirmed. She pledged to listen to the concerns of members and to be their voice, not only within the organization but also on the global stage.
Haggi candidacy also carries a historical significance, being one of the female candidates for this prestigious position and the first Somali Woman. She noted, “If I am elected, I must contribute significantly to advancing the cause of global parliamentary diplomacy.”
She outlined her core focus areas, including conflict resolution, human rights, peace building, cybersecurity, economic innovation, and technology, acknowledging their pivotal roles in shaping the contemporary world.
Hagie’s recent participation in the Africa Climate Summit in Nairobi, Kenya, will likely bolster her candidacy. She emphasized the critical importance of prioritizing climate action and advocates for environmental sustainability.
Ms. Ackson’s lobbying efforts, which failed in Somalia, were also attempted in Malawi. Ms. Catherine Gotani Hara, the Speaker of Malawi, faces a notable challenge on the horizon.
South Africa has already stated its intention to cast its vote in favor of Tanzania. This preference for Tanzania presents a unique consideration, given that Malawi is typically regarded as a Southeast African nation. This particular obstacle is one that Malawi currently faces.
The Speaker of Tanzania’s parliament has urged the President of Malawi to either halt or exert pressure to withdraw Ms. Catherine Gotani Hara’s candidacy. However, the President did not accept this proposal.
As the IPU’s 147th Assembly draws near, the world watches with anticipation, as the election of the first female President promises to be a landmark moment in the organization’s history, marking a significant step toward gender equality and inclusivity in global parliamentary leadership.