The Association of European Parliamentarians for Africa (AWEPA) and the Parliament of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC) have been cooperating since 2012 within the framework of a programme entitled “Strengthening regional parliaments to achieve the millennium development goals (MDGs)” supported by the Swedish international development agency (Sida).
In parallel to the signing of the cooperation agreement sealing this partnership in February 2012, a regional workshop was organised to broach the question of Lake Chad, and the role of CEMAC parliamentarians in this field. The reason is the considerable reduction in the surface area of the lake, observed over the past few decades, combined with natural changes in hydraulic conditions, human factors and desertification, which constitutes a major challenge for the human and sustainable development of Central Africa.
More recently, from 18 to 20 February 2013, Parliamentarians Wolfgang Pirklhuber (Austria) and José Maldonado i Gili (Spain), as part of a delegation from AWEPA, therefore joined their peers from the CEMAC Parliament and the National Assembly of Chad on the banks of the lake to observe and understand the situation. During the first day of this visit, they went to the village of Kinasserom, built on an island in the middle of the lake, to discuss the situation with the population at a public hearing also attended by the regional authorities. This meeting allowed the elected representatives to familiarise themselves with the realities and perceived needs of the population, whose living conditions and livelihoods are suffering from the instability engendered by the unpredictable variations in the Lake’s waters. It also led to the forging of strong bonds between the CEMAC parliamentarians and the local population. This problem, which is regional in scale, often remains relatively unknown to the politicians from the countries of Central Africa not bordering the lake (Equatorial Guinea, Republic of the Congo, Gabon and Democratic Republic of the Congo, in particular).
During the second day of the visit, the parliamentarians took part in a seminar in Ndjamena the aim of which was to review the state of research and action implemented by the region’s institutions (national governments, Lake Chad Basin Commission (CBLT), technical and financial partners) as well as the existing parliamentarian initiatives, to work towards the preservation of Lake Chad and its sustainable management.
The CEMAC Parliament, represented by Vice-president Honourable Albert Pahimi Padacké, also spoke of the urgency of achieving a consensus for the immediate implementation of emergency projects, including the most ambitious, since it now appears to be accepted that inter-basin transfers to Lake Chad are feasible. However, the majority of the participants and speakers underscored the fact that the parliamentarians should also become involved in more modest projects that could help the riparian population of the Lake to manage the current situation of economic and ecological vulnerability.
On the last day, having had the opportunity to listen and take part in the rich, fruitful debates, the members of the CEMAC Parliament delegation discussed concrete action to be implemented to make the institution a stakeholder in this joint effort. In this respect, many have evoked the possibility of including the Lake Chad problem issues in the “Regional Economic Plan”, which constitutes the roadmap for the development of the CEMAC region. This plan was initiated by the CEMAC Commission based in Bangui in the Central African Republic.
Despite it still is one of the widest lakes in the continent, Lake Chad’s surface is today roughly 10 times smaller than 50 years ago. From a surface of 25 000 km² in 1964, the lake has currently shrunk to 2500 km².
AWEPA is proud to work in cooperation with the Parliament of the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa (CEMAC), the youngest of the African sub-regional parliaments, in the frame of its programme on the Millennium Development Goals. The CEMAC parliament considers that this partnership expresses its ambition of becoming a space for active dialogue at the community level, in order to promote the integration and development of the CEMAC region. Besides, the CEMAC parliament, Awepa also cooperates with the Panafrican Parliament, the East African Legislative Assembly (EALA), the CEDEAO Parliament and the Parliamentary Forum of the South African Development Community.