The Pan-African Parliament (PAP) finds itself embroiled in a power struggle as staff members appeal to the African Union (AU) for intervention against the self-declared acting president, Dr. Ashebir W. Gayo, who is accused of illegally seizing power and abusing his position.

Gayo assumed the role of acting president on August 22nd last year without a formal Bureau meeting or agreement with the other members.

The move came as the then-president, Chief Fortune Charumbira and two other vice presidents were standing for elections in their respective countries.

In an open letter addressed to the African Union Commission (AUC), PRC and Executive Council, the staff expressed their concerns over Gayo’s “unlawful dismissals and appointments”, as well as alleged violation of AU rules and regulations.

“After illegally assuming office, Dr Ashebir W. Gayo immediately dismissed the office staff who had been properly hired (Director of the Bureau, Policy Officer, and Office Secretary).

“These staff having been recruited to serve the office of the President of the Pan-African Parliament.

“We would like to draw your attention to the fact that, due to Dr Ashebir W. Gayo’s illegal orders, since August 2023, the PAP has been paying two Directors of the Bureau, three Policy Officers, and two Secretaries.

“This is a misuse of taxpayers’ money, an abuse of power, and a violation of the rules and regulations of the African Union.

“It is a violation of the golden rules established by the political organs regarding the expenditure of Union funds,” read excerpts from the letter.

The letter further highlighted Gayo’s establishment of his own APROB (Administrative and Financial Oversight Board) by appointing Miles Sampa as chairperson in what is argued as contrary to AU staff rules and regulations.

The decision resulted in the removal of the Clerk of Parliament and the legal representative from APROB, leading to opposition from the Clerk and subsequent intimidation and harassment by Gayo.

“Dr Ashebir W. Gayo, considering himself as a Bureau, President and Clerk of Parliament, dissolved the suitably and legally established APROB and formed his own APROB by appointing Mr. Miles Sampa as APROB chairperson, contrary to the AU staff rules and regulations, removing the Clerk of Parliament and legal representative as APROB members.

“The Clerk of Parliament opposed this decision and ended up being intimidated, abused, and harassed by Dr Ashebir W. Gayo.

“This is non-compliant with the requirements of the PAP protocol, which states that the Clerk of Parliament is responsible for the recruitment of all Secretariat posts other than the Clerk and Deputy Clerks.

“We wonder what Dr Ashebir W. Gayo’s motive is for preventing the Clerk from carrying out her legal duties.

“Through his abuse of power, Dr Ashebir W. Gayo created tensions within the staff, leading to demotivation and conflicts,” further reads the letter.

In an exclusive interview with PAP Chairperson of the Western Africa Regional Caucus, Alhagie Mbow condemned Gayo’s attempts to solidify his authority by reverting the institution to old rules, deeming it illegal.

Mbow also questioned AUC Chairperson Musa Faki’s suspension of PAP’s current rules and regulations, which appeared to favour Gayo’s tenure as acting president.

“The AUC Chairperson, who suspended the rules should also be in a position to stop his actions.

“What does suspending the rules of the PAP mean? Is he telling the PAP to revert to the old rules?

“The biggest question is; does the chairperson Musa Faki have the powers to suspend the rules of any of the organs of the AU without being directed by the AU Assembly heads of states to do so?

“Shouldn’t he consult with the Permanent Representative Committee (PRC) and the Executive Council before suspending the rules which is unheard of.

“Dr Gayo has no power whatsoever to act on any matter with regards to the PAP. The most absurd thing is that the AUC is addressing him as the acting president of the PAP? Coincidence?” said Mbow.

Mbow emphasized that the AUC chairperson’s function as the custodian of all AU legal instruments does not grant him the power to interpret the rules of procedures for other organs to the extent of suspending them.

Additionally, the AU protocol explicitly states that the PAP is responsible for establishing its own rules of procedures.

The AU Office of the Legal Counsel (OLC) sent a letter dated October 17th, 2023, to the AU chief of staff, outlining the illegality of Gayo’s tenure as acting president.

“The OLC would like to reiterate that the current membership of the Bureau (Second and Third Vice Presidents) does not have the requisite quorum and accordingly, cannot make administrative, financial and other management decisions on the affairs and facilities of PAP and its Organs until the Bureau has the appropriate quorum.

“In the interim and pending the arrival of the Task Force, the Clerk of the PAP,” read parts of the letter.

However, this letter did not dissuade Gayo, who continued to ignore its contents and assert his authority as acting president.

When approached for comment, Alex Ratebaye, Deputy Chief of Staff in the Bureau of the AUC Chairperson, stated that the ongoing process prevented him from providing any feedback or comment at this stage.

“Please note that at this stage, I can’t give any comment or feedback to your request.

“The process is still ongoing…” said Ratebaye.