ECOWAS: Democracy in West African region, threatened – President Akufo-Ado

Elizabeth AtimeOctober 1, 20237 min

The Ghanaian President said the seminar by ECOWAS was organised to find solutions to the political and security challenges facing the region as well as find the root causes of democratic regression and political Instability in the region.

The President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo, has called on West African leaders to entrench the principles of democratic accountability in the citizens, saying that democracy in West Africa is in danger.

Akufo-Addo noted that recent incidences of military takeovers in the West African sub-region call for concern.

President Akufo-Addo made the call over the weekend, at a high-level parliamentary seminar on the “Role of the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) Parliament Relating the Challenges of Unconstitutional Regime Change and Presidential Term Limits in West Africa”, organised by the ECOWAS Parliament in Winneba, Ghana.

Declaring the seminar open, the Ghanaian President worried that the West African region is currently confronted with a difficult economic, political, and social insecurity situation.

According to him, despite the considerable progress made by the community in the areas of democracy, good governance, and the rule of law since the 1990s, “we are at the moment, witnessing a significant decline in our democratic relations.

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“This observation is bitter and implacable. Today, four ECOWAS members are led by military governments as a result of the coup d’état. This has unfortunately created a stare palpable anxiety and tension in every corner of the region, raising the spectra of region instability, which we thought had been banished forever. Equally, apart is the culture of violence and disputes that characterise the period of electing some of our leaders.

“In my opinion, regional democracy is currently facing three serious threats. First is the attempted confiscation of democracy by elites, who engage through legal acts in the manipulation of constitutional rules and the subjugation of the institutions of the republic with the sole aim of remaining in power.

“Second is the emerging remilitarization of governance with the return once again of the military unto the political scene. We’ve neither consulted nor received any mandate from the people on whose behalf they purport to act.

“Lastly, is the wanton desire to destroy democracy by terrorist groups and armed criminal gangs which seem to start lawlessness in the absence of freedom in our region.

“I want to reaffirm that in the contemporary world, the only legitimacy for any leader is through a mandate that is freely given by the people in a fair, peaceful, and transparent election. This is the most tangible and objective way to know and recognize the commonwealth which is the wealth of the people.

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“The election of Mohammed Bazum in Niger inboard this recognition of the commonwealth and that is why the coup in Niger is particularly tragic for the consolidation of democracy in our region.

“It is also important to remind us that democracy is not a Western concept as some believe, but rather a universal concept. The history of the world, including that of Africa testifies that the process of electing and installing leaders in democratic circumstances provides the best form of government.

President Akufo-Addo also urged parliamentarians to speak against the extension of presidential tenures by some leaders to strengthen their grip and power. These actions, he said tend to result in discontent among the populace to create fertile grounds for which military intervention feeds.

“It is important for all of us in the adherence of democracy to remember not to underestimate the importance of parliament, and not to undermine it’s worth. We cannot emphasize enough the role of Parliament in exercising the checks and balances needed on the executive, we cannot emphasize enough the role of Parliament as the voice of the people and we cannot emphasize enough the role of Parliament in setting the tone for public discuss in our respective countries.

“It is for the good of our nations that our parliaments develop the capacity to insist on accountability in all aspects of our land, and no institution is better suited for this than the one who houses the representatives of the people.”

He further stated that the mission of the seminar is to find solutions to the political and security challenges facing the region, adding that one of the expected outcomes is to understand better, the root causes of democratic regression and political Instability in the region as well as lasting solutions.

“Our expectation is that the conclusions and recommendations from this seminar will contribute to the deepening and strengthening of democracy, good governance, peace, and stability in our region.”

On his part, the Speaker of ECOWAS Parliament, Hon. Sidie Mohammed Tunis, explained that the high-level Seminar was part of the performance of parliaments’ obligations under the Treaty, to determine what causes military takeovers, democratic regression, and political instability in the sub-region.

Tunis reiterated that their responsibility as parliamentarians is not only to create laws and policies but, also to rigorously monitor their implementation.

According to him, to ensure that ECOWAS performs maximally to the expectation of the people, parliamentarians must facilitate robust and continuous discourse on the broad issues aimed at formulating effective and sustainable solutions to the tremendous crisis confronting our people and humanity in general.

“During this Seminar, we also intend to look at the causes of various attempts by democratically elected leaders in the sub-region to extend their term limits despite crystal-clear constitutional provisions outlining these terms, as well as the potential role the ECOWAS Parliament can play in preventing such anti-democratic actions.

“We note that the role of the Parliament in upholding regional stability, laying the groundwork for democracy, economic growth, and the rule of law, as well as acting as the voice of hope for all our peoples, is invaluable and should never be diminished. Parliamentarians need to step up to the plate and demonstrate the extraordinary leadership that is expected of us.

“The adage “to whom much is given, much is expected” applies here. We must embrace democracy as essential to progress and muster the confidence to speak out against leaders who are solidifying their hold on power against the wishes of the people because we have a moral obligation to do so.

“We must denounce those who start constitutional and institutional coups with the same zeal and tones as we denounce military coups. We must publicly denounce corruption, poor leadership, and anti-democratic forces while resisting those who seek to undermine our democracy. To that effect, the ECOWAS Parliament must take charge and ensure that National Parliaments carry out conflict prevention measures in addition to overseeing the effective operation of the ECOWAS Early Warning System.

“We must also be sensitive to the situation of young people in our society, who face poverty, barriers to education, many forms of discrimination as well as limited job prospects and opportunities, leaving them susceptible to engaging in anti-democratic initiatives. In response to the growing understanding of the value of youth in building resilience and peaceful societies, especially across our region.

“The ECOWAS Parliament is collaborating with Non-Governmental organisations (NGOs), led by Oxfam and its partners, including the Foundation for Security and Development in Africa (FOSDA), Campaign for Human Rights and Development International (CHRDI), and the West African Youth Alliance, to establish the ECOWAS Youth Parliament.

“The establishment of the Youth Parliament, which is aligned with the ECOWAS Strategic Objective #5 “Building ECOWAS into a community of peoples fully inclusive of women, children and youth”, will facilitate the active participation of youths across the region in achieving the community vision, in coordination with the ECOWAS Parliament.”

Elizabeth Atime

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