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Falana warns of more coups in West Africa as heavy gunfire rocks govt palace in Guinea Bissau

By Bertram Nwannekanma and Ngozi Egenuka
02 February 2022   |   4:08 am
Former President of West African Bar Association (WABA) and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana, yesterday, warned that the African continent could witness more unconstitutional change of governments due to failure of leadership.

Femi Falana

Former President of West African Bar Association (WABA) and Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN), Femi Falana, yesterday, warned that the African continent could witness more unconstitutional change of governments due to failure of leadership.

The alert came as the government of Guinea-Bissau, a small West African country with a troubled political history, was filled with heavy tension, yesterday, according to AFP.

Heavily armed men surrounded the government palace where President Umaro Sissoco Embalo and Prime Minister Nuno Gomes Nabiam were supposed to meet with ministers.

The presence of the military around the government palace, not far from the airport, brought a lot of tension. An AFP correspondent reported that an armed man ordered him to move away at gunpoint.

The area around the airport was also filled with people fleeing the scene. Markets emptied and banks closed.

Numerous military vehicles loaded with soldiers drove through the streets.

Falana’s warning was contained in a letter to Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Ghanaian President, Nana Akufo-Addo.

Falana, therefore, urged him to engage treaties and protocols of the sub-regional group that ensure good governance to prevent the spate of coups that has overtaken three countries in the sub-region.

According to him, ECOWAS must take a preventive and active role in dealing with threats to democracy, human rights and the rule of law, which have continued to contribute significantly to recurring coups and unconstitutional change of governments.

He warned that the Mali and Burkina Faso experience may be repeated in other countries if impunity, disrespect for the rule of law, abuse of human rights, poverty, and election rigging continue in the sub-region.

Falana urged Akufo-Addo to urgently summon a meeting of leaders to discuss how to address the ills that give room for military officers to seize government.

He said unlawfully amending national constitutions to remain in office is acting above the law, and contrary to ECOWAS treaties and protocols and other international standards.

He said: “It is unsurprising that many of these political leaders continue to act with impunity and do not fear condemnation and sanctions from ECOWAS.

The letter reads in part: “I am writing to urge you to provide the leadership necessary for the Economic Community of West African States to apply the ECOWAS treaties and protocols on democracy and human rights, with a view to adopting preventive measures to promote the rule of law, end impunity of political leaders, and ensure full respect for citizens’ human rights including socio-economic rights.”

“Following the latest military coup and unconstitutional change of government, the Republic of Burkina Faso has been suspended from the ECOWAS. The coup is coming on the heels of at least five previous coups from member states of ECOWAS.

“Unfortunately, it has become routine for ECOWAS leaders to act after-the-fact rather than taking preventive measures to enforce respect for human rights, the rule of law, and end impunity of political leaders who frequently seek to change their national constitutions for personal gain.

“I am concerned that for many years, official impunity, abuse of human rights, grand and systemic corruption, flagrant disregard for the rule of law and grinding poverty arising from economic mismanagement have been pervasive throughout the sub-region, and indeed the African continent.

“The persistent failure of the leadership of ECOWAS to take a preventive and active role in dealing with these threats to democracy, human rights and the rule of law has continued to contribute significantly to recurring coups and unconstitutional change of governments in many countries.

“The ECOWAS should also make the meaningful and effective implementation of its treaties and protocols on democracy and human rights, and obeying the rule of law a condition for retaining the membership of the institution.

“To prevent members of the armed forces from hiding under the pretext of fighting insecurity to sack constitutional governments the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF), (a combined multinational formation, comprising units of the armed forces from Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria) should be revived, expanded and funded to fight insurgency in the region.

“Finally, I also urge you to use your position to ensure that ECOWAS is able to assert its mandates under its treaties and protocols to immediately push for full and effective respect for democratic principles, human rights, transparency and accountability, as well as the rule of law in each of its member states.”