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Mild drama at ECOWAS session in The Gambia over two-term limit for heads of state

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The opening of the extraordinary session of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament experienced a moment of rowdiness as the Speaker, Moustapha Cissé-Lo read his speech in the Banjul venue of the session.

All was calm and quiet during the speech, until the Speaker raised his concerns over calls on ECOWAS Commission to by a pronouncement to impose a two-term limit on member-countries for heads of state.

According to the Speaker, every country has a sovereign right to choose how its government is run and there should be no interferences from the ECOWAS Commission.

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“There are some countries where the mandate is not limited. I can mention Cameroun for instance. Let’s leave these countries to alter their constitutions based on their times. All constitutions can be reviewed and adapted to soothe the realities of their times; that is why I say ECOWAS cannot make any pronouncement to limit mandates to not more than two terms. That is not for ECOWAS to determine. ECOWAS should not make any pronouncement on that”.

The statement was at this point greeted with boos by the parliamentarians, prompting the Speaker to apologise but further went ahead to buttress his convictions, saying: “If you don’t like the way that sounds, I will withdraw it. I’m sorry about it. But we see what has been written in the press, we cannot shy away from this argument.

“I am saying that the states have their sovereignty to determine how they want to run their governments as long as everybody in that country accepts it that way.”

A member of Parliament from Liberia, Clarence Massaquoi, who spoke with newsmen on the sidelines of the event, pointed out that parliamentarians were particularly displeased with the Speaker’s submission, as they are of the view that the ECOWAS Commission should, as a matter of necessity, pressure member- countries to limit the terms of their heads of State to two.

He maintained that no true democracy allows for perpetuity of Heads of state. Cissé-Lo also highlighted some of the achievements of the Fourth Legislature to include “the strengthening of the principles of parliamentary representation through discussions and determination to respect parliamentary immunity.

He also expressed displeasure over the various attacks suffered by some security operatives of some member-countries by armed groups as he called for the clampdown on perpetrators of the crimes.“I want to hail the determination of some states to fight terrorism and obscurantism. And as I love to remind you, peace and security are at the basis of economic development.

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ECOWASMoustapha Cisse Lo
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