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West Africa witnessing decline in democratic relations, Akufo-addo warns

By Bridget Chiedu Onochie, Abuja
01 October 2023   |   7:00 pm
At the opening ceremony of the high-level Parliamentary Seminar in Winneba, Ghana, Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo, warned that democracy in West Africa was in danger.

*As Speaker Tunis Urges Parliamentarians To Uphold Regional Political, Economic Stability

At the opening ceremony of the high-level Parliamentary Seminar in Winneba, Ghana, Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo warned that democracy in West Africa was in danger.

He therefore called for serious commitment on the part of the leaders to entrench the principles of democratic accountability in the citizens.

The programme which was organized by ECOWAS Parliament has as its theme, ‘Role of the ECOWAS Parliament Relating the Challenges of Unconstitutional Regime Change and Presidential Term Limits in West Africa.’

President Akufo-Addo expressed worries that the region was 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, the region was witnessing a significant decline in its democratic relations.

He said: “This observation is bitter and implacable. As at today four-member ECOWAS States are led by military government as a result of coup d’etat. This has unfortunately created a stare palpable anxiety and tension in every corner of the region, raising the spectra of regional instability which we thought had been banished forever. Equally apart is the culture of violence and disputes that characterized the period of electing some of our leaders.”

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

“Secondly is the emerging remilitarization of governance with the return once again of the military unto the political scene. We have 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 seek to start lawlessness in the absent of freedom in our region.”

Adding: “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.

“The election of Mohammed Bazum in the Republic of 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 of general appliance. 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 added that modern history has shown that tyranny, oppression and totalitarian government do not last long.

“No matter how a people reject democracy and civil liberty, circumstances will always force them back to embrace them”, he said.

He therefore urged Parliamentarians to speak against the extension of presidential tenures by some leaders to strengthen their grip in power.

“There should be no backsliding in support for democratic values anchored on the promotion of the rule of law and respect for human rights.

“It is important for all of us in the adherence of democracy to remember not to underestimate the importance of parliament, the consequently not to undermine its 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 development the capacity to insist on accountability in all aspect of our land and no institution is better suited for this than the one who houses the representatives of the people.”

The seminar served to brainstorm on the major challenges facing the region with a view to proffering solutions.

Meanwhile, President Akufo-Addo has assured that the authority of Heads of States are expectant of the resolutions.

He stated: “Brainstorming on all this major challenges which I have just outlined in the search for solutions to the political and security challenges facing our region is the imperative mission of this seminar.

“One of the expected outcomes is to help us understand even better the root causes of democratic regression and political I stability in the region it all will be better to address. This seminar over the next few days must propose measures to ensure the anchoring of democracy and republican values both at the level of political elites and citizens of the community. This will help towards preserving the peace and stability of the region.

“I can assure you that the authority of Heads of states of ECOWAS will be receptive to all your proposals and await them with great interest. 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.

In his remarks, Speaker, ECOWAS Parliament, Hon. Sidie MohammedTunis, stated that the high-level seminar was put together as part of the performances of parliament’s obligations under the Treaty – determine causes of military coups, democratic regression and political instability in the sub-region.

Speaker Tunis reiterate that their responsibility as legislators was 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, they must facilitate robust and continuous discourse on the broad issues, aimed at formulating effective and sustainable solutions to the tremendous crisis confronting our peoples 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.”

Earlier in his welcome address, the Head of Ghanaian Delegation at the ECOWAS Parliament, Hon. Alexander Afenyo-Markin, said that the recent unrest in the Sub-region should in no way, provide a justification for military coups to overthrow democratically elected regimes.

“We must insist fervently that the answer to these acts of terror lies within our democratic institutions, standing as bastions of hope and fortitude amidst the turmoil.

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