The President of Ghana, Nana Akufo-Addo has said democracy in West Africa is in danger as evident in the recent military takeovers in the sub-region, and urged all to work harder to entrench the principles of democratic accountability in the citizens.
Akufo-Addo stated this at a high-level parliamentary seminar on the ‘Role of the ECOWAS Parliament Relating the Challenges of Unconstitutional Regime Change and Presidential Term Limits in West Africa”, organised by the ECOWAS Parliament in Winneba, Ghana.
The Ghanian President who declared the seminar open, said the West African region is confronted with a difficult economic, political, social insecurity situation.
He said, despite the considerable progress made by ECOWAS in the areas of democracy, good governance and the rule of law since the 1990s, the region is currently witnessing a significant decline in its democratic relations.
Akufo-Addo averred that the region’s democracy is currently facing three serious threats including attempted confiscation by elites who manipulate constitutional rules and the subjugate institutions of the republic with the sole aim of remaining in power.
He said other threats are the emerging remilitarisation of governance with the return once again of the military unto the political scene, and the wanton desire to destroy democracy by terrorist groups and armed criminal gangs to start lawlessness in the absent of freedom in the region.
Akufo-Addo said: “This observation is bitter and implacable, 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 beef banished for ever. Equally apart, is the culture of violence and disputes that characterise the period of electing some of our leaders.
“I want to reaffirm that in the contemporary world, the only legitimacy for any leader is through a mandate that is freely give 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 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.”
He insisted that democracy is not a western concept as some believe, but rather a universal concept of general applicability.
According to the Ghanian President, the history of the world, including that of Africa showed that the process of electing and installing leaders in democratic circumstances provides the best form of government.
He urged parliamentarians to speak against the extension of presidential tenures by some leaders to strengthen their grip and power, saying such actions result into discontent among the populace and create fertile grounds for military interventions.
In his remarks, Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Hon. Sidie Mohammed Tunis, said the high-level Seminar was put togetehr as 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 lawmakers was not only to create laws and policies but to also rigorously monitor implementation of those instruments.
He said to ensure that ECOWAS performs maximally to the expectation of the people, its parliament must facilitate robust and continuous discourse on the broad issues, aimed at formulating effective and sustainable solutions to challenges.
“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, anti-democratic forces while resisting those who seek to undermine our democracy, he stated.
Tunis said ECOWAS must also be sensitive to the situation of young people 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.
He said the ECOWAS Parliament is collaborating with Non-Governmental organisations (NGOs) to establish the ECOWAS Youth Parliament to facilitate the active participation of young people across the region in achieving the community vision.
Earlier in his welcome address the Head of Ghana Delegation at the ECOWAS Parliament, Hon. Alexander Afenyo-Markin, said the recent activities of unrest in the subregion should in no way give justification for military coups to overthrow democratically elected government.
“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.
“We stand at a juncture where the road we choose will dictate the future of our great region. The recent resurgence of military coups threatens to drag us back to an era we have fought tirelessly to transcend.
“We must firmly CONDEMN the coups in Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Chad, and Gabon, along with the hostilities in Sudan. These actions are a betrayal of the democratic
principles we hold dear, and we demand a swift return to constitutional rule,” Afenyo-Markin added.