Strengthening institutions crucial for democracy in Africa — Media Foundation for West Africa
The Executive Director of the Media Foundation for West Africa (MfWA), Sulemana Braimah, has said that strengthening institutions, promoting transparency and fostering civic engagement are crucial to safeguard democracy across Africa.
He explained that the threats to democracy in West Africa were multifaceted, surrounding issues such as political instability, electoral malpractices and diminishing civic participation.
At the opening of a two-day regional democracy strategy dialogue, dubbed West Africa Regional Democracy Strategy Dialogue, Mr Braimah said these had been worsened by external pressures, economic challenges and security concerns across the continent.
“When democracy is decaying, it is not just about the Executive, it is about all the institutions of democracy; it is about the police, military, media and the Judiciary, among others.
When democracy is deteriorating, you will see the effects manifesting around all these institutions,” he said.
He, therefore, called for concerted efforts to strengthen democratic institutions and ensure transparent electoral processes.
The event was organised by the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI), in collaboration with the MfWA, the West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) and the West Africa Democracy Solidarity Network (WADEMOS) on the theme: “Strengthening Democracy and State-Citizens Relations in West Africa”.
It brought together 10 leading and influential regional civil society organisations (CSOs) which have strong relationships with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS); 10 leading activists and CSO leaders from Niger and the transitional countries, including Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali, to foster a renewed commitment to democratic values and principles, and to create a stronger and more resilient democratic future for West Africa.
State of democracy
The Director-General of WACSI, Nana Asantewa Afadzinu, said the dialogue would build a collective movement that transcended existing divisions, and addressed the inherent vulnerabilities in the democratic systems of the region.
She noted that it would rigorously examine the pivotal role of civil society in upholding democratic values, consolidating regional development and navigating the multifaceted contemporary landscape.
She expressed concern about the region’s democratic backsliding.
Highlighting the decline in the region’s democratic progress, Nana Afadzinu said there was a time when West Africa was making progress towards constitutionalism, constitutionally elected governments, and the strengthening of institutions, encompassing the Executive, Legislature, Judiciary and Electoral systems.
However, Nana Afadzinu said the present situation was retrogressing due to the actions of certain leaders who prolonged their stay in power and manipulated the political landscape, often leading to citizen protests and infringements on their rights.
“That’s why this crucial convening has brought together 10 prominent regional civil society organisations with strong ties to ECOWAS.
It also involves 10 leading activists and CSO leaders from countries in transition, such as Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, and Niger.
“The discussions during this gathering will help develop a robust communication strategy that amplifies civil society voices and fosters collaboration with regional bodies such as ECOWAS and state governments,” she said.
The acting Project Director of the WADEMOS, Paul Osei Kufuor, said there was a need for good governance in West Africa, adding that the CSOs' engagement would go a long way to restore constitutional order in Niger.