Save democracy in sub-region - President urges ECOWAS Parliament
President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has stated that “democracy in West Africa is in danger”, and has therefore charged the ECOWAS Parliament to “work harder to entrench the principles of democratic accountability in the citizens”.
The President said democracy in the region had been seriously subverted by “the attempted confiscation of democracy by elites, who engage, through legal antics, in the manipulation of constitutional rules and the subjugation of the institutions of the republic with the sole aim of remaining in power”.
He, therefore, charged members of the Parliament of ECOWAS to find solutions to the emerging re-militarisation of governance, the attempted confiscation of democracy by elites, and the wanton desire to destroy democracy by terrorist groups and armed criminal gangs in the region.
Speaking at the second ECOWAS Parliamentary Seminar in Winneba in the Central Region last Friday, President Akufo-Addo said another key threat was “the emerging re-militarisation of governance with the intrusion, once again, of the military on the political scene, who have neither consulted nor received any mandate from the people on whose behalf they purport to act”.
The seminar was on the theme: “Challenges relating to unconstitutional changes of government and presidential term limits in West Africa — Role of the ECOWAS Parliament”.
President Akufo-Addo said: “The wanton desire to destroy democracy by terrorist groups and armed criminal gangs” through the establishment of zones of lawlessness and the absence of freedom were deliberate threats to the democratic stability of the region.
Quoting the Great British wartime leader, Winston Spencer Churchill, who said “democracy is the worst form of governance, except for all the others”, the President said “modern history has taught us that tyranny, oppression and totalitarian government do not last long”.
“We cannot run away from the fact that our region is confronted with a difficult economic, political, social and security situation.
“As all of us know, despite the considerable progress made by the community in the areas of democracy, good governance and the rule of law since the early 1990s, which meant that four years ago, 15 leaders of ECOWAS states were democratically elected, we are, at the moment, witnessing a decline in our democratic credentials,” the President added.
He said the prevailing situation was bitter and implacable, pointing out that “today, four ECOWAS member states are led by military governments as a result of coups d'état”.
He described that situation as a sad and unfortunate development which had created a state of palpable anxiety and tension in every corner of the region, thereby raising the spectre of regional instability, “which we thought had been banished forever”.
Equally abhorrent, President Akufo-Addo said, was the culture of violence and disputes that characterised the periods of electing some of the leaders on the continent.
He said the coup in Niger was particularly tragic for the consolidation of democracy in the region, insisting that the election of Mohammed Bazoum in Niger was a recognition of the common will of the people.
“The only legitimacy for any leader is through a mandate that is given freely by the people in a fair, peaceful and transparent election.
This is the most tangible and objective way to know and recognise the common will, which is the will of the people,” the President added.
He said any attempt at the manipulation of opinion and of the rules of the democratic game for partisan political ends always led to a loss of legitimacy, which was reflected in the social tensions it created.
“The true purpose of democratic governance is to obtain the objective of free government, shared prosperity and progress, equitable and accessible justice and lasting peace for the well-being of the citizenry,” President Akufo-Addo said.
He further urged ECOWAS legislators to ensure that one of the expected outcomes “is to help us understand even better the root causes of democratic regression and political instability in the region in order to address them and speak against the extension of presidential term limits by some leaders to strengthen their grip on power.”
He also stressed that “these actions tend to result in discontent among the populace, which create fertile grounds on which military interventions disingenuously feed”.