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Democracy in West Africa in danger – Akufo-Addo tells ECOWAS Parliament

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has charged members of the Parliament of ECOWAS to find solutions to the emerging re-militarisation of governance.

Also, he tasked the regional community to seek answers to the attempted confiscation of democracy by elites and the wanton desire to destroy democracy by terrorist groups and armed criminal gangs in the region.

Stating what he described as three serious threats to democracy in the region, President Akufo-Addo said, “Democracy in West Africa is in danger”, thus the regional fraternity “must work even harder to entrench the principles of democratic accountability in the citizenry.”

According to President Akufo-Addo, democracy in the region has 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 added that another key threat is “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 President did not hesitate to also mention “the wanton desire to destroy democracy by terrorist groups and armed criminal gangs, who seek to establish zones of lawlessness and the absence of freedom” as another deliberate threat to the democratic stability of the region.

Referring to the great British wartime leader, Winston Spencer Churchill’s statement that “democracy is the worst form of governance, except for all the others”, he stated that “modern history has taught us that tyranny, oppression, and totalitarian government do not last long.

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

President Akufo-Addo told the gathering that “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, all 15 leaders of ECOWAS States were democratically elected, we are, at the moment, witnessing a decline in our democratic credentials” he said.

President Akufo-Addo was addressing the 2nd Ecowas Parliamentary Seminar, in Winneba, on Friday, September 29, 2023, under the theme, “Challenges Relating to Unconstitutional Changes of Government and Presidential Term Limits in West Africa – Role of the ECOWAS Parliament.”

Describing the prevalent situation as bitter and implacable, he said, “Today, four ECOWAS Member States are led by military governments as a result of coups d’états.

“This sad and unfortunate development has created a state of palpable anxiety and tension in every corner of the region, raising the spectre of regional instability, which we thought had been banished forever.

“Equally abhorrent is the culture of violence and disputes that characterise the periods of electing some of our leaders.

Mentioning the election of Mohammed Bazoum in Niger as a recognition of the common will of the people, he said “That is why the coup against him is particularly tragic for the consolidation of democracy in our region.”

He that, “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 recognize the common will, which is the will of the people.”

That is why, he continued, “any attempt at the manipulation of opinion and of the rules of the democratic game for partisan political ends always leads to a loss of legitimacy, which is reflected in the social tensions it creates.

“We must distinguish between legality and legitimacy because our region will only experience genuine stability if our powers are imbued with both legality and legitimacy.”

“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 wellbeing of the citizenry” he added.

He called on the 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 the better to address them and speak against the extension of presidential term limits by some leaders to strengthen their grip on power.

“These actions tend to result in discontent amongst the populace, which creates fertile grounds on which military interventions disingenuously feed,” he observed.

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