The Alliance for Deepening Democracy (A4DD) has called on leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to take urgent measures to address challenges to democracy principles and good governance in the region in order to stem the scourge of unconstitutional takeover of governments now afflicting some of its member countries.
In a statement issued today in Abuja, the alliance of organizations working to advance democracy in Nigeria, strongly condemned the July 28, 2023 coup in which President Mohamed Bazoum of Niger Republic was removed from power in a military takeover but noted that the failure of leaders in many ECOWAS member states to adhere to the universally accepted norms of democratic practice and good governance principles had become a ready justification for insurgents and coup plotters undermining democratic governance, peace and stability of the region.
The Alliance identified some of the challenges to good governance in West Africa as the failure of some leaders to respect constitutional term limits in their countries, the manipulation of electoral processes leading to the emergence of governments with dubious legitimacy from such flawed elections, widespread violation of human rights and constriction of civic space in many countries, the high level of corruption, lack of independence of the Judiciary, and the inability of governments to deliver basic public services to their citizens in countries across the region.
Noting that the coup in Niger was the seventh coup attempt and fourth successful military takeover of power in West Africa since 2020, the Alliance said it was deeply concerned that a region that was once celebrated as demonstrating the strongest political will and leadership in advancing democratic governance, peace and stability is now referred to as “the coup belt of Africa”.
It said although some of the coups are greeted with jubilations on the streets of the different countries, the reactions were not necessarily informed by the people’s love for military regimes but are frequently motivated by a growing frustration among the people about democratic governance, especially the failure of leaders to meet the collective and individual aspirations of their citizens.
Insisting that ECOWAS leaders had a duty to ensure good governance and adherence to sound democratic principles and practices, the Alliance contended that since they have always cited the violation of the region’s Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance as the basis for their zero tolerance for military takeover of governments, it is imperative that they also abide by a key feature of the Protocol, which is the common and universal norms on democratic governance expected of member states through “constitutional convergence”.
The Alliance argued that the failure of ECOWAS leaders to address other challenges to good governance and democracy while seeking to take decisive action against coups would only reinforce the impression that they are only interested in ensuring their continued stay in office and have no real desire to promote universally accepted democratic norms and good governance.
The Deputy Chairperson of the Steering Committee of the Alliance, Ms Faith Waziri, who is also the Communications Officer of the Women in Politics Forum, said: “Sadly, experience from the past in some of the West African countries under military leadership has demonstrated that the military is no different to the political class they often claim to liberate the people from. Thus, if this dangerous precedent is not curtailed immediately, we are concerned that it may become an uncontrolled trend in the region, putting the freedom of the people at risk.”
According to Ms Waziri, “While we commend the region’s zero tolerance for military takeover, the conspicuous silence of ECOWAS leaders in the face of violations of the constitutional convergence principles as outlined in the Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Governance has raised legitimacy concerns and doubts over the sincerity of ECOWAS in championing democracy and good governance in the region.”