President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has urged members of the ECOWAS Parliament to find ways of dealing with the emerging re-militarisation of governance and the attempted confiscation of democracy by elites in the region.
Addressing the 2nd ECOWAS Parliamentary Seminar in Winneba, Ghana last Friday, President Akufo-Addo admonished members of the Community to also deal with the wanton desire of terrorist groups and armed criminal gangs to destroy democracy in the region.
Speaking on the theme, “Challenges Relating to Unconstitutional Changes of Government and Presidential Term Limits in West Africa”, he stressed that “democracy in West Africa was in danger and that the regional fraternity must work even harder to entrench the principles of democratic accountability in the citizenry.
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.
President Akufo-Addo indicated that another key threat was the emerging re-militarisation of governance with the intrusion, once again, of the military on the political scene, who had neither consulted nor received any mandate from the people on whose behalf they purport to act.
He disclosed that modern history had taught all that tyranny, oppression and totalitarian governments do not last long. “No matter how a people reject democracy and civil liberty, circumstances would always force them back to embrace them.”
“We cannot run away from the fact that our Region is confronted with a difficult economic, political, social and security situation,” the President indicated.
Despite the considerable progress made by the Community over the years in democracy, good governance and the rule of law, which four years ago, ensured that all 15 leaders of ECOWAS States were democratically elected, the region currently is witnessing a decline in its democratic credentials.
“Today, four ECOWAS Member States are led by military governments as a result of coups d’états. This sad 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, President Akufo-Addo indicated, was the culture of violence and disputes that had characterised the periods of elections in some ECOWAS countries.
The only legitimacy for any leader, according to President Akufo-Addo, 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.”
That is why, he said any attempt at the manipulation of opinion and 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 at the meeting is to understand even better the root causes of democratic regression and political instability in the region to better address them.
President Akufo-Addo urged them to 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 create fertile grounds on which military interventions disingenuously feed,” he observed.
Rex Mainoo Yeboah, ISD