Regional CSOs, Rights Campaigners Urge Presidents Conde, Ouattara To Abort “Infringing On Constitutional Democracy”
Regional pro-democracy and human rights campaigners, under the umbrella, “Partners for Democracy and Good Governance (PdG)”, have petitioned the international community, including the African Union (AU), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the embassies of the United States and Sweden, European Union (EU), Mano River Union (MRU), among others,calling for the abolishment of on-going constitutional amendments for third-term presidential tenures in member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU).
The PdG, a conglomeration of civil society human rights and prodemocracy campaigners, on Thursday, September 3, 2020 presented the petition to the National Legislature and the office of the Special Representative of the President of ECOWAS Commission in Monrovia.
According to PdG, its petition has been warranted by growing apprehensions of fragility of existential threat to human security, peace, and democratic governance, particularly within the MRU and ECOWAS basins.
In the 10-count petition, PdG called on the international community for its urgent intervention aimed at putting an immediate stop to the emergence of a dangerous political trend primarily characterized by the violation or manipulation of the country’s constitution, aimed at perpetuating in state power a number of incumbent leaders in Africa.
The petitioners said such manipulations are being carried out by some incumbent African leaders, not only at the annoyance and detriment of their respective citizens, but also at the detriment of the peace, stability and progress of their countries, the ECOWAS region and the entire African continent.
While applauding ECOWAS and the AU for their prudent decision which led to the abolishment and disapproval of coup d’tat on the African continent as well as in the MRU and ECOWAS regions, PdG, in the petition indicated that it is convinced that the attempts to manipulate the constitution by incumbent leaders in the sub-region to perpetuate themselves in state power is tantamount to undermining the efforts of ECOWAS and the AU, to abort undemocratic seizures of power and impose themselves on the African Continent.
According to the petition, in recent years, an increasing number of sitting or incumbent African Presidents or Heads of State have embarked on what clearly appears to be an affront to democracy, calculated and deliberate invitation to coup d’etat, authoritarianism, and dictatorship as they stage-manage constitutional amendments to reward themselves third term presidency, a wanton violation of the existing constitutions of their respective countries, which limit all incumbent presidents to a two-term presidential tenure and as also enshrined in the Lome Declaration, formalized in the AU’s Constitutive Act and further elaborated in the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.
The petitioners made specific reference to the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance which prohibits any amendment or revision of the constitution or legal instruments that constitute “an infringement on the principles of democratic change of government” (Article 23.5.) or what is generally referred to in some quarters of the African continent as “constitutional coup d’etat.”
The Partners for Democracy & Good Governance strongly believe that full respect for, and adherence to the Lome Declaration, which encompasses a range of different acts and tasks relating to countering coups and other unlawful and undemocratic power grabs in the MRU and ECOWAS sub-regions and on the Continent of Africa, cannot be over-emphasized.
“We seize this occasion to send a caveat that the current and unabated attempts by a growing number of incumbent Presidents in Africa, particularly President Alpha Conde of Republic of Guinea and President Alassane Ouattara of Republic of Cote d’Ivoire, for third term tenures or more will escalate political tensions, re-introduce popular uprising, civil protests, induce guerilla warfare, and further intensify regional instability, with unintended catastrophic consequences on the regional and African human population – especially the women, children and people with disabilities — and the economy,” the petition indicated.
PdG, however, asserted that in spite of some challenges, the MRU and the ECOWAS regions and the continent of Africa, generally remain on a path of irreversible democratic pluralism which CSOs, human rights and pro-democracy institutions in the sub-region and across Africa fully support and will never allow to be thwarted by any re-emerging 21st century political dinosaurs.
“We, as pro-democracy and human rights activists and institutions, are reminded by Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that everyone has the right to take part in the government of his country, directly or through freely chosen representatives and Article 3 sections (c), (f), (g) and (h) of the Lome Declaration which also calls for promotion of peace, security, popular participation, good governance, political and socio-economic integration,” the petitioners indicated.
Accordingly, members of PdG, which is also pro-democracy, human rights and peace building community in the MRU and ECOWAS region, urged President Alpha Conde of the Republic of Guinea and President Alassane Ouattara of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire to abort their respective plans of infringing on constitutional democracy, with the aim of perpetuating themselves in power.
The petitioners urged the two West African leaders to unconditionally return to nobility by adhering to respect for the rule of law in their respective countries and to preserve and sustain democracy and development in the ECOWAS sub-region and on the African continent.
“President Conde must particularly respect and fully comply with Article 154 of the Guinean Constitution which unequivocally declares that ‘the number and the duration of the mandates of the President of the Republic may not be made the object of a revision.’
“Equally so, we call on President Ouattara to halt his infringement, yield to the potential conflict and warning signs of instability in his country, by respecting Article 55 of the new Ivorian Constitution which prohibits more than two terms of office.” PdG quoted Article 55 of the Ivorian constitution as saying “The President of the Republic is elected for five years by direct universal suffrage. He may be re-elected only once.”
“Is our call on diplomatic missions and international community to help prevent the rise of 21st Century dictatorships an invitation for external interference in the internal affairs of sovereign nations? Absolutely NO. It is our right, as citizens of ECOWAS, to speak against, as well as name and shame deliberate acts of unlawful, and undemocratic conducts especially by leaders within the ECOWAS Community, like Ouattara and Conde, who are unlawfully interfering and infringing on the constitutions of their respective countries,” the petitioners further told the international community.
PdG reiterated that “the actions of these leaders, Presidents Conde and Ouattara, who were once crusaders for democracy and architects of good governance, but now clouded by greed, egotistic quest for perpetual political power to rebirth 21st Century political dinosaurs and dictatorship are recipe for chaos and instability with potential spilt-over effects in the MRU and ECOWAS sub-region that could affect 200 million people, with adverse effect on women, children and the disabled”.
According to the petition, “The stage-managing of constitutional reform to extend presidential terms and tenures against the will of the people is a bad practice that must be resisted by all people of good will. This ugly practice, has the potential to breed fragility of existential threat to human security, peace, and thus undermine democratic governance, particularly within the MRU basin, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS),” the Partners for Democracy & Good Governance lamented.
The petition pointed out that PDG is therefore rallying the support of pro-democracy institutions, human rights and civil society organizations in the republics of Sierra Leone, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire of the MRU and ECOWAS region and beyond to rise to the occasion in defense and protection of constitutional democracy and participatory governance.
Receiving the petition on behalf of the Liberian Legislature, Representative Rustonlyn Suacoco Dennis, Chairperson of the House Committee on Petition & Claims said electoral violence retards the peace and development of nations, and assured that the PdG petition will be forwarded to the leadership of the National Legislature, and deliberated in plenary for appropriate action. “You can rest assured that your petition will reach the speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, through our colleagues, the Liberian Delegation to the ECOWAS Parliament,” Hon. Dennis concluded.
Making remarks at the petitioning ceremony, the President of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), Charles Coffey, underscored the need for Liberians and other ECOWAS Community citizens to rise above acts of electoral violence and to subscribe to peaceful electioneering activities. He emphasized that electoral violence is inimical to democratic pluralism.
The PUL President expressed regret and disdain that journalists in other West African states including Guinea and Ivory Coast are being attacked for reporting views of individuals believed to be opposition politicians in the performance of their professional duties.
He said the PUL supports the petition because it is not only intended to enhance democratic governance and promote political stability but also ensure regional peace, stability and security and for the safety of journalists and ECOWAS/ MRU Community citizens.
“In terms of political stability, Press Union of Liberia support the petition for participatory democracy. This petition is intended to improve security and save the lives of journalist and others.”
The Chairperson of the National Civil Society Council of Liberia, Loretta Aletha Pope-kai in separate remarks, lauded what she called the proactive initiative of conglomeration of CSOs aimed at preventing conflicts within the MRU and the ECOWAS sub-region. Madam Pope-kai cautioned parliamentarians and governments of ECOWAS and AU to act swiftly on early warning petitions from the CSO community to preserve peace and stability in Africa.
Ma Sangai Dolleh Dumbar, President of the Women Beyond Borders (WBB), a network of over four thousand cross-border women traders in the ECOWAS said: “we support this paper, because right now, our food supply trade chain that took us through Mali to bring food to Liberia has been cut off due to the war in that country. When you are president, and your time finished, give chance to the other people for peace sake,” she concluded.
It can be recalled that at least 10 civil society organizations (CSOs), recently signed a ten-count Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), in Monrovia to promote strategic collaboration through advocacy to foster national and regional peace and security consolidation, and concomitantly promote democratic governance, adherence to, and respect for the rule of law as well as regional integration and development.
Prominent CSOs which are signatories to the petition include Better Future Foundation (BFF), Foundation for International Dignity (FIND), Rural Human Rights Activists Program (RHRAP), the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), New African Research & Development Agency (NARDA).
Others include the Harvest International (HI), Regional Watch for Human Rights (RWHR), Rights & Rice Foundation (RRF), Rural Human Rights Activists Program (RHRAP, Women Beyond Borders (WBB), Christian Association of the Blind (CAB), and Youth Beyond Barriers (YBB).