West Africa is facing a crisis of democracy, as unconstitutional regime changes and presidential term limits threaten the stability of the region.
Vanguard reported that to address these issues, experts convened at a three-day Parliamentary Seminar in Winneba, Ghana, organized by the Economic Community of West African States.
Among the speakers were the Dean of the University of Ghana, Prof. Raymond Atugba, and former President of the ECOWAS Commission, Mohamed Ibn Chambas. They shared their insights and recommendations on how to prevent and resolve civil unrest and coup d’état in the sub-region.
Prof. Atugba proposed that ECOWAS should adopt automatic monitoring mechanisms for both economic and political indicators, similar to how it collects funds. He said that this would help identify early warning signs of potential instability and enable timely intervention.
He also explained the connection between economic and political stability, saying that citizens expect not only political change but also economic progress from their leaders. He warned that failing to deliver on the latter could lead to public dissatisfaction and possible overthrow of governments.
He had a clear message for aspiring political leaders: “People vote at the ballot box to vote for you not because they want to end the political Kingdom, they see you as a means to reach the economic Kingdom. If you don’t take them to the economic Kingdom, they will kick you out either through a military coup or a civilian coup.”
He suggested that some of the economic criteria that could be monitored include GDP, minimum wage, inflation, interest rates, exchange rates, prices of natural resources, and military spending.
Mohamed Ibn Chambas emphasized the importance of African solutions to African problems, urging ECOWAS to take the lead in resolving regional conflicts. He stressed the need to condemn coups unequivocally and to maintain pressure on military regimes. However, he cautioned against escalating conflicts militarily, especially in the vulnerable Sahel region. He called for diplomacy and negotiation as the primary means of addressing political instability.
He advocated for ECOWAS to assert itself as the driving force behind African solutions, allowing regional bodies the space and autonomy to develop and implement strategies to consolidate democratic governance.
President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, speaking at the seminar, expressed deep concern over the state of democracy in West Africa. He pointed out that the sub-region faces significant economic, political, social, and security challenges, leading to a decline in democratic relations.
He highlighted the alarming trend of military takeovers in four ECOWAS member states and the culture of violence and disputes during elections. He identified three major threats to regional democracy: elite manipulation of constitutional rules, the remilitarization of governance, and the destabilizing actions of terrorist groups and armed criminal gangs.
He emphasized that legitimacy comes from a mandate freely given by the people through fair, peaceful, and transparent elections. He cited the recent coup in Niger as particularly tragic for the consolidation of democracy.