West Africa: Mali Is the Litmus Test On How to Put an End to the Era of Coups in West Africa

West Africa has been plagued with coup d'états and uprisings by armed opposition forces that sought seize executive power through the barrel of the gun.

Charles Taylor and Laurent Bagbo had been the sacrificial lambs taken before the altar of the IEC to restore sanity and sanctity in the political processes of West African States.

ECOWAS States thus continued to embrace term limits with a view to putting an end to self-perpetuating rule.

Even though the abuse of incumbency remained the term limits provided an opportunity for its gradual reduction and eventual elimination with the advent of a mature citizenry that could neither be induced nor intimidated to vote for anyone.

The recent attempts to doctor constitutions or interpret their provisions to legitimize third terms and military intervention in Mali are showing signals that West Africa would lose the momentum of abolishing coups through embracing term limits if the trends in Guinea, Cote D'Ivoire and Mali are allowed to prevail.

Africa could only occupy an honourable place among the world family of nations if it continues to maintain and nurture a political culture that allows and sustains the democratic transfer of power through the expression of the sovereign will of the people.

ECOWAS should take a firm stand against any participation in a Presidential election by a person who has finished serving two terms.

Secondly, all constitutions should detail out succession to the presidency in case of force majeure like compelling a president to resign.

ECOWAS must ensure that even a military intervention should not lead to the suspension of a Constitution. Those who cause a President to resign should respect the constitutional process to provide for the setting up new government while the institutions of the state remain intact.

It would be prudent for all constitutions to make the chief justice of a country to assume the office of President during a transition as we see in Mali.

The right to recall elected persons would also serve as the key instrument to contain abuse of power.

The time is ripe to review and ensure that Africa is respected for its world class constitutions and institutions of governance that give legitimacy to power derived from the people and sustain that power only if it is used to serve the interest of the people. That is the road to a coup d'état free Africa, an Africa free from abuse of power. That is the Africa that the people of Africa deserve.

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