Africa: 'Third Term Tenures, Catalysts for Instability'

Ivory Coast's President Alassane Ouattara casting his vote in Abidjan.
opinion

Ouattara, Conde's unconstitutional ambitions could affect over 200 million people in Africa

Partners for Democracy & Good Governance (PdG), an alliance and network of regional civil society and pro-democracy advocacy groups, has warned the Government of the United States (US), through its Embassy near Monrovia, that the current and unabated quests by a growing number of incumbent Presidents in Africa to stage-manage constitutional amendments for third term tenures or more will escalate political tension, re-introduce popular uprisings, civil protests, reverse sustainable development gains, and induce guerilla warfare on the African continent, including the sub-regions of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Mano River Union (MRU).

PdG, in a formal petition submitted to the American Embassy on Friday, October 16, 2020 in Monrovia, seeks the immediate intervention of the United States and other members of the International Community in ameliorating the situation which, it said, will inevitably serve as a catalyst to intensify instability with unintended catastrophic consequences, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, which includes the ECOWAS/MRU regions and affects approximately over 200 million people and the regional economy.

In the petition, PdG made specific references to President Alpha Conde of Republic of Guinea and President Alassane Ouattara of Republic of Cote d'Ivoire, and underscored the need for the two African Presidents to "abort their respective plans of infringing on constitutional democracy, with the aim of perpetuating themselves in state power and 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."

The petitioners stressed that 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 conflicts 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," the PdG petition added.

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."

The PdG petitioners further told the American Embassy that "the actions of 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."

"In spite of some challenges", the petitioners added, "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."

Member organizations of PdG, including the Better Future Foundation (BFF), Harvest International (HI), Foundation for International Dignity (FIND), New African Research & Development Agency (NARDA), Press Union of Liberia (PUL), Regional Watch for Human Rights (RWHR), Rights & Rice Foundation (RRF), Rural Human Rights Activists Program (RHRAP), Women Beyond Borders (WBB), Youth Beyond Barriers (YBB), and Student Representatives previously submitted said petition to the Liberian Legislature, the Embassy of Sweden, ECOWAS, among other members of the International Community.

The petition is seeking the international community's "urgent and timely intervention to putting an immediate stop to the emergence of a dangerous political trend primarily characterized by the violations or manipulations of the country's constitutions, aimed at perpetuating themselves in state power 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 and the entire African continent."

At the same time, the PdG applauded the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) "for their prudent and sagacious decision which led to the abolishment and disapproval of coup d'étàts on the African continent as well as in the MRU and ECOWAS regions."

"The PdG is convinced that the attempts to manipulate constitutions by some leaders in the sub-region to perpetuate themselves in 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," the petitioners further said.

"As you may be fully aware, 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 petition added.

PdG maintains that the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance 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'étàt."

"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," the petition further indicated.

The pro-democracy, human rights and civil society group made further references to 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 petition which was read on behalf of PdG by BFF President, Augustine Arkoi, also rallied the support of more pro-democracy institutions, human rights and civil society organizations in the MRU and ECOWAS region and beyond to rise to the occasion in defense and protection of participatory democracy.

Making remarks at the petitioning ceremony, the President of the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), Mr. Charles Coffey, denounced attempts by some African leaders to stage-manage amendments of their countries' constitution to seek third term tenures aimed at perpetuating themselves in power.

Mr. Coffey stressed the need for the US government and other members of the international community to find remedy to the situation so as to maintain the peace, stability and development of countries in Africa and particularly the ECOWAS and the MRU regions which are recovering from decades of bloody armed conflicts, and life-threatening health crises, among others.

He said there are troubling reports that as a result of the evolving political and security situation in neighboring Ivory Coast, there are influx of Ivorian refugees in the southeastern region of Liberia.

The PUL President therefore stressed the need to maintain the peace and stability of the ECOWAS region in the best interest of its people.

Also speaking at the occasion, Mr. Stephen Russell, Director for Education and Scholarship of the Liberia National Students Union (LINSU), said instability, dictatorship, and other acts of bad governance which often lead to civil wars, up-risings, protests, among others in any country are inimical to mainlining peace and security and the sub-region, and that such actions pose threat to the learning process of students.

This is why LINSU finds it reasonable to partner with PdG in reiterating calls for African leaders to respect and adhere to provisions of the countries' constitutions and other statutory provisions aimed at enhancing inclusive and participatory democracy and good governance at all times.

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. PdG is an alliance and network of regional CSOs, and pro-democracy organizations that are dedicated to promoting good governance, human rights, and the rule of law within the MRU and ECOWAS region.

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