In response to resurgent Coup in parts of Africa, former President, Goodluck Jonathan has stressed the need for inclusivity and constitutional transition of government to maintain stability in the society.
Jonathan stated this at the Second Annual Retreat for Special Envoys and High Officials representing Regional Economic Communities (RECs) on Constitutional Transitions and Unconstitutional Changes of Governments, organized by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) in collaboration with ECOWAS Commission and Foreign Ministry of the Netherlands.
The former President stressed that the dialogue on inclusivity should delve into how RECs and Special Envoys respond to constitutional transitions and unconstitutional government changes in alignment with democratic principles.
He said, “I have always said that there is a strong connection between democracy and development, hence the need to deepen democracy, make it more inclusive, and strengthen the institutions of governance, towards building a stable and prosperous society.
He urged the stakeholders to place more emphasis on strengthening structures for credible elections, peace mediations, and good governance. He said discussions should explore the monitoring of responses to crises, and their adaptability in a rapidly evolving context due to factors such as security, climate change, and humanitarian challenges.
In his remarks, Dr Kevin Casas-Zamora
Secretary-General International IDEA stated its commitment to promoting Constitutional Transitions in Africa noting that it’s a pivotal opportunity for inclusive reform and democratic consolidation.
He said, “History teaches a crucial lesson: a significant portion of the population must feel they have a stake in the political system to prevent challenges, often violent, from those feeling excluded. Constitutional transitions, particularly following unconstitutional changes of government, are critical junctures in which all stakeholders must have a vested interest.
Ensuring broad-based trust and ownership during these times fortifies public and stakeholder confidence in the new political order, creating safeguards against future attempts to undermine the transition,” he explained.
Ambassador Muhammad Yonis, representing the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), emphasized the perils associated with a lack of inclusivity, underlining the potential for unrest or tribal discord. He acknowledged that, in some instances, disillusionment with corrupt governments may lead some to favor a military takeover.
However, Yonis stressed the importance of engaging with such forces through open dialogue and public involvement.
Yonis also cautioned against the adoption of colonial-era constitutions, asserting that this approach may not be suitable for contemporary contexts.
Drawing from his experience in Somalia, he pointed to the structural deficiencies that had led to political instability, where presidents changed prime ministers’ multiple times within a single term, and some leaders remained in power for extended periods, ranging from eight to twenty years.
While acknowledging that the IGAD region is not entirely immune to the potential for unconstitutional government changes, Yonis highlighted that such instances are relatively rare within the region.
The gathering which epitomizes the spirit of collaboration and commitment to democratic values, was championed by IDEA. The annual retreat offers a platform for experts and political leaders to explore the critical themes surrounding democracy’s sustainability, making it an apt demonstration of International IDEA’s multifaceted contributions.
Ambassador Addel-Fatau Musah, the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace, and Security, pointed out that while the African Union, ECOWAS, and other regional organizations possess documents designed to fortify democracy, they continue to grapple with challenges.
Musah highlighted the necessity of examining factors such as poverty and exclusive politics, questioning the root causes behind the surge in coups. He urged for a deeper exploration of whether poverty plays a significant role in these events, emphasizing the relevance of the digital advancements that characterize the era.
The Ambassador said, “We need to talk about poverty, exclusive politics. There must be a reason why there is an epidemic of coups. Is it poverty? We are in an era where we have to look at the digital advancement.
“There is organized labor but the military is now abandoning its primary role and taking over power. In West Africa, we had 9 coups. Unsuccessful coups have been there. On the day of the inauguration, Bazoum faced a coup,” he lamented.
Former President Goodluck Jonathan (Centre) and other dignitaries at retreat for Special Envoys and High Officials representing Regional Economic Communities (RECs) on Constitutional Transitions and Unconstitutional Changes of Governments, organised by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) in collaboration with Economic Communities of West African States (ECOWAS) and supported by Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Netherlands
Musah urged for a nuanced understanding of these situations, emphasizing that the blame should not be solely placed on governance issues. While concerns about insecurity are raised, he highlighted the crucial role of the environment in these circumstances. The military, he noted, is traditionally tasked with providing security, making it pertinent for them to fulfill this duty.
In a stark portrayal of the situation, Musah shared alarming statistics, stating that over two million people are displaced in Burkina Faso, and more than one million children are deprived of education. He underscored that the security situation is deteriorating in Mali and Niger.
To ensure a smooth and inclusive transition, Ambassador Musah implored the international community to exercise patience, recognizing the complexity of these challenges.