By Anayo Ezugwu
DEMOCRACY, politics, leadership, and development have been identified as key tenets of a peaceful and stable country, region, and continent. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, special representative, United Nations Secretary-General and head, United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel, UNOWAS, said when all these are positively deployed, they lay the solid foundations for security, prosperity and human development.
While delivering a paper titled: “Democracy, Politics, Leadership and the Development of Ghana and Africa” on Wednesday, May 27 in Accra at the Ishmael Yamson and Associates Businesses Roundtable, Chambas said democratic evolution in Ghana mirrors that of West Africa and the continent. He said Ghanaians would not forget the instability associated with the chequered history of military coup d’états and military rule in the sixties and decades after.
He noted that people will not easily forget the banning of newspapers, detention of journalists and political opponents. He said at one stage, only Senegal and Cape Verde had not experienced a military regime. “West Africa was a region known for political instability, which many analysts have explained as the source of its economic and social stagnation and regression over the decades.
“However, in the nineties, the clamour for freedom and social justice could no longer be contained because the population and particularly civil society organisations and political actors were more determined and relentless in their pursuit for change.
“We began experiencing widespread constitutional and institutional reforms, open and consensual political processes, the advent of multipartism, the holding of elections, increase of the civic space and enjoyment of fundamental freedoms, more participatory governance with increased checks and balances and a significant improvement in macro-economic indicators. The change generated excitement and nursed aspirations, especially for the youth. But questions have arisen as to whether we are experiencing democratic dividend all over Africa.
“In a number of African countries, constitutions have remained the “groundnorm” which regulates all other spheres of life underpinned by the principles of separation of powers, checks and balances. Multiparty politics is a reality with parties competing for political prizes. The holding of elections is now predictable and leads to the peaceful transfer of power,” he said.
According to Chambas, prior to the pandemic, Ghana’s growth rate was one of the highest in the region. He said Ghana was among the fastest growing economies in the world prior to the pandemic.
He attributed the changes to institutional reforms, which led to the creation of key entities such as the Electoral Commission, EC, Commission on Human Rights and Administrative Justice, CHRAJ, National Peace Council, NPC, National Commission for Civic Education, NCCE, which ought to play an important role in preserving democracy, peace and stability in the country.
“Meanwhile, in the West African region, over the past ten years, we have witnessed frequent elections and peaceful political transitions as the “coups d’état” are no longer recurrent. According to data from the Afrobarometer, a majority of people in West Africa and the Sahel still prefer a democratic system over other systems with support varying from just over 60 percent in Burkina Faso and just over 80 percent in Sierra Leone.
“Some of the region’s prolonged conflicts in Sierra Leone and Liberia ended and democratic elections brought in new and arguably more accountable governments, a prerequisite for development. Guinea-Bissau has been an exception to the overall trend of democratization in West Africa as it experienced five military coups in the past decade, and until the last elections in December 2019, no elected president had served out his full term of office.
“The practice of parties in power conceding defeat at elections is slowly gaining ground as seen in Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal and Sierra Leone. In West Africa and the Sahel, between 2015 and 2020, in 9 of the 16 countries, presidential elections have been lost either by the incumbent or the party in power with the losers congratulating the winners.”
Chambas said the increase in civic space at the domestic level has translated into organized networks of civil society organisations at the regional level. He said the West Africa Civil Society Forum, WASCOF, and the West Africa Network for Peace-building, WANEP, are some concrete examples.
“Regional integration as espoused by ECOWAS through the free movement of goods and persons is not only a force multiplier for development, but is gradually moving the aspiration of a community of nations to a community of citizens to reality. Prior to the pandemic, growth within the ECOWAS space was projected at between 5-7 percent with Nigeria, which represents 74 percent of the ECOWAS economic space becoming the largest economy in the continent.
“In fact, as far back as the early nineties, along with the changing times, ECOWAS began making considerable investments in developing frameworks essential for promoting democracy, human rights and the rule of law, peace and security. The 1991 ECOWAS Declaration of Political Principles envisioned a region governed by common values, including democratic accountability and respect for human rights,” he said.
– May 29, 2020 @ 16:29 GMT |