His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana, has officially opened the second edition of the Kofi Annan Peace and Security (KAPS) Forum.
Organised jointly by the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Centre (KAIPTC) and the Kofi Annan Foundation in Geneva, it is the biggest gathering of leaders from the continent in memory of Kofi Annan, a former UN Secretary General, who was a fiery advocate of peace and security across the globe. The two-day event is funded by the Governments of Germany (through GIZ), Norway and Sweden. It is on the theme ‘Democracy and Governance in the Context of Complex Crises in West Africa’
In his speech, President Nana Akufo-Addo vowed to continue Ghana’s democratic tradition by handing over to his successor when his tenure ends on January 7, 2025.
“I will not make or cause to be made any substantial modification to the electoral laws in the last six months before the next election; and I will respect the two-term limit for the exercise of presidential authority, as stipulated in the Constitution of the Republic of Ghana”.
The controversial constitutional changes that allowed for extension and removal of term limits for presidents amidst violence, highlights a worrying drift, and creates unhealthy precedents against the avowed conventions and protocols which set convergence criteria for good governance and democracy in the region.
But President Akufo-Addo said his talk would become the sub-region’s walk as he rallied his peers to become agents of good governance in their respective countries.
“We want to be seen as a positive influence in other African countries who continue to face challenges with democratic consolidation,” President Akufo-Addo who is the Chairman of ECOWAS, said.
That is not all. He said: “Out of duty towards our children and grandchildren, we must not give up when it comes to guaranteeing the integrity of the electoral process and consolidating peace through the establishment of accurate electoral registers, the due validation of candidatures, the material organisations of ballots, and the proclamations of authentic results”.
Time is now
With the sub-region’s fortune recording mixed fortunes in consolidating democracy, Maj Gen Francis Ofori, Commandant of KAIPTC, in his welcome address, noted that now was the time to visit the issue.
“There cannot be a more opportune time to discuss democracy and governance in West Africa than now, considering the developments in our sub-region in particular, and Africa in general. The state of democracy globally points to a democratic backsliding characterized by a sustained and deliberate process of subversion of basic democratic tenets by some political actors and governments. This has all the potential to become a different kind of pandemic that now threatens to afflict very large and influential democracies that account for a quarter of the world’s population.”
He warned of a dire consequence if the continent fails to remove the growing tumour which is holding back the bonuses of democracy to citizens of the region.
“If the situation is not confronted with the seriousness it deserves, it can embolden some political systems to intensify their practices and engage in ever more brazen attempts to distort the workings of democracies. From the 1990s, in spite of the limitations inherent in Africa’s political transitions, a significant number of countries have made the difficult transition from full-blown military/civilian authoritarian regimes to various shades of multiparty democracies.
He was not done yet. “. It is worrying that despite efforts by Africa’s Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and international community at institutionalizing democratic governance, the continent is currently experiencing a democratic reversal with increasing patterns of, as well as endeavors at, evading fixed term limits. The decline in democracy is manifested by a clamp down on civil liberties in such instances which pose a threat to the stability and security of the region. “
According to governance experts, apart from the concerns about term limits, the recent coups in Mali and Guinea are all indicative of the decline of the state of democracy in the region. KAIPTC research indicates that these anti-democratic tenets were undermining the authority and credibility of regional institutions in enforcing the norms and values on democracy and good governance.
The remedy Maj Gen Ofori said lay in the decision of the leadership of ECOWAS to as a matter of urgency initiate a process for the review of the 2001 ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance.
“It is envisaged that the reviewed protocol will address such emerging threats to democracy and its tenets, particularly the respect for tenure limits, rule of law, judicial independence, civil liberties, and to strengthen the sanctions regime in the protocol in order to adequately respond to the exigencies of the time,” the KAIPTC said of the expectations of that review.
He expressed appreciation to Norway, Sweden and Ghana for being the financial backbone for the Forum.
Maj Gen Ofori was not alone in expressing these sentiments.
Democracy in jeopardy
The Chair of the Board of the Kofi Annan Foundation Mr Elhadj As Sy noted that “events over the past few years, and particularly the coups in Mali and Guinea, have sounded the alarm; the democratic gains of yesterday are in jeopardy today.”
“Some leaders argue that democracy is over-rated and that what their people want is economic development, which is better served by so-called strong leadership. There are at least two problems with this argument. First, the evidence, particularly in Africa, shows that democracies have economically outperformed their authoritarian counterparts in most cases,” he observed.
Organisers of the KAPS are counting on ideas and experiences from the forum to shape democracy, peace and security in the sub-region.
Some of the distinguished personalities in attendance include H.E. John Agyekum Kufuor, Former President, Ghana, H.E. Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Former President, Liberia, H.E. Ernest Bai Koroma, Former President, Sierra Leone, H.E. Medina A. Wesseh, Secretary-General, Mano River Union, H.E. Kabiné Komara, Former Prime Minister, Guinea, H.E. Lansana Kouyaté, Former Prime Minister, Guinea and Former Executive Secretary, ECOWAS, and the Representative of H.E. Mahamadou Issoufou, Former President, Niger, Mr. Elhadj As Sy, Chair of the Board, Kofi Annan Foundation, H.E. Daniel Krull, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to Ghana, H.E. Ingrid Mollestad, Norwegian Ambassador to Ghana, and H.E. Anna Rääs, Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Sweden in Abuja.
The event was also attended by H.E. Annadif Khatir Mahamat Saleh, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of United Nations Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS), H.E. Hanna S. Tetteh, Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the African Union and Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union, Mr. Emmanuel Habuka Bombande, Senior Mediation Adviser, United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs, and a host of top officials from the UN, Election Management Bodies, Security Agencies, CSOs, the EU Commonwealth and governmental and intergovernmental organizations. H.E. Dr. Mohamed Ibn Chambas, ECOWAS Special Envoy to Guinea was the Chairman for the event.