CSOs-Partners for Democracy & Good Governance Petition Swedish Govt on Countering Emerging Fragility Within ECOWAS -Ouattara, Conde Quest for 3rd Terms May Trigger Mass Illegal Migration: PdG Cautions

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The Swedish Government, through its Embassy near Monrovia, has received a formal petition from a consortium of regional pro-democracy and human rights group, styled: “Partners for Democracy and Good Governance (PdG),” calling for the intervention of the International Community for the abolishment of ongoing constitutional amendments for third term presidential tenures at the behest of some incumbent leaders in member countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU).

Making the presentation of the petition to the Swedish Embassy in Monrovia, on September 14, 2020, the PdG, through its spokesman, Augustine Arkoi, who is also President of the Better Future Foundation (BFF), noted that the quests for 3rd terms by the African Leaders, especially President Alpha Conde of Guinea and President Alassane Oattara of Cote d’Ivoire, could exacerbate mass illegal migration within the ECOWAS region if left unchecked.

The BFF President who read the petition at a brief ceremony held at the Swedish Embassy pointed out that PdG’s call has been warranted by growing apprehensions of fragility of existential threat to human security, peace, and democratic governance, particularly within the MRU and ECOWAS basins.

According to the petition, copies of which have been submitted to the Liberian National Legislature and other members of the International Community including the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), there is an urgent need for the International Community’s intervention aimed at putting an immediate stop to the emergence of the dangerous political trend, characterized by the violations or manipulations of the country’s constitutions, aimed at perpetuating in state power incumbent leaders in Africa.

The petitioners said such manipulations are being carried out by some of the incumbent African leaders 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, the ECOWAS region and the entire African continent.

While applauding ECOWAS and the AU for their prudent decision which led to the abolishment and disapproval of coup d’tat on the African continent as well as in the MRU and ECOWAS regions,  PdG, in the petition indicated that it is convinced that the attempts to manipulate constitutions by incumbent leaders in the sub region to perpetuate themselves in state 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.

According to the petition, 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 petitioners made specific reference to the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance which 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’etat.”

The PdG, in the petition asserted that it strongly believes 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.

“We seize this occasion to send a caveat that the current and unabated attempts by a growing number of incumbent Presidents in Africa, particularly President Alpha Conde of Republic of Guinea and President Alassane Ouattara of Republic of Cote d’Ivoire, for third term tenures or more will escalate political tensions, re-introduce popular uprising, civil protests, induce guerilla warfare, and further intensify regional instability, with unintended catastrophic consequences on the regional and African human population – especially the women, children and people with disabilities — and the economy,” the petition indicated.

PdG, however, asserted that in spite of some challenges, the 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.

“We, as pro-democracy and human rights activists and institutions, are reminded by 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 petitioners indicated.

Accordingly, members of PdG, which is also pro-democracy, human rights and peace building community in the MRU and ECOWAS region, urged President Alpha Conde of the Republic of Guinea and President Alassane Ouattara of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire to abort their respective plans of infringing on constitutional democracy, with the aim of perpetuating themselves in power.

The petitioners urged the two West African leaders to 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.

“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 conflict 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.”  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.”

“Is our call on diplomatic missions and international community to help prevent the rise of 21st Century dictatorships an invitation for external interference in the internal affairs of sovereign nations?  Absolutely NO.  It is our right, as citizens of ECOWAS, to speak against, as well as name and shame deliberate acts of unlawful, and undemocratic conducts especially by leaders within the ECOWAS Community, like Ouattara and Conde, who are unlawfully interfering and infringing on the constitutions of their respective countries,” the petitioners further told the international community.

PdG reiterated that “the actions of these leaders, 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 that could affect 200 million people, with adverse effect on women, children and the disabled”.

According to the petition, “The stage-managing of constitutional reform to extend presidential terms and tenures against the will of the people is a bad practice that must be resisted by all people of good will. This ugly practice, has the potential to breed fragility of existential threat to human security, peace, and thus undermine democratic governance, particularly within the MRU basin, and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS),” the Partners for Democracy & Good Governance lamented.

PdG told the Swedish government that it is rallying the support of pro-democracy institutions, human rights and civil society organizations in the republics of Sierra Leone, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire of the MRU and ECOWAS region and beyond to rise to the occasion in defense and protection of constitutional democracy and participatory governance.

At the occasion, Representatives of various collaborating organizations in attendance made solidarity remarks.

Representing the President of Press Union of Liberia (PUL) Mr. Charles Coffey, the PUL Assistant Secretary General, Mr. Akoi Baysah, thanked the Swedish Ambassador for receiving the PdG Petition and noted that insecurity in one area of the ECOWAS/MRU region is insecurity everywhere.  “We come in oneness with the Partners for Democracy & Good Governance on this matter,” he noted.

Women Beyond Borders (WBB) Official, Madam Mama Moiye, said as cross-border business women, they travel to ECOWAS/MRU countries for trade and commerce. The WBB Executive pointed out that if there is conflict in Cote d’Ivoire, Guinea or any ECOWAS/MRU country, women, who are the major bread winners of their families cannot do business and move about in peace and security.

“We need peace to do business freely. Chaos can lead to rape of our women. We are adding our voices to this paper (the petition) for the Government of Sweden to help us,” in ensuring peace, development and progress in our region,” she stressed.

Speaking on behalf of the President of the Christian Association of the Blind (CAB) and the Liberian Disable Community, Mr. Beyan Korta, Mr. Rally Fallah said “We are delighted to buttress this process.” He quoted a famous saying of former President of Liberia and Nobel Prize Laureate, Madam Ellen Johnson Sirleaf that “If not now, then when? If not you, then who?”

Mr. Fallah emphasized that the time to consolidate peace and security in the ECOWAS/MRU basins “is now and we must seize it.”  Mr. Fallah narrated that he got blind as a result of the Liberian civil war and wished not for such a situation to happen to anyone whether in the ECOWAS/MRU regions or any part of the African Continent. “We join the PdG to add our voice to ask the Swedish Government to do something positive and in the best interest of all,” he ended.

Also making remarks at the occasion, the President of the Federation of Liberian Youth (FLY) Mr. Amos Williams said, the Liberian youths were adding their voices to others in calling on the Swedish Government to act now.  “We would like to add our voice to others, and as young people, we are concerned about the peace and security of MRU and ECOWAS regions. “Recent history bordering on war and other acts of instability, shows that the MRU/ECOWAS basin have lost a lot,” the FLY President said.

“We ask the Government of Sweden to begin consultations with the governments of Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea to deter perpetuation of power.  Just begin to name and shame; it will serve as deterrent to others. If not, this will set a bad precedent. We add our voice to the others and FLY pledges full cooperation with PdG,” Mr. Williams told the Swedish Ambassador.

The General Manager of the environmental organization EcoGreen, Inc., Mr. Boimah Massaley, said the actions of Ivorian President Alassane Outtara and Guinean President Alpha Conde “pose big threat to the ECOWAS region. We add our voices to the others in calling for international intervention to stop this trend of unconstitutional practices to avoid lawlessness and chaos in the ECOWAs region.”

Responding to the PdG petition, Swedish Ambassador accredited near Monrovia, Ingrid Wetterqvist, thanked the Partners for Democracy and Good Governance for being persistent in bringing to the Swedish Government’s attention concerns in the neighboring countries. “I welcome your concerns about events unfolding in the neighboring countries,” the Ambassador said.

“Constitutions require debates at national levels.  It is the right of citizens to bring to the attention of their governments issues of concern. I welcome your concerns and will forward your concerns to my colleagues in the respective countries.  We are only small colleagues of envoys in this region,” she pointed out.

Ambassador Ingrid used the occasion to remind Liberians about impending elections in Liberia and urged Liberians to contribute to peaceful elections. “Dialogue requires that people speak their minds. But it also requires people to keep the peace,” the Ambassador sad.

“It is not our business to tell Liberians what to do. Our mandate is to assist Liberia through bilateral development assistance.” Ambassador Ingrid thanked the PdG delegation for making effort to come to the Swedish Embassy.

It can be recalled that BBC Focus On Africa, on Friday, September 4, 2020 reported that Partners for Democracy and Good Governance (PdG), on 3 September 2020, petitioned the Liberian National Legislature and the Office of the Special Representative of the President of ECOWAS Commission in Monrovia for the intervention of the international Community.

Ten Liberian civil society organizations and pro-democracy organizations formed the PdG recently when they 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.

The Federation of Liberia Youth (FLY) and EcoGreen are the latest organizations to add their names to the list of CSOs who have signed the landmark petition.

CSOs that are signatories to the petition include Better Future Foundation (BFF), Foundation for International Dignity (FIND), Rural Human Rights Activists Program (RHRAP), the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), New African Research & Development Agency (NARDA).

Others are the Harvest International (HI), Regional Watch for Human Rights (RWHR), Rights & Rice Foundation (RRF), Women Beyond Borders (WBB), Christian Association of the Blind (CAB), and Youth Beyond Barriers (YBB).

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