Africa Leaders Must Pursue Legitimacy, Accountability To Fight Insurgency – AU 

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An African Union panel, reflecting on the unconstitutional changes of Government in Africa, has underscored legitimacy, accountability, and trust as a panacea to the recent insurgency on the African continent.

The panel, examining the re-emerging phenomenon and assessing the state of democratic governance, peace, and security in the region, said the effects of illegitimacy had led, among other consequences, to the spate of coups in Africa in recent times.

They made the remarks at a panel discussion during the opening of a three-day forum on unconstitutional changes of governments in African organized at the behest of the African Union through the Peace and Security Council (PSC).

The panel also examined the root causes of unconstitutional change of government while highlighting relevant lessons for improving African Union and Regional Economic Communities normative frameworks to make them relevant to present-day exigencies.

Madam Michele Ndiaye, Representative of the African Union Commission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, said the security situation in Africa had worsened with accompanying vulnerabilities, making the citizens skeptical about what their respective governments were offering them.

She said, there were two key principles that governments in Africa were not adhering to – Legitimacy and Accountability – which were key effective governance principles, and the lack of those values more likely led the citizens to rebel.

Madam Ndiaye, also the Director, Peace and Security Programme, Institute for Security studies, Addis Ababa University, said a government with legitimacy, accountability and transparency made people realise that they did not exist in their own space but were bound by laws which required them to adhere to the tenets of rule of law.

A lack of legitimacy, she said, might be a problem for several reasons as individuals were more prone to disobey a law, and might be more likely to revolt if they consider the law or the entire governmental system to be “illegitimate”.

“Constitutions have been adopted in Africa but are African leaders prepared to adhere to the rule of law in those constitutions and prepared to relinquish power and let elected incumbents take over and let democracy fester,” she questioned.

Professor Mpfari Budeli-Nemakonde, Director, School of Law, University of South Africa, said the simple things that Africans desire were being removed out of poverty by their leaders and that their actions must reinforce the trust they had in them.

She said the effects of illegitimacy were the overthrows or unconstitutional change of governments and accompanying challenges that countries were bedeviled with in Africa and recently the West African Sub-region.

Prof Budeli-Nemakonde said several conventional threats; ideological, territorial, political and some resource-driven conflicts were still prominent with climate invariability, digitalised security as some non-conventional threats that deepened African’s vulnerability and political system.

She said as doable solutions to unconstitutional change of government were sought, interdependencies had an impact on the African continent which needed careful consideration as African solutions were being found to emerging threats.

Mr Henry Kwasi Prempeh, Executive Director of the Centre for Democratic Development, who moderated the session, asked what African countries did wrong resulting in the seeming return to the “bad old days” of Coup d’états despite the investments made towards building democracies across the African continent.

Dr Demeke Achisso, Assistant Professor, Political Science and International Relations, Addis Ababa University, said considering the structural factors that explained unconstitutional change of government and the fact that democracies in Africa were built on a shaky foundation, attention must be focused on the “state of the State” which held the foundations when proffering solutions.

He said Africa’s transitions must be critically considered and that in the biggest scheme of things, Africa was going through five transitions, all of which had some socio-political and economic impact on the stability of the continent.

The Assistant Professor said Africa’s demographic development was unique with a fast-growing population which sometimes outpaced the capacity of the State to produce sufficient goods and services for the citizenry.

He said Autocracy as a transitional regime type produced stability through oppression, repression, and coercion whereas democracies produced the same outcomes but with negotiation and consensus building with the factors of instability resulting in the ills associated with the process of state building in Africa.

Prof. Achisso said Africa was going through a fourth transition of horizontal inequalities as African societies were deeply unequal with structural imbalances in society – a cumulation of which explained why some countries in the state building process demonstrated some level of instability.

Earlier, President Akufo-Addo, speaking at the opening of the forum said, unconstitutional regime changes retarded the growth of country and that “coups have never been and will never be a durable solution to Africa’s challenges.”

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