ECOWAS Member States urged to explore ways to enhance political stability

Justice Edward Amoako Asante

The international conference of the ECOWAS Court of Justice opened on Monday with a call on member countries to explore ways of providing a sustainable democratic culture to enhance political stability.

Mr Edward Amoako Asante, President of the ECOWAS Court of Justice, who made the call, said constitutional democracy would remain a mirage, if there were no guarantees, of free, fair and transparent elections.

“We cannot achieve our community objectives, without the enthronement of participatory democracy, rule of law, good governance and political stability,” he said.

Mr Asante was speaking at the opening ceremony of the four-day conference being held in the Gambia on the theme: “ECOWAS Zero Tolerance for Unconstitutional Change of Government.”

The conference, which would explore the rule of law and the underlying factors of political stability is on the back of military interventions in governance through military coups in the past two years in three ECOWAS Member States- Republics of Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso.

Presenters will also discuss the various dimensions of the ECOWAS security architecture as well as human rights as a factor for democracy, peace and security including the role of Member States to respect, protect and fulfil their human rights obligations as well as the role of elections as a trigger for conflicts.

The other presentations will examine the role of the national and the ECOWAS Courts in upholding human rights, rule of law and constitutional democracy; the enabling legal environment for ECOWAS integration with community law in perspective and undertake an appraisal of the judgment enforcement mechanism of the ECOWAS Court.

Mr Asante said the intervention of the Armed Forces in governance was an aberration that greatly undermined constitutional order, rule of law and participatory democracy.

It also hampers economic development, foreign direct investment in the economies of such countries, which are invariably further subjected to economic sanctions and undermines the human rights regime.

“In this day and age, the international community has no stomach for military coups, and such States invariably become pariah states in the comity of nations. ECOWAS has equally demonstrated that it has zero tolerance for such unconstitutional changes of government,” he said.

Mr Asante urged member states to act collectively, to prevent unconstitutional change of Government and to sanction defaulters, adding that the political will was a necessary factor for the achievement of the objective.

“In the implementation of the economic agenda of the Community, it is necessary to provide the enabling democratic culture that should guarantee economic growth,” he added.

He expressed the hope that the conference would provide a very useful outcome to chart a way forward to prevent future unconstitutional changes of Government within our sub region.

The Gambian Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Dawda A. Jallow, said the conference presented an opportunity to learn from one another, to share experiences and brainstorm strategies that promoted democracy, uphold the rule of law and prevent unconstitutional changes of government.

“I am confident that the discussions and deliberations over the next few days will inspire us, challenge us, and guide us towards a more prosperous, peaceful and democratic West Africa,” he said.

The conference was later opened by the Vice-President of the Gambia Mohammed B.S. Jallow.

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