President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo described the resurgence of coup d’état’s in Africa as a set back to the development of the continent and stressed the need to address it for rapid socio-economic economic advancement.
“The return of coups in Africa, in all its forms and manifestations, must be condemned by all since it undermines our collective bid to rid the continent of the menace of instability, and unconstitutional changes in governments,” he said.
Speaking in Accra at the opening of the three-day African Union reflection forum on unconstitutional changes of governments in Africa, President Akufo-Addo said the rate of coup d’etats and the manipulation of constitutions by incumbent governments was very disturbing.
He said it took a long time for a consensus to be reached on democratic form of governance on the continent and said it must be protected.
“There are those who hanker after authoritarian personal rule because they claim Africa is underdeveloped and democracy is cumbersome and we need to get things done in a hurry…There are those who seek short cuts to office to exercise power without limits, and there are those who have no respect for the free choices of our sovereign people…”
“We still have some work to do to convince such people that we are all safer under democracies,” he emphasised.
The Forum will examine the resurgence of political instability in Africa and sharpen strategies to anchor constitutionality and the rule of law to ensure peace and stability across the continent.
The outcome of the Forum will feed into the AU Extraordinary Summit, scheduled to take place from May 27, 2022 in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea and it is anticipated to propose strategies and content for the drafting of an additional protocol to the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance.
Citing a report by the African Centre for Strategic Studies, the President said about 24 African countries had either modified, eliminated or resisted efforts to institute constitutional term limits.
That development, he emphasised, threatened the democratic progress of the continent.
“In most of the situation where incumbents have not respected term limits, they have argued that the basis for hanging on to power is in response to popular pressure by their people to remain in office and their term limits have no meaning in poor underdeveloped society where uplifting citizens is of the highest priority.
“Others also believe that leaders should remain in office if they continue winning elections, however, the electoral processes that have been used to serve term limits extensions or removals in Africa have often been marred by allegations of widespread irregularities. Ruling parties apply this route usually to enjoy near total control of most, if not all, the levers of government and the electoral machinery.
“Consequently, African peoples have paid a steep price for efforts by leaders to circumvent constitutional terms limits,” he said.
As the current Chair of ECOWAS Authority of Heads of States, the President said “I have witnessed directly the devastating effects of coup d’états and attempted coups have had on the region.”
Unconstitutional regime change, he stressed, must not be overlooked, and called for collective action and adequate preventative measures on the part of stakeholders to send a clear message to coup plotters and others who tweaked constitutions to stay in power that those infractions “have never been and will never be durable solutions to Africa’s political, economic and security challenges.”
“Statements condemning coups alone without corresponding action would, however, achieve little or nothing as witnessed in recent times…This problem requires collective agreements, effective deterrence, bold action and equally important, adequate preventive measures.
“The stable period of constitutional government and intelligent management of economy leads to prosperity…I believe in Africa’s immense potential for greatness. I believe the stable democracies in Africa can help unleash energies of the African people to inspire the transformation of the continent.
“This can be Africa’s century, we can claim it if we believe in ourselves and in our peoples,” he said.
Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, in a speech read on his behalf, also noted that the resurgence of unconstitutional changes of government in Africa was a matter of grave concern to the leadership and peoples of the continent.
He called on the leadership of the continent to recommit to the ideals of democracy, good governance and the rule of law for progress.
The Forum is expected to produce a comprehensive document that will take into account the gaps and issues not covered in the current African Union instruments and policy actions on unconstitutional changes of government.
Participants include members of the AU Peace & Security Council, representatives of AU Member States, relevant AU organs/institutions, security practitioners; civil society, African think tanks, academia, youth, and women groups, and professional organisations.