By Innocent Onoh
The Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) has called on the leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to come out boldly to address the incessant coup d’etat in the region by insisting and demanding for good, responsible and accountable governance from politicians.
WACSI’s Executive Director, Ms. Nana Afadzinu made the call while addressing over 100 civil society leaders and development partners attending the ongoing West Africa Civil Society Week in Lagos.
The 3 days conference has participants joining virtually from all over the world.
Afadzinu remarked that the escalation of coup d’etat in the region was an indication that the people were dissatisfied with the kind of governance they were getting from their elected leaders,hence the need to entrench a civilian rule that benefits the people.
“West Africa is under a major threat, and we as civil society are in the dilemma. To be very clear, we want democracy
and good governance. We propose good tax and prepare constitutional law and good electoral policies. Those are principles, and we have stood for them, we have fought for them, but even more fundamentally, we being West Africans ourselves, are stand for and stand with the people for our peace, security, prosperity and collective wellbeing”, she said.
The WACSI Executive Director condemned in strong terms the way ECOWAS has been responding to coup incidences in West Africa. She said the West African regional body needed to be more proactive by responding swiftly to early warning signals and attacking the problems from the roots , while prioritising the interests of the citizens of the affected nations.
She warned against unconstitutional change of government, weaponisation of the judiciary and human rights abuses by the actors in government, saying those are some the things responsible for the lack of harmony between the leaders and the led.
Afadzinu said as ECOWAS leaders work to restore peace in Niger Republic, it should focus more on making the government more responsible and responsive to the wellbeing of the masses.
According to her, ” We are concerned with unconstitutional changes in governments and weaponizing legal systems. All these are still matters that exist and need attention. This is not a civil war where ECOWAS needs to intervene to save lives for citizens and restore peace and security like it was in Nigeria and Switzerland. No. It will be a military intervention into a country in West Africa to remove a junta or junta that is taking over the reins of governments to remove the junta. Even more disconcerting is the fact that this will be the fourth successful coup d’etat in the region with Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea all going to schools, and with one failed one supposedly serving.
“This time, though, it is not the citizens that are plundering for ECOWAS intervention,but there is rather seemingly mass citizen support on the host. This time, geopolitical developments have a massive influence, and systems seem to have taken sides with external interests. And what is not too sure which role and whose interests ECOWAS should be fighting. It’s not that clear.
“Who are those that are benefiting from the system that we currently have? Whose interest is it selling?”.
Afadzinu reiterated the need for synergy among civil society organisations in order for them to be more relevant and contribute meaningfully in bringing about good governance.
She said, “Civil society has itself changed, and we now have different movements and movements,many of which have so much to offer. There is an intergenerational gap that could be closed to enable more impact to enhance the civic space. We are in a technology age that offers huge potential, in spite of the disinformation, misinformation and cyber security. How do we take advantage of it and quell the reorganization of it? How do we build solidarity to take back and restore the civic space that belongs to the peoples of West Africa, to enable a sustainable development that we so desperately need in our countries? How do we break out of the projectized mode of engagement, breaking out of the siloed mentality of doing things, and looking at the bigger picture, and what we can achieve together, maintaining our identities, but still working in concert towards mutual”, she added.
Organised by WACSI and Spaces for Change (S4C) with supports from the Ford Foundation,the West Africa Civil Society Week which is in its maiden edition aims among others to reflect on the evolution of civil society in West Africa and role in addressing emerging issues of Democratic decline, coups d’etat and unconstitutional transfers of power, shrinking civil space and instability.