MONROVIA — The Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Right Honorable Dr. Sidie Mohammed Tunis, has said that Constitutional abuse and deficit in good governance principles, the lack of transparency in the electioneering processes, corruption, as well as civil unrest resulting from unplanned change in Constitution, are factors to which coups d’états have been hinged.
As a result, he observed: “Africa democratic processes appear weakened, thereby impacting negatively on the image of ECOWAS. In addition to the above, the policy of isolation, as a result of imposed sanctions, seriously undermines regional integration”.
According to the Speaker, “Another scenario worthy of mention is the rising insecurity in the Sahel region. As you well know, the situation is most precarious in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and the Lake Chad Basin. Deteriorating security and violence are aggravating an already difficult humanitarian situation, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.”
Last year’s deadly attacks in the western Tahoua region of Niger, Boko Haram attacks and worsening violence being perpetrated by criminal gangs in northwestern Nigeria, have together claimed the lives of at least 2000 innocent civilians in the region.
“It is very sad and worrying that if nothing is done to reverse this ugly trend, more lives would be lost, and the sufferings of innocent civilians will continue. There is, therefore, an urgent need for scaled-up operations in joint border patrols and an unmatched show of solidarity that will disrupt trafficking networks that supply terrorist groups across West Africa and the Sahel”.
The Speaker who made these remarks on Tuesday at the opening ceremony of the 2022 1ST Extra-Ordinary Session of the ECOWAS Parliament holding from 08 – 12th March, in Monrovia, Liberia, regretted that the impact of the coups “appears to have consequences, mostly characterized by debates by ordinary citizens in some Member States, on the desirability or otherwise of their continued ECOWAS membership”.
“Permit me to quickly highlight two very important points. The first is our advocacy of having Members elected into the ECOWAS Parliament by direct universal suffrage. We believe that direct election is the first step to achieving full legislative competence and would eradicate issues occasioned by the duality of Membership, the paramount being the inability of Members to perform their duties at the ECOWAS Parliament, especially when critical issues are being debated at the national level. We also strongly believe that with a set of directly elected Members, much more can be achieved”.
He told his distinguished audience that “the situations in the Republics of Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso, exacerbated by the failed coup in the Republic of Guinea Bissau, are threatening issues that require our urgent attention”.
“We remain mindful of the prevailing political situation in the Republics of Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso; the three Member States where democracy has been disrupted and hence the decision by the Authority of Heads of state and Government to suspend them.
“As I stated in my opening speech at the Parliamentary Seminar, I wish to reiterate that it is a matter of concern that the transitional plans in those countries seem expansive and vague, making it difficult to identify priorities and assess progress.
“Article 27/2c of the Supplementary Act Relating to the Enhancement of the Powers of the ECOWAS Parliament, provides that the Parliament should endeavor to hold its Extraordinary Sessions in the respective Member States.
“Premised upon that provision, we have gathered as a Committee of the Whole to deliberate on one agenda, perhaps the most important regional agenda at the moment, that being the Political and Security situation in the ECOWAS Region; Retrogression of Democracy and the Resurgence of unconstitutional Change of Government, with key emphasis on Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso.
“We take due cognizance of the fact that the ECOWAS Parliament, being the representative body of the ECOWAS Region, must fully participate in the development of the region, through the promotion of peace and security, human rights and the development of a democratic culture. In order to perform these inviolable responsibilities, we must take ownership of the situations we are confronted with and exhibit leadership to the fullest.
“In Mali, we express the hope that the Malian Authorities will take seriously, the new position by the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of States and Government and take very decisive and timely steps, aimed at having them reversed. We are aware that, as strategic as these sanctions are, their negative consequences on the civilian population cannot be avoided.
“In the Republic of Guinea, it is hoped that with the inauguration of the National Transition Council, a timetable for the holding of elections within a reasonable timeframe will be presented soon. We, however, remain engaged with mediation efforts, which have witnessed coordinated and consistent political engagements at the regional and international levels, aimed at restoring constitutional order. This is the posture that has been consistently demonstrated by ECOWAS in all of its engagements with relevant stakeholders and we will continue on this path, until constitutional order is restored.
“We also strongly believe that Mano River Union Countries: Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cote D’ Ivoire, have a moral obligation to ensuring that the Republic of Guinea is restored to Constitutional rule. I want to thank Your Excellencies Dr. George Weah, President Julius Maada Bio and President Allasane Quattara, for engaging the military leadership and express the optimism that more engagements will be done in the coming weeks.
“On the political situation in Burkina Faso, we condemn the coup of 24 January and express concern over the deteriorating security situation which preceded the coup. The waves of attacks from violent extremists in Burkina Faso has exacerbated the already worsening humanitarian situation in the country and we use this occasion to call on the military authorities to, as a matter of urgency, adopt a transitional plan that would facilitate the return to constitutional rule.
“In Guinea Bissau, we condemned the attempted coup of 2nd February, 2022, and express solidarity with the Government and People of Guinea Bissau. We sincerely hope that the deployment of a force will help stabilize the country and guide against the reoccurrence of such anti-democratic act”, he stressed.
He also informed the audience that he received a document referenced “Genocide Alert in Ambazonia, Southern Cameroon” from a group under the banner “United Support for Peace”, which made him deeply concerned about conflicts and human right situation in Cameroon’s minority Anglophone region.
“Violence has displaced tens of thousands of people in the past year, adding to the hundreds of thousands who have fled their homes since the start of the violence in 2016. An African Proverb says “It is only a foolish person who sleeps when his neighbor’s roof is on fire”. We hope that the rights of all would be respected and that the situation would be resolved amicably”, he hoped.
On the issue of the African Continental Free Trade Area, he said, “global dynamics and insurmountable challenges to which our world has been subjected to, necessitates that ECOWAS think out of the box. With this, we call on ECOWAS to initiate multiple engagements with contiguous with the aim of fostering common approaches to such challenges”.
“Here we have in mind countries like Mauritania, (a former Member State of the Community) and the Kingdom of Morocco. Others are Cameroon, Chad and Central Africa Republic to the North East and Equatorial Guinea and Soa Tome and Principe to the South. Such alliances, when successfully forged would, no doubt, usher in the beginning of the process of a new regional development trajectory, aimed at giving our region a sense of peace, dignity and prosperity.
Mulling the idea of collaboration with non-member states, the Speaker argued: “In view of the above and in line with Article 24.2 Paragraph G of the Supplementary Act Relating to the Enhancement of the Powers of the ECOWAS Parliament, I, at the head of a Parliamentary Delegation, conducted two very important visits last February. First to the Republic of Panama for an Inter-Parliamentary Summit of Regional and Provincial Unions in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and then to the Kingdom of Morocco for a working visit at the invitation of the Honorable Speaker of the House of Councilors.
“In Morocco we held bilateral discussions aimed at strengthening relations between the ECOWAS Parliament and the Moroccan Parliament and that resulted into the signing of the Laayoune Declaration, which provides the basics of forging ahead with our collaboration”.
The Speaker commended the good people of the Gambia for the peaceful manner in which the December polls were conducted. “Gambia’s election was preceded by similar elections in Cape Verde, with both countries demonstrating in very clear terms, that democracy can win, and democracy has won”.
“I have congratulated His Excellency President Adama Barrow, on your behalf and wish him all the best as he begins another term in office as the President of the Republic. I also know for a fact, that the successes recorded in both countries would not have been possible outside of the joint efforts of ECOWAS and our partners. We are grateful to our partners for supporting efforts that are aimed at entrenching democracy in the region and we thank ourselves for living up to the true intent of the pact we have signed up to”.
“On a sadder note, I have conveyed our condolences to the European Union Parliament and the People of Europe, over the death of the President of the EU Parliament, David Sassoli. David was a reformist, champion of democracy and above all, a man of peace. His legacies will not be forgotten and may his soul and the souls of those before him rest in peace”.
Concluding, he expressed appreciation to His Excellency Dr. George Weah, and the good people of Liberia, for the usual warmth shown members of the Parliament during their stay on the shores of Liberia.