The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has urged civil society organisations (CSOs) to collaborate and ensure stable and enduring democratic processes in the region.
The organisation said that although there was a progressive departure from the recent spiral of coup d'états and democratic recess across the sub-region, the successes so far could further be enhanced by leveraging activities of CSOs to manage democratic transition and also deter future uncertainties in the region.
The Commissioner of Political Affairs, Peace and Security at ECOWAS, Dr Abdel-Fatau Musah, said this at the West Africa Democracy Solidarity Network (WADEMOS) annual meeting in Accra yesterday.
Participants included CSOs from across the West African sub-region who are reflecting on strategies to enhance their collective response, solidarity and resilience in support of democracy in the sub-region.
The two-day event is on the theme: “Amplifying CSO response to democratic recession in West Africa.”
“I am delighted that there are concerted efforts and synergy by civil society actors to address present democratic recession in West Africa,” Dr Musah said.
He said the initiatives were crucial as the present context of democracy, peace and security were complex, making single-factor explanations or overly simplistic solutions ineffective.
The commissioner said that ECOWAS was presently considering the redefinition of integration and coordination of CSOs engagement towards advancing democracy, good governance and sustainable development as the pathway to accelerating the realisation of ECOWAS Vision 2050.
He said the renewed interest in partnering CSOs was hinged on the need to make the West African CSO platform more proactive in galvanising, amplifying and harmonising forces to address the prevailing democratic reversals and threat to peace and security in the sub-region.
Dr Musah said this would not only be reflected in prevailing standards at the continental and global levels, but also be guided through an enhanced framework for West African CSOs to play more active roles in contributing to the realisation of the ECOWAS Vision 2050 in line with Article 81 of the ECOWAS Revised Treaty.
He said between 2020 and 2023, Africa had experienced nine successful military coup d’etats out of which six took place in West Africa, while there had been some other attempted coups as well.
The Executive Director for Campaign for Good Governance and Chairperson of National Election Watch, Marcella Samba-Sesay, said while civil society was well capacitated, organised and positioned as pro-democracy actors promoting democratic principles for progress, they were currently ill-prepared and ill-equipped to confront the challenges of de-democratisation.
She said little investment had been made in the civil society processes to tackle backsliding and retrogression of democracy in the sub-region.
Mrs Samba-Sesay further observed that many of them had become victims of circumstances when authoritarians and dictators advanced their tactics with renewed vigour.
She said authoritarians had come to power through façade elections, while democracy promoters had faced fierce attacks in the line of duty.
“Now we have counterfeit democracies run by democratic dictators and self-styled leaders attempting to manipulate constitutions.
“With the current situation unfolding in the region, our future is compromised.
For the most part, the events and issues unfolding are too complex to decipher, denying any form of political analysis, thus leaving civil society in distress,” Mrs Samba-Sesay added.