Respect for democracy is the answer - Kufuor
President J.A. Kufuor has stated that the only way to achieve peace and stability in Cote d?Ivoire is for the leaders in the sub-region to be guided strictly by the principles of constitutionality and democracy.
He said it is a matter of great distress to leaders in ECOWAS that the peaceful country of Cote d?Ivoire is being dragged into what may be unhappily described as the wasting ?West African disease? of coups, mutinies and instability.
Addressing the opening session of an extraordinary summit of the authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS in Accra yesterday, President Kufuor said until recently the Cote d?Ivoire was a place of refuge for many from the entire West African sub-region but ?tragically this haven of peace, stability and prosperity has been gravely undermined by recent events?.
He said for years Ghanaians looked on with admiration as Cote d?Ivoire got on with the business of building its economy and its country while Ghana went through upheavals and many coups d?etat.
The meeting was convened by the leadership of ECOWAS to find a common solution to the disturbances in Cote d?Ivoire. A minute silence was observed for the victims of the ferry disaster in Senegal in which more than 100 people were reported dead.
Cote d?Ivoire was plunged into political turmoil when more than 750 soldiers protested against the decision of the government, headed by Laurent Gbagbo, to demobilise them from the Ivorian army. So far, the disturbances have claimed 270 lives while 300 people have been injured.
Leaders in the West African sub-region have expressed their support and solidarity for President Gbagbo and his constitutionally elected government.
The solidarity of the sub-regional leaders for President Gbagbo?s government was further expressed when as many as 10 out of the 16 West African heads of state as well as the South Africa President and Chairman of the African Union, Mr Thabo Mbeki attended the summit at a short notice.
President Kufour stated that Africa cannot hope to develop and join the rest of the advanced world unless and until there is peace in all the component nations.
He reminded his colleague heads of state at the meeting to keep uppermost in their minds the fact that the interest of majority of the peoples, the nations and the entire sub-region should override any other considerations in the situation that confronts them.
The Executive Secretary of ECOWAS, Dr Mohammed Ibn Chambas, said the events in Cote d?Ivoire if uncontrolled will be a major setback for the implementation of the New Partnership for Africa?s Development (NEPAD) in the ECOWAS sub-region.
He said that NEPAD advocates the building of a culture of democracy, respect for human rights and the rule of law as essential conditions for creating stable conditions for sustainable development.
Dr Chambas stated that ?today, all our lofty objectives of building peace, stability, democracy, and integration in the sub-region so as to better fight poverty and improve the lives of our peoples stand threatened by the escalating violence and the disloyal activities of certain elements of the Ivorian army.?
?These rebellious troops are in breach of their sacred oath to protect and defend the Constitution of Cote d?Ivoire,? Dr Chambas stated.
He said ?we must send a clear and unambiguous message out, not only to the rebellious troops, but also, to all the armed forces of our sub-region that the days of coup d?etats are gone.?
Dr Chambas said both the Algiers Declaration of the African Union which was affirmed at the Lome Summit of 1999 and the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and good governance are emphatic that there will be no recognition for any government which comes to power by unconstitutional means.
He said there is zero tolerance for coups and military interventions and Africa must remain steadfast in defending the principle as a demonstration of commitment to build democracy and good governance in the respective countries.
Dr Chambas expressed the hope that the summit will rise up to meet the challenge posed by the deplorable security situation in Cote d?Ivoire and stressed that the attention of the world is on ECOWAS to prove its capability to respond appropriately to stabilise the situation in Cote d?Ivoire.