Speaker calls for body to superintend over elections in West Africa
The Speaker of Parliament, Professor Aaron Mike Oquaye, has advocated the establishment of an electoral body for West Africa to superintend over elections within the sub-region.
He expressed the conviction that such a body would check the numerous electoral excesses that had characterised the continent, with some leaders manipulating the system to stay in power in perpetuity.
Prof. Oquaye made the call when he addressed a high-level policy dialogue on the future of governance in Africa in Accra yesterday.
He said the time had come for the African continent to work together and institute best practices by working in tandem to establish best practices for the electoral process.
The two-day dialogue has the theme: “Transforming governance in Africa: Is a new concept of governance the key to accelerating the prosperity agenda?
The expert roundtable event has brought together leading policymakers, practitioners, academics and representatives from bilateral, multilateral, regional and sub-regional organisations and civil society organisations from about 44 countries across the continent.
The dialogue is seeking to address some major overarching questions, including the extent to which current governance models are suitable for peace and development aspirations in Africa and how governance can be conceptualised to have legitimacy and meaning for African political elites and local populations alike.
Prof. Oquaye alluded to a case where Spain and Portugal were denied membership of the European Union (EU) on the grounds of weak democratic credentials and questioned what the established democratic credentials in Africa were.
“With a West African Electoral Commission, the voters register which often becomes a bone of contention can become international since you cannot be on the Cote d’Ivoire register, on the Ghana register and the Togo register at the same time because, there is one credible international register,” the Speaker of Parliament suggested.
His concern stemmed from the many electoral conflicts that have plagued the continent, resulting in the loss of lives and property.
Africa has experienced dozens of conflicts over a variety of issues during the past two decades. Some security analysts have expressed the view that responding to conflicts require concerted action to manage the crises resulting from the violence, political discord and humanitarian consequences of prolonged fighting.
According to the Speaker of Parliament, just as there were bodies such as the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) and the West Africa Cocoa Research Institute, establishing a West African Electoral Commission would not be out of place.
He stressed the need to establish the pillars of good governance in Africa for the consolidation of democratic tenets.
The Regional Director of the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA), Professor Adebayo Olukoshi, remarked that the foundation for any meaningful initiative in Africa could only be based on a shared vision.
He indicated that while Africa’s political governance path had led to some notable achievements, 387 million sub-Saharan Africans now lived in a democracy compared with 2.5 million in 1970.
Prof. Olukoshi expressed concern over conflicts in Africa, saying there were currently fifteen African countries mired in conflict, ethnic or religious insurgency, with more than 2.4 million people displaced in 2015 alone.
He urged African countries to strive to overcome what was holding it back from surmounting its governance challenges.
Governance key to peace
In his keynote address, the Commissioner of Political and Legal Reforms in Liberia, Dr Yarsuo Weh-Dorliae, asserted that while there had been many shifts and turns in the conception of governance in Africa over the last 25 years, the consensus still held that the quality of governance was central to sustaining peace and conflict prevention.
“When we think governance, we have an opportunity to rethink citizenship and situate it properly in our governance and development process,” he said.
He called for constant reinforcement of engagements between government and those segments of society whose support was deemed strategically important for ensuring social cohesion, sustaining democratic governance and traversing the vicissitudes of development.