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Good Governance, vital to avert coups – Gambian Leader

Participants at the 2023 International Conference of the Community Court of the ECOWAS. Photo: Idara Ukpanyang/Radio Nigeria.

President Adam Barrow of the Gambia has called on African leaders to entrench good governance and constitutional order in a bid to avert unconstitutional change in their region.

He made the call in Banjul, the Gambia at the opening of the 2023 International Conference of the Community Court of the Economic Community of West Africa States, ECOWAS, with the theme: ECOWAS Zero Tolerance for Unconstitutional Change of Government.

Mr Barrow, represented by the Gambian Vice President Mohammad Jallow, said zero tolerance for unconstitutional changes should not just be a slogan but a guarantee for the supremacy of the constitution by ensuring that every individual no matter their status is held accountable for any form of malfeasance.

“Zero tolerance for unconstitutional change in government should not just be a slogan, it should reflect in our actions in our policies and in our laws; it calls for strengthening our legal and institutional frameworks to guarantee the supremacy of our constitution, we must ensure that every individual irrespective of their position or status is subject to the law and held accountable for breaching the law,” he said.

In his welcome address, the President of the ECOWAS Court, Justice Edward Amoako Asante, said that the theme of the 2023 conference was carefully chosen because of the several incidences of unconstitutional change of government in three ECOWAS Member States; Republics of Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso.

“As we speak, these Member States are under military dictatorships and have been suspended from the Community by the Authority of Heads of State and Government.

“In a constitutional democracy, governance of a country is the exclusive prerogative of civilian leaders elected by the people in free and fair elections, and the military must be subject to the control of civilian authority. “

Justice Edward Asante said the Court was concerned of the risk posed to the region’s fragile democracy by the unfortunate development and stressed the need for all hands to be on deck to address the development.

On his part, the Speaker of the ECOWAS Parliament, Dr Sidie Mohamed Tunis, stressed that in addressing the advent of unconstitutional changes of government within the ECOWAS Region; there was the need to tackle the root cause of the impasse which entails lack of respect of constitutionality, term limits, mandates and respect for rules of good political and economic governance by leaders.

Also, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr Omar Alieu Touray, who said coups must be prevented before they occur, pledged the Commission’s commitment to promoting good governance and respect for constitutionality to deter unconstitutional change of government in the region.

The Guest Speaker Professor Chidi Odinkalu said tenure elongation by leaders has become one of the reasons for the resurgence of coups in the region.

Presenters at the event will also discuss the various dimensions of the ECOWAS security architecture as well as human rights as a factor for democracy, peace and security including the role of Member States to respect, protect and fulfil their human rights obligations.

The conference is attended by the Chief Justices of the Supreme Courts of Member States, Attorney Generals and Ministers of Justice of Member States, Presidents of regional courts, Presidents of the Bar Associations of Member States, international development partners and Heads of ECOWAS institutions.

Reporting by Idara Ukpanyang; Editing by Annabel Nwachukwu