The Chairperson of the National Election Watch, Madam Marcella Samba-Sesay, has blamed the backsliding of Africa’s democracy on the failure of elected leaders to deliver.
“Have we ever thought of why democracy is failing in the region? The truth is that elected leaders have failed to deliver,” she said.
Madam Samba-Sesay said this in her keynote address at the opening of the West Africa Democracy Solidarity Network (WADEMOS) 2023 Annual Convening of the Network Members in Accra.
The two-day meeting, on “Amplifying CSOs’ Response to Democratic Recession in West Africa”, is being attended by stakeholders from across the West African sub-region.
The Chairperson said evidence abounds where citizens had danced in the region to welcome military leaders.
“When and where did we go wrong? Did we not promise each other that the only way to leadership should be an expressed and transparent will of the people through the ballot?” she asked.
“We have long agreed that power in Africa should never be through the barrels of loaded guns. But this is not the case for five countries in West Africa.”
Irrespective of how benevolent a military dictator was or could be, the expressed will of the great people of West Africa should be through free and credible elections, she said.
However, authoritarians had come to power through façade elections and democracy promoters had faced fierce attacks in their line of duties, with the resultant effect being the West African States degenerating into various democratic sub-types.
“Now we have counterfeit democracies run by democratic dictators and self-styled leaders attempting to manipulate constitutions and in others the resurgence of military coups.”
Madam Samba-Sesay said the future of democracy, and by extension development, lay in stable societies in the region.
“The good news is that amidst the challenges some decency still exists. Last year, in this beautiful city of Accra and at an auspicious event, we launched a solidarity network- WADEMOS as a response to the signs of democratic backsliding and authoritarianism in West Africa.”
The aim was to mobilise, coordinate and leverage the collective power of pro-democracy actors and to also engage regional bodies and instruments to push back democratic erosion, defend and reinvigorate democratic norms.
She said that was exactly what they needed a networked society to achieve and WADEMOS must, therefore, be strengthened into a reliable platform for civil society to push back against democratic decline.
The Executive Director of Ghana Centre for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana), Professor Henry Kwasi Prempeh, in his welcome remarks, lauded Liberians for their commitment to a successful election, which was a plus for democracy.
He commended the outgoing President, Mr George Weah, for his commitment to a peaceful democratic transition.
“I think we should congratulate our brothers and sisters in Liberia for a very peaceful election and President George Weah for his extraordinary reconciliatory and progressive concession speech”.
That could earn him a Noble Peace Prize, he said.
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