Akufo-Addo to AU experts: Propose solutions to stop coups in Africa

Akufo-Addo said the statistics on unconstitutional change of governments in Africa is unacceptable

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has made an appeal to African Union (AU) experts to as a matter of priority, find and propose ways through which the continent can stop the phenomenon of unconstitutional change of governments.

According to the AU Peace and Security Council, “deficiencies in governance, political greed, mismanagement of diversity, failure to seize opportunities, marginalization, human rights violations, unwillingness to accept electoral defeat, manipulation of constitutions and their revision through unconstitutional means to serve personal narrow interest”, are some of the factors that underpin the occurrence of unconstitutional change of governments on the African continent.

Addressing participants at the opening ceremony of the African Union (AU) Reflection Forum on Unconstitutional Changes of Government in Africa, held at the Kempinski Hotel Gold Coast City, today 15 March 2022, President Akufo-Addo said the statistics on unconstitutional change of governments in Africa is unacceptable.

“According to the African Centre for Strategic Studies (ACSS), 18 African leaders have either modified or eliminated constitutional term limits in the past two decades.

“In addition, another eight (8) resisted efforts to institute term limits, bringing the number of countries lacking constitutional restrains on political power to 24. This represents almost half of the number of countries on the continent,” President Akufo said.

In contrast, President Akufo-Addo said, “The same source (ACSS), notes that 21 countries upheld term limits and 15 now have them in their constitutions. The average time office holders have been in power in the 21 countries, that have respected term limits is four years”.

Justifying unconstitutionalities

To justice their unconstitutional stay in office, President Akufo-Addo, observed, “In most of the situations where incumbents have not respected term limits, they have argued that the basis for hanging onto power is in response to popular pressure by their people to remain in office and that term limits, have no meaning in poor and under-developed societies where uplifting citizens is of the highest priority”.

“Others also believe that leaders should remain in office if they continue winning elections. However, the electoral processes that have been used to set term limit extensions or removals in Africa have often been marred by allegations of widespread irregularities.

Ruling parties that ply this route usually enjoy near total control of most if not all, endeavours of government and the electoral machinery,” President Akufo-Addo said.

“Consequently, African people have paid a steep price for efforts by leaders to circumvent constitutional term limits. Upwards of 90% of the 24 countries that either lack term limits or circumvent them experience various levels of civil unrest and political instability including coup d’états. The continent’s democratic progress in threatened by such events,” he added.

High expectation

President Akufo-Addo, indicated that based on the statistics from the African Centre for Strategic Studies he has referred to, and other available information, the responsibility of participants in the forum was well defined.

He noted his anticipation to receive the outcome and recommendations of the forum which will also form a part of the discussions of African leaders at the upcoming AU summit in Malabo, the capital city of Equatorial Guinea, in May 2022.

Discrimination in sanctions

In his address, President Akufo-Addo, observed that most often than not, military take overs and those who orchestrate coups were sanctioned but civilians who achieved equally disturbing ends through constitutional manipulation, were not punished in the same way, if ever at all.

The President therefore urged the forum to give urgent consideration of this development as well and make relevant recommendations.

“In implementing existing continental and regional instruments and protocols, defaulting member states are condemned and suspended from the activities of continental and regional bodies and individual coup makers are sanctioned. However, the reality is these sanctions have not been applied uniformly,” Akufo-Addo said.

“While we are quick to sanction military coup leaders, civilians who achieve similar ends via the manipulation of constitutions to remain in power, for example, go without sanctions although their actions are clearly prohibited in our legal instruments,” President Akufo-Addo added.

Wilberforce Asare

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