COMMUNINQUE ISSUED AT THE END OF A TWO-DAY VIRTUAL ENGAGEMENT ON AFRICA EUROPE INTERNATIONAL FORUM FOR SUSTAINABLE PEACE AND DEMOCRATIC TRANSITION HELD ON THE 23RD AND 24TH OF SEPTEMEBER, 2023, FACILITATED BY CONNECTED ADVOCACY AND INVEST IN YOUTH SPAIN WITH SUPPORT FROM EUSKO JAURLARITZA GOBIERNO VASCO SPAIN
As African countries are confronted with a resurgence of military dictatorship through coup d’etat – a rollback of the democratic gains made in the last 3-4 decades, particularly in sub=Sahara Africa such as Burkina Faso, Mali, and Gabon, it became increasingly imperative to examine this sociopolitical phenomenon. The Africa –European International Forum adopted a conference format using the digital space (zoom) to mobilize and reach a diverse participants cutting across state actors, journalists, human rights activists, social accountability advocates, legal practitioners, development analysts, political activists, academia and civil society actors in Africa and Europe were mainly targeted.
Pertinently, the object of the conference was to better examine and understand dynamics of contemporary democratic transitions in Africa and the sudden resurgence of military regimes, ultimately seeking the views of participants on how peaceful democratic transition can be sustained and improved upon in Africa. The conference was anchored by the Executive Director of Connected Advocacy (CA) Prince Israel Orekha who guided the discussion around the topic and introduced the key facilitator Amaechi Kelechi Justin, a graduate scholar and Development Analyst, who gave an overview of the subject matter and spoke extensively to historical context, democratic dynamics, roadblocks, current military incursion and strategies for sustaining peaceful democratic transitions in Africa.
Beyond, regime change and the enthronement of dictatorship, the vexed issues around incessant electoral irregularities, voter suppression, ballot box snatching, logistical and technological inadequacies, widespread ethno-religious profiling and violence has characterized Africa’s polity than ever leading to a crisis of legitimacy, lack of social cohesion, ethno-religious conflicts and coup d’etat in some cases and social dislocations generally, thereby truncating efforts at peaceful democratic transition in Africa. The participants also made comments, asked questions and responses were rendered – It was the comments that were collated, that informed the following resolutions.
- The forum recognized the impact of slavery, colonialization and neocolonialism on the Psychic of citizens of Africa and how it has shaped her political interactions, mode of governance and polity. However, it encouraged Africans to be forward looking as their circumstance is not peculiar to Africans alone and gave examples of countries like America and China that hold similar histories of having been colonialized by Britain and Japan respectively but today are the two most advanced and influential nations in the world, including Europe that emerged from monarchical system to a thriving democracy.
- The participants acknowledged that in so many African countries, the institutions of civil society and democratic government are fast on the decline today – weaker than they were during the nationalists’ movement struggle for independence and in the immediate post-independence era due to bad governance, thereby making sustaining peaceful democratic transition a daunting task in Africa. Participants also recognized that in order to entrench and sustain democratic governance – power must shift from the current extractive ruling class to inclusive and competent leadership that would emerge through free, fair, secure, transparent and accountable electoral process that is representative of and sensitive to the diverse ethno-religious groups in Africa. And, that these leaders must promote and protect human rights, establish a “political settlement” – a consensus upon which government business is conducted, norms and values of governance and deepen political accountability in order to sustain peaceful democratic transition in Africa.
- That inter ethno-religious mistrust amongst diverse ethnic nationalities in Africa makes it very challenging to mobilize and organize around common causes or extract consensus for governance. The increase in mutual suspicion has gravitated to lack of social cohesion and destabilization. Nonetheless, it proposed the strengthening of platforms for ethno-religious dialogue to build trust and build national consensus on mode of governance in Africa.
- That the incessant interference of the military in governance is a major challenge to peaceful democratic transition in Africa as the military coup d’etat has become a plague and there has to be a way of transforming and integrating the military into embracing civil rule, which they believe can only be possible through the respect of rule of law and good governance that adequately delivers the dividends of democracy to its citizens at all levels.
- The forum acknowledged the critical role of women and young people in the democratic process and observed the lack of inclusive approach to governance as the missing link. Participants recognized the fact that women and young persons make up about 70% of Africa’s population and are grossly underserved, especially those in the rural communities, which has led to disillusionment and drastic decline in confidence in democracy as a system of governance because it has failed to deliver economic growth, security, social infrastructure and inclusive government. Instructively, there has to be a concerted effort at inclusive government, and making Africa citizens aware of the potentials and opportunities in democratic governance through increased civic education and local engagement.
- Strengthen civil society organization engagement with state actors at international, continental and regional spaces because the importance of a robust civil society cannot be overemphasized in sustaining peaceful democratic transition in Africa. An open and safe civic space is a sin qua non to sustaining democracy and pathways have to be developed to promote gender and social inclusion that caters for a broad cross-section of society. These will include cross learning initiatives and platforms amongst civil society actors and organizations in Africa and Europe to cross fertilize ideas – a knowledge exchange program that allows social actors to mobilize and organize international support and pressure against bad governance, sit tight presidents and military regimes in Africa.
- Finally, the forum considered the idea of sanctions, travel ban and suspension of presidents that manipulate the constitution to enable them elongate their tenure beyond two terms not more than 4-5 years each, including those who rig elections for the party in power, from international bilateral or multilateral bodies, including continental and regional organizations. This applies to coup plotters and others who aid and subvert democratic governance in Africa. It recognizes that this is applied when African countries want to procure arms and ammunitions, their human rights record is always a criterion for consideration, so, participants expect that the electoral record of African States should be included as a criterion to source for international credit facilities etc.