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Former President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has charged members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament to champion national processes that would strengthen democracy and improve governance in West Africa, as a means of reversing the trend of military coup d’état and growing social tension in the region.

The former President stated this while addressing the First Extraordinary Session of the Fifth ECOWAS Parliament which has just ended in Monrovia, Liberia. Describing the Parliament as the soul and heart of democracy, Dr Jonathan urged the parliamentarians to seek to protect democracy in West Africa by making laws that would guarantee the independence of the electoral management bodies, ensure electronic voting, safeguard rule of law and protect constitutional term limits.

Speaking on the place of credible elections in a democracy, Dr. Jonathan stated: “The parliament should seriously consider the imperative of protecting the independence of electoral management bodies to ensure that electoral processes are transparent, free, fair and acceptable to stakeholders. We have to grow our democracy to a level where people will believe that their votes will count. That will only be possible if they have confidence in the impartiality and neutrality of electoral management bodies.”

The former president who is ECOWAS mediator in Mali also reiterated his call for the adoption of electronic voting in ECOWAS nations, adding that the deployment of technology and automation would sanitise electoral processes by reducing the high incidence of electoral malpractices such ballot box stuffing, results falsification, thuggery and violence during elections.

Dr. Jonathan who shared his mediation experience in Mali while featuring on a panel that focused on the ‘Impact of the Mediation of Special Envoys on the Operationalisation of the ECOWAS Mediation Mechanisms’ further advised the lawmakers to pass laws that would strengthen their national constitutions in order to protect democratic values and practices.

Along this line,  Dr. Jonathan pointed out the danger posed by the lack of provisions for the impeachment of elected leaders in the constitution of some West African countries, adding that such a situation ties the hands of citizens in legally expressing their democratic rights.

According to him: “Having a provision for impeachment in the constitution can help defuse social tension. This is because it gives people the hope that they can legally remove erring leaders, rather than always resorting to public demonstrations which often lead to violence, to protest lack of confidence in an elected leader.”

The former President also charged the leaders to deepen the engagement on the processes that would improve economic growth and promote development. He also made a case for the consolidation of the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID) to fund small businesses and agriculture, especially adding value to farm and forest produce.

For democracy to serve the people well, Dr. Jonathan further noted that development, economic growth and welfare of citizens have to be prioritised by leaders. “When the economies of various nations are doing well, more jobs will be created and it will be difficult for young people to be recruited for causes that promote crime and violence.”

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