HUMAN rights lawyer, Mr Femi Falana, SAN, yesterday, urged Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African  States, ECOWAS,  to adopt the proposed amendment to the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance.

Falana, in a statement saidthe adoption will improve respect for human rights and the rule of law.

The statement read: “I am writing  to  commend  the  progressive  steps  taken by  the  Heads  of State and Government of the  Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, to  Amend the ECOWAS  Protocol  on  Democracy and  Good  Governance (the protocol), and to urge you to adopt the proposed amendment to the protocol to strengthen constitutional and representative government, and improve respect for  human rights and the rule of law.

“According to me information, the move to amend the Protocol aims at ensuring that Heads of State and Government do not change the constitutions of their countries to stay beyond two terms in office, which is the common constitutional  requirement in several member states.

“The proposed amendment would  require member states to adopt provisions in their respective Constitutions to ensure that no President of the Republic shall exercise more than two terms or extend his/her term for any reason or in any form.

“I am concerned about reports that Cote d’Tvoire, Senegal and Togo are opposing the progressive amendment to the Protocol.

“It is very important for the majority of member states to reject the moves by the minority member states, and to show the leadership and political will by swiftly adopting the amendment to the protocol as currently proposed, especially given the recent experiences of unconstitutional change of governments in some African  countries.

“The proposed amendment to the protocol on term limit is entirely Consistent with the ECOWAS foundational treaties, and the African Union Constitutive Act.

”The timely amendment will be a positive, effective and  satisfactory response to the recent unconstitutional change  of governments in some member states. 

”As  the African  Charter on Democracy,  Elections  and  Governance  (African Charter) states, unconstitutional change of government amounts to “a serious threat to  stability, peace, security and development.

”The African Charter indeed aims to promote the universal values and principles of democracy, good governance,  human rights and the right to development,” and to entrench in  the Continent a  political culture of change of  power based on the holding of regular,  free,  fair and  transparent elections conducted by competent, independent and impartial national electoral  bodies.

“Many member states of ECOWAS,  including Cöte d’lvoire  and Togo have ratified the African Charter, while  Senegal  has signed the African  Charter. The ECOWAS and its members should show that they are willing and able to promote and achieve constitutional and representative  government, and improve respect for the rule of law and  human rights in the sub-region.

“Rejecting  the  reported  moves  by Cote  d’Ivoire,  Senegal  and  Togo  to truncate the proposed amendment to the protocol  would send a  powerful message to rogue governments  in the sub-region that the ECOWAS is willing and able to apply its foundational instruments and principles faithfully,  consistently, and effectively.

“If the reported  moves by  Cote  d’Tvoire,  Senegal and  Togo are allowed,  it will encourage dictators who seek  to amend and manipulate their national constitutions  to elongate their terms of office. It will also lead to  escalating  attacks  on  political opponents and  activists  who oppose  such  illegal constitutional amendment.

“I, therefore, urge member states of the ECOWAS to remain  resolute in the face of opposition by a  minority of  member states, and to move swiftly to adopt the  proposed amendment on term limit to the protocol. “

”If necessary, member states may invoke Article  20 of  the Rules of Procedure of the Conference of Heads  of State and Government to ensure that the amendment  to the protocol is adopted without any delay.

”I also urge you  to use your leadership and influence to push for democracy and full respect for human rights and the  rule of law in member states. The ECOWAS leadership should  put pressure on all ECOWAS member states to respect,  protect,  promote  and fulfill the human and peoples’ rights guaranteed under the African  Charter on Human  and Peoples’ Rights.”

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