Senator Edwin Melvin Snowe J.
March 22, 2022

Chairman of the Political Affairs, Peace, Security and African Peer Review Mechanism Committee of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament, Senator Edwin Melvin Snowe Junior has touted the democratic progress made by the West African sub-region despite few challenges.

According to him the West African sub-region has made some progress in democratic consolidation, regional cooperation, and economic growth over the year. However, the region has been in the global spotlight in recent times due to persistent insecurity and accompanying humanitarian crises.

ECOWAS Parliament delegation at 144th IPU

“Indeed, the current peace and security climate in West Africa is brimming with existing and emerging threats that are national, regional, and global in character. The threats are occasioned by incidents of terrorism, violent extremism, election violence, inter-communal violence, ethnic violence, farmer-herder conflicts, transnational organized crime, and climate change, among others”.

He was addressing gathering of all Parliamentary Associations in the world which is having its 144th Assembly under way in Bali, Indonesia from March 20 to 24, 2022, and speaking on the topic “Rethinking and reframing the approach to peace progress with a view to fostering lasting peace and International Security”.

And further pointed out that, in an effort to find a long lasting solution to previous security problems that confronts the region, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in 2008, adopted the ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework (ECPF), to serve as strategic framework for improving conflict prevention and human security.

The adoption of the ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework is an addition to several initiatives which includes key protocols and conventions that are aimed to build a stable West Africa as prerequisite for social, political and economic development.

Whiles some of the earlier initiatives by ECOWAS to promote stability in the region include but not limited to; the Protocol on Non-Aggression (1978), the Protocol on Mutual Assistance on Defense (1982); ECOWAS Revised Treaty (1993); the Protocol Relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security (hereafter the Mechanism); Declaration of Political Principles (1991); and the Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance (2001). Over the years, with the mandate provided by virtue of these protocols, ECOWAS has made significant contribution to the promotion of peace and security in Côte d’Ivoire (2010), Guinea Bissau (2012), Liberia (1990), and Sierra Leone (2002), where violent conflicts took place.

 The overall aim of the ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework is to strengthen the human security architecture in West Africa, the intermediate purpose is to create cooperative interaction within the region and with external partners to push conflict prevention and peace-building up the political agenda of Member States in a manner that will trigger timely and targeted multi-actor and multi-dimensional action to defuse or eliminate potential and real threats to human security in a predictable and institutional manner.

Again, despite the Protocols in place to tackle the insecurity within the region, recently, there has been decline in the democratic landscape in West Africa with implications on peace, development and security of its people.

Notable trends include the re-emergence of military coup d’état and overthrow of democratic governments as can be observed in Mali (2021), Guinea (2021) and in Burkina Faso (2022) most recently, to include the failed coup in Guinea Bissau (2022). Of note is that in the case of Guinea, the tension generated by the incumbent administrations aspiration for a 3rd term was one of the root causes of the 2021 coup d’état.

These have not only thwarted democracies, but also led to political uncertainties in the affected countries. The case of Guinea is not an isolated incident but the trajectory of incumbent’s administration’s efforts towards constitutional amendment in relation to Presidential term limits and tenure elongation as also recently witnessed in Togo and Cote d’Ivoire with growing fears of attempts by other Member States adopting this trend.

This has further undermined governance leading to fractured civic space, social in cohesion, manipulation of the electoral processes and violent dissensions between citizens and political actors. Member States were unanimous in demanding during the extraordinary session of the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government of September 16, 2021, for the President of the Commission to initiate the process of reviewing the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy & Good Governance.

S G ECOWAS Parliament

Hence this call was received with enthusiasm by all stakeholders, including the ECOWAS Parliament. The call was also seen as an effort to regain ECOWAS dwindling political relevance amongst its citizens and also shore up a renewed wave of democratic stability in the region. Also, it meant to address critical aspects of the above mentioned Protocol to respond effectively the declining democratic governance in the region, including the issue of presidential term limits and tenure elongation.

Senator Snowe Junior, further pointed out that ECOWAS has found useful the deployment of special mediators and members of the Council of the Wise (a group of eminent personalities, including former heads of state, ministers, diplomats, and other high level personalities) in fact finding, facilitation, mediation and negotiation missions in areas of potential conflict.

 In addition, ECOWAS Heads of State also apply methods such as peer review, peer pressure and consensus building to resolve lingering crises, behind the scenes and often to good effect, Parliament and as enshrined in relevant Articles of its established Supplementary Act, the Parliament has been able through its activities to create for itself an enviable record of peace keeping and mediation. Parliament, as a matter of parliamentary diplomacy, was involved in the search for peace in the Mano River Union (MRU) in 2002, where Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia had fragile peace.

Similarly the Parliament also initiated peace talks between the Liberian United Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) rebels and the Liberian Government.

And mediated the 2018 dispute in the Sierra Leonean Parliament where the leadership of the Parliament was in an impasse with their membership, there were many others. Parliament regularly conducts Fact- Finding pre-election missions to ensure a level playing field and subsequently dispatches observers to verify the fairness of the votes during elections.

 This is a framework which the Parliament practiced recently in Cabo Verde and the Gambia (2021).

 Notwithstanding these achievements, they are fully aware and agree that the direct elections of members into the Parliament will confer new competences on the Parliament and would transform the Parliament into a truly independent and democratic body, and all efforts are being directed towards achieving that.

“Whiles, we work towards the realization of this democratic legacy, we take pride in the work we do, as a Parliament, to keep our region peaceful and secure. ECOWAS is already taking steps towards rethinking and reframing the approach to peace processes in reaction to the emerging political upheaval”.

Additionally, it is their belief that if ECOWAS can put in more responsive and reactive measures, this would engender lasting peace and development in the region.

“As the representatives of the people, we are here to listen and learn from experiences of other regions and Member States in relation to rethinking & reframing the approach to peace processes with a view to fostering lasting peace the world over”.

Kwaku Sakyi-Danso/