The escalating frequency of coup attempts in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has prompted regional leaders to seek urgent solutions.
As the Authority of Heads of State and Government gathers for a crucial meeting in Abuja on August 10, 2023, the imperative to curtail this destabilizing trend has gained prominence. Human Rights lawye , Femi Falana proposed key strategies to address the rising spate of coups in West Africa.
Term Limitations for Elected Presidents
The manipulation of constitutions to extend presidential terms has emerged as a root cause of unconstitutional government changes. A proposal to limit presidents to two terms was put forth by ECOWAS leaders in 2015. However, opposition from nations such as Togo and The Gambia, with leaders serving beyond two terms, led to the shelving of this proposal. Recent coups in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea have reignited discussions on term limits. Under the leadership of President Bola Tinubu of Nigeria, the new ECOWAS Chairman, efforts to pass term limitation amendments and impose sanctions on leaders aiming to extend their tenure beyond two terms are crucial.
Resource Management and Economic Empowerment
The unchecked exploitation of natural resources by foreign powers and their allies has contributed to instability in the region. The dominance of entities like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund in the economy has exacerbated poverty. ECOWAS leaders must prioritize empowering local populations to manage their resources, aligning with Article 21(1) of the Charter that enshrines the right of peoples to control their resources for their benefit. This shift can alleviate economic grievances and reduce the allure of coup attempts fueled by frustration.
Adherence to Rule of Law and Human Rights
Disregard for court orders and human rights has added to the volatility in West Africa. Many leaders have shown contempt for both domestic and regional court judgments. To strengthen democratic stability, leaders must respect these judgments and foster a culture of upholding the rule of law. A unanimous recognition of the African Court on Human and Peoples Rights among all member states will bolster accountability and discourage coup plots.
Prioritizing Dialogue and Diplomacy
The recent political crisis in Niger Republic prompted a gathering of the ECOWAS security committee, comprising Military Chiefs from various West African nations.
This committee advocated for diplomacy and dialogue as the preferred means of conflict resolution. This call for peaceful negotiations aligns with the aspirations of West African citizens. ECOWAS leaders must prioritize diplomatic solutions over military interventions, using sanctions to isolate military juntas if required. Addressing underlying issues like resource exploitation is paramount to restoring constitutional order and achieving lasting stability.
In the face of the mounting coup attempts in West Africa, a swift and concerted response is imperative. Implementing these strategies can lead ECOWAS toward a future characterized by democratic governance, respect for human rights, and sustainable economic progress.