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International Alert hosts CSOs and Media on African Charter

By Victoria Saffa

Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and the media yesterday held a one day consultative meeting on the domestication of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. The meeting, which was held at the conference room of Campaign for Good Governance, was organized by International Alert (IA), based in Liberia.

Giving the rationale of the meeting, Michael Doe said that IA is a peace building organization based in Liberia, with headquarters in the United States. He said the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance has been signed by both Sierra Leone and Liberia, and a host of other African countries, and that some of those countries have ratified the Charter whilst others have not. ‘‘The purpose of this meeting is to ensure we come up with various strategies for the domestication of the Charter and to also engaged stakeholders, including governments, NGOs, media and the likes,’’ he said.

In his presentation, project consultant, Nana Busia Jr., said the Charter was adopted by African heads of states in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in 2004, adding that the treaty regime provides for names, principle, standard and democracy, elections and overall governance in Africa.

Busia noted that the objective of the Charter is to promote adherence by each state to the universal values and principles of democracy and respect for human rights, promote and enhance adherence to the principle of the rule of law, premised upon the respect for, and the supremacy of, the constitution and constitutional order in the political arrangements of the state parties.

He said the objectives of the Charter are numerous and can be found in Article 2, adding that the Charter promotes best practices in the management of elections for purposes of political stability and good governance, while Article 3 states that state parties shall implement the Charter in accordance with respect for human rights and democratic principles, access to and exercise of state power in accordance with the constitution of the state party and the principle of the rule of law.

The project consult drew the attention of participants that Chapter 8 sanctions unconstitutional changes of government as state parties agreed that the use of illegal means of accessing or maintaining power constitute an unconstitutional change of government and shall draw appropriate sanctions by the African Union.

He said any putsch or coup d’état against a democratically elected government, any intervention by mercenaries to replace a democratically elected government by armed dissidents or rebels, any refusal by an incumbent government to relinquish power to the winning party or candidate after free, fair and regular elections, any amendment or revision of the constitution or legal instruments which is an infringement on the principles of democratic change of government, would be in breach of the Charter.

‘’Domesticating the Charter is embarking on established legal procedure to incorporate provisions of a treaty into the national, domestic and municipal law. Harmonizing is embarking on established legal processes and procedure to ensure that there is consistency between national laws and a ratified treaty,’’ he said.

Sierra Leone signed the African Charter in June 2008 and ratified it in February 2009.