By Ishmael Dumbuya
Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, former President of Sierra Leone, has noted in the Africa Drive for Democracy Elders Retreat held in Tanzania, Arusha that the African Continent is witnessing an era where electoral commissions are doing the bidding of incumbents and using state security to supress opposition supporters.
According to the former president, there is a rapid decline of democracy manifested through state capture of democratic institutions.
He said Legislatures and judiciaries which are supposed to check the excesses of the executive are, in many cases, leading the charge in breaching constitutions to favour undemocratic practices, such as entrenching leaders against the wishes of their people, or use pandemics to their advantage to suppress the opposition and dissenting voices.
He added that as a direct impact of that, citizens are experiencing a growing contention between the State and its youth, civil society and the media, all of whom are increasingly being muzzled. This has, in some instances, paved the way to the re-emergence of the military in several countries on the continent.
“The good news is, the AU and its RECs are far advanced in reviewing their democracy, good governance and security Protocols, which are aimed at effectively responding to the ongoing ills afflicting Africa’s democracy. It could be helpful, however, for those reviews to be expeditiously concluded and rolled out so that Africans could see that something is being done to halt the democratic decline, and restore our beloved continent on the desired path of good governance, peace and development. This will require making the African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) more effective and cascading such structure to the regional bodies”, he stated.
Former President Koroma Concluded that achieving democratic values and tenets require like minds, strong commitment and collaboration, he commended the West African Elders Forum, under the auspices of the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation, for its noble efforts in mediating political transitions, conflicts and in promoting democracy, the Brenthurst Foundation, based in South Africa, has also been paying particular attention to the nexus between bad governance, insecurity and poverty. “We are all in this together because we believe in the transformative power of democracy; because we believe that democracy is not just a system of governance; it is a vehicle of hope, progress, and social cohesion. It empowers individuals and communities alike, and gives them a voice and agency in shaping their own destinies,” he emphasised
“No doubts, democracy is not without obstacles, but together, we must confront the challenges that threaten its very foundations – Poor leadership, ineffective citizenship, poverty, corruption, political polarisation, rogue elections, and all their attendant ramifications of social unrest and political instability. It is our collective responsibility, as leaders and advocates, to tackle these issues head-on and work tirelessly to build resilient democracies that leave no one behind. Let us remember the millions of fellow Africans, who, owing to bad governance, are being pushed away into the hazards of Mediterranean Sea and the hostilities of irregular migration. Let us keep in our thoughts citizens who are routinely forced from their homes, whose livelihoods are destroyed, who are unlawfully incarcerated, wounded and killed by those who are supposed to be the ones to protect them,” he climaxed.