[Lagos, 10 January 2024]- Over 150 civic actors from across Western, Central and Eastern Africa have decried the “unprecedented’’ growing waves of coups in West Africa and have put forward a comprehensive set of recommendations to combat the pressing issue.
Representing over 100 civil society organisations (CSOs), these actors convened at the inaugural West Africa Civil Society Week, organised by the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI) and West Africa Democracy Solidarity Network (WADEMOS) in Lagos, Nigeria, from 29-31 August 2023.
During a series of impassioned dialogues, the civic actors expressed profound dissatisfaction with certain actions undertaken by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in its efforts to address the escalating coup crisis in the region.
They emphasised the urgent need for the regional body to exercise caution in its response to prevent further aggravation of an already dire situation in a joint press statement issued on August 31, the civic actors implored ECOWAS to prioritise peaceful approaches in its governance response, urging the regional body to halt any potential military intervention in Niger or any part of the region.
They underscored the importance of preserving, fortifying, and expanding civic space to enable CSOs to thrive and contribute effectively to governance and development.
“We vehemently reject any attempts to stifle freedom of expression, association, and assembly, which are fundamental pillars of a vibrant civil society. We call on governments to uphold human rights and ensure the safety of civil society actors,” the statement declared.
The 150+ civil society actors also urged the regional body to rebuild trust among its citizens and operationalise the Economic, Social and Cultural Council in West Africa (ECOSOCC-WA) to bolster collaboration with the third sector.
ECOSOCC-WA is a responsive strategic framework by the ECOWAS to strengthen partnership with citizens, civil society, private sector, governments, and the regional economic community.
Under the theme, ‘Civil Society in West Africa: Reimagining the Role of the Third Sector in Protecting Civic Space and Consolidating Democracy for Regional Development,’ the three-day assembly witnessed participants condemning all unconstitutional changes of government and manipulated tenure extensions that undermine democratic principles in the region.
Expressing profound concern over the democratic recession, participants reaffirmed their unwavering commitment to promoting democratic governance, constitutional rule, and fair electoral practices as foundational prerequisites for sustainable development and peace.
“We emphasise the principle of leaving no voices behind and, in this context, call on both state and non-state actors to prioritise inclusion, particularly the involvement of youth and women, in all endeavours aimed at advancing our region’s progress,” they said in the press statement.
The civic actors believe that if implemented by ECOWAS, these interventions will propel efforts to address the prevailing democratic challenges and coup d’états in the region.
The West Africa Civil Society Week stands as a resolute response to the unprecedented challenges currently jeopardising civic space and democracy in West Africa.
The conference provided a platform for civic and development actors to foster solidarity and create a formidable alliance to confront critical civic space issues head-on.