[Accra – 23 September 2022] – The Executive Director of the West Africa Civil Society Institute (WACSI), Nana Asantewa Afadzinu, has called on the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU) to strengthen collaboration with civil society organisations (CSOs) in West Africa, to propel efforts of countering the menace of terrorism in the region.
Nana Afadzinu explained that over the years, CSOs had strived for a democratic and peaceful West Africa. However, they were yet to achieve optimum results due to inadequate platform and resources.
Some of the initiatives being taken by the CSOs, she noted, included the CIVICUS Monitor, which presented accurate, up-to-date data on civic freedoms, particularly on the freedom of expression, assembly, and association, and showed the continent’s progress.
She also mentioned “WACSI, which provides data on West Africa as well as the West Africa Democracy and Solidarity Network, which provides a platform for civil society to mobilise around the promotion and consolidation of democracy in West Africa and reverse its retrogression.
“The West Africa Network for Peacebuilding (WANEP) also champions capacity-strengthening work for community groups on terrorism awareness, preparedness, and response,” she said.
The WACSI Executive Director was speaking at the Inaugural Annual Consultative meeting between the PSC and CSOs held virtually by the AU on 14 September 2022 where she represented CSOs in West Africa.
She decried the disturbing rate at which terrorist groups and activities were increasingly expanding in the region, especially in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin region, and some of the coastal areas along the Gulf of Guinea.
She also bemoaned the democratic backsliding on the continent, noting that the region continued to suffer democratic retrogressions. “One key area of concern is the appetite for tenure elongation, as recently witnessed in three West African countries, and the threats of unconstitutional change of government, with growing fears of attempts by other Member States to adopt this trend,” she added.
These impediments, she indicated, had contributed to fractured and constrained civic space, lack of social cohesion, manipulation of electoral processes, and violent dissentions between citizens and political actors.
She noted that while it was commendable to see the Economic Community of West african States (ECOWAS) make bold steps to drive democracy in the region over the years, trust in the leadership of the West African body was beginning to wane, which required immediate interventions.
”Thankfully, the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government September 2021 extra-ordinary session, called for the review of the ECOWAS Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good governance to address these challenges.
She indicated that the “Livingstone Formula” also made a direct call for the Economic Social and Cultural Council (ECOSOCC) as a consultative organ of the AU to seek civil society’s active participation in promoting peace, security, and stability.
“This engagement with the PSC is a demonstration that this call is being heeded, and I commend the PSC and the ECOSOCC for enabling this. I trust this will continue,” she added.
Nana Afadzinu also called on the PSC to partner with CSOs to raise public awareness on the imperatives of democratic governance on the continent, and work on the review of the African Charter on Democracy and Good governance as well as promote the African Peer Review Mechanism.
“As highlighted in the Accra declaration on unconstitutional changes of government, the PSC can work with civil society to strengthen and deepen the participation of citizens on governance issues to address their legitimate concerns—promoting constitutionalism and not just constitutional change,” she added.
The Executive Director of WACSI emphasised that AU organ could benefit from briefings from CSOs regularly on the governance, peace and security context in the region and access accurate data from credible civil society assessment portals like the Afrobarometer and CIVICUS monitor.
She added that the Council could also work closely with civil society to strengthen post-conflict confidence-building and support reconciliation processes in war-affected regions.
She again called on the PSC to support CSOs in their fight for strong democracy and peace by encourage resourcing from African philanthropists to support political and economic governance, social justice, and human rights interventions on the continent.
She stressed that CSOs could provide capacity strengthening and technical assistance support to member states to develop programmes that engage more on non-electoral elements of democracy including accountability and access to information, independent media and justice, and relationships between duty bearers and rights holders.
“The PSC can facilitate this,” she indicated, while calling for a collaboration between the security council and West African CSOs to scale terrorism awareness and response initiatives within the various member countries.
“This would also help strengthen more citizen-centred and timely response mechanisms,” she maintained.
Nana Afadzinu who represented CSOs in West Africa at the inaugural meeting, emphasised the readiness of CSOs to work collaboratively with the AU through its organs like the ECOSOCC and the PSC to propel the achievement of the Agenda 2063 goals for Africa’s development.