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Coups: Elders forum urges African leaders to prioritise citizen’s welfare

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Niger crisis: ECOWAS Heads say all options still on table

Last Updated on September 3, 2023 by Fellow Press

West African Elders Forum (WAEF) has urged African leaders to put citizens’ welfare, peace, and security at the centre of governance, to consolidate democracy in the region.

Participants at the ‘State of Democracy’ webinar, organised by WAEF, an Initiative of Goodluck Jonathan Foundation (GJF), gave this advice in a statement by its Communications Officer, Mr Wealth Ominabo, in Abuja.

The theme of the conversation is entitled: “Making meaning of democratic reversals in West Africa.”

The participants examined the challenges to democratic governance in the region and how best to advance democracy amid the growing trend of coups and unconstitutional change of government.

The speakers at the virtual meeting also urged governments, regional and sub-regional bodies, to invest more in citizen-centric initiatives that would help serve as a buffer against threats to democracy.

They also called for strengthening democratic frameworks in countries to ensure accountability and guarantee free and credible elections.

The panelists noted that a decline in the region because of the poor state of governance had led to frustration and trust deficit between citizens and government.

They called for the rethinking of democracy in the continent to address citizens’ contemporary realities.

Former Vice President Fatoumata Tambajang of the Gambia, in her contributions, attributed democratic reversal in the region to political leaders’ disregard for normative values of democracy and inability to deliver on their political promises.

“It is time to rethink democracy within our context. First of all, what are the factors leading to democratic decline?

“The context in the Sahel is complex because we have civil leaders who are not ready to respect the constitutions and civil institutions. They are also not ready to deliver on their democratic promises.

“Most of our leaders believe that after soliciting for votes and getting victory at the polls, they forget to deliver their promises to the people.

“Citizens are getting more aware and saying they are tired of voting and not seeing results.

“They are saying we want decent lives; we want food in our homes; we want security and competent people in the civil service who can deliver on services.

“They are equally saying we want equal opportunity, gender equality,” Tambajang said.

Also, Mr Remi Ajibewa, former Director, Department of Political Affairs, Peace and Security at Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) Commission, suggested that ECOWAS should focus more on citizens than incumbent presidents.

Ajibewa highlighted the many initiatives ECOWAS had done to safeguard democracy in the sub-region.

“We intend to see civilian coups, which manifest in referendums, popular uprising, military-assisted transition, and constitutional review after the election.

“Not that ECOWAS has not been doing well. It is a problem of perception.

“Citizens within the continent see ECOWAS as a body more interested in securing the regime of incumbent presidents and not working for the people’s interests.

“ECOWAS needs to move from ECOWAS of the government to ECOWAS of the people, ” he said.

Ajibewa also said that safeguarding democracy in the continent required collective effort.

He urged all stakeholders to work towards protecting and promoting democracy in the region.

“All of us, from civil society to member states, to ECOWAS, AU to the UN, all have a role to play.

“We need to mobilise to strengthen member states institutions to have a peaceful and inclusive electoral system,” Ajibewa said.

The Executive Director of Sahel Institute for Democracy and Governance, Mr Moussa Kondon, called on ECOWAS to redouble its efforts to protect democracy in the sub-region.

Kondon, also a panelist at the webinar, said that with ECOWAS, it was always negotiation and tonnes of negotiations while people were suffering.

“With globalisation, people have access to information and are more informed than before.

“ECOWAS must proactively engage and uphold its relevant instruments, especially those promoting democracy and good governance,” he said.

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Emmanuel Macron announces dissolution of National Assembly

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Last Updated on June 10, 2024 by Fellow Press

French President Emmanuel Macron has announced the dissolution of the National Assembly, following defeat of his party in 2024 European Parliament (EP) elections, according to local media report.

“I have decided to give you back the choice of your parliamentary future through the vote. I am therefore dissolving the National Assembly,” Macron said in a short speech.

“This is a serious, weighty decision. But it is above all an act of trust,” he added.

He added that the elections to the National Assembly are to take place in two rounds on June 30 and July 7.
Macron’s Renaissance party gained 15.2 per cent of the votes in 2024 European Parliament elections, far behind far-right National Rally who received 31.8 per cent.

“The unprecedented gap between the presidential majority and the leading opposition party reflects a stinging disavowal and rejection of the policies led by Emmanuel Macron,” RN President Jordan Bardella said after the EP elections results were unveiled, quoted by local media.

“We’re ready for it. I call on French people to join us in forming around the RN a majority in the service of the only cause that guides our steps: France.” parliamentary party leader of RN, Marine Le Pen, said Sunday evening on social media platform X.

The EP elections were held from June 6 to June 9, with voters of the 27 EU member states selecting 720 lawmakers to the 10th EP.

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UN adds Israel to blacklist

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Last Updated on June 10, 2024 by Fellow Press

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has added Israel’s military to a global list of offenders that have committed violations against children, his spokesman confirmed on Friday.

Israel had been told it is being placed on the list in the secretary-general’s annual report on children in armed conflict, to be sent to the UN Security Council next Friday, Stephane Dujarric told a press briefing.

Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad were also added to the list, according to a diplomatic source, along with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

Dujarric added that the Israeli UN mission was called by Guterres’ chief of staff on Friday, a courtesy afforded to countries that are newly listed. “It is done to give those countries a heads-up and avoid leaks,” he said.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan recorded a video of himself making a phone call from his office, apparently to a UN official, and leaked part of it on social media.

In the video, Erdan expressed outrage at the UN decision, calling the IDF “the most moral army in the world.”

“The only one who is blacklisted today is the secretary-general, whose decisions since the war started, and even before, are rewarding terrorists and incentivizing them to use children for terror acts… Shame on him!”

Dujarric said it was “shocking and unacceptable” that Erdan had apparently published the private call, saying it was “something he had never seen in my 24 years serving this organization.”

Israel’s inclusion on the list comes after eight months of war in Gaza, in which more than 15,500 children have been killed, according to the Ministry of Health in the enclave.

The war was sparked by a Hamas-led assault on Israel on October 7, which killed 1,200 people and saw some 250 others taken hostage. Many are still in captivity and Hamas’ top leadership is still at large despite the Israeli onslaught.

The UN’s so-called blacklist has previously included countries such as Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian envoy to the UN, said the decision to add Israel to the list “will not bring back tens of thousands of our children who were killed by Israel over decades and will not restore normal life for the children who were permanently disabled by its actions.”

“But it is an important step in the right direction towards ending the double standards and the culture of impunity Israel has enjoyed for far too long and that left our children vulnerable to its consequences.”

The annual report will go to the Security Council on June 14. The official report will be published on June 18. It will be discussed at a debate in the council on June 26.

Asked about ramifications, the UN spokesman said it will be up to the members to decide any action.

The war has seen Israel-UN relations reach historic lows with Israeli diplomats using their platforms at the UN to denounce the world body.

Israel’s quarrel with the UN has gone beyond the secretary-general. Israeli officials have also criticized the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), the World Health Organization, UN Women, and the UN’s Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories Francesca Albanese.

Meanwhile, dozens of UN staffers have been killed in Gaza since the conflict began, the largest loss in the world body’s history.

Israel has long accused UNRWA of anti-Israeli incitement, which UNRWA has repeatedly denied, and in 2017, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sought to dismantle the UN body, saying it should be merged with the main UN refugee agency.

Since the October 7 attack, Israeli journalists and news outlets have refocused their attention on UNRWA and have amplified stories questioning its role in the war.

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