Sierra Leone Telegraph: 22 November 2022:
Former President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma is attending the second Strategy Meeting of the West African Elders’ Forum (WAEF) being held in Abidjan, Ivory Coast.
Welcoming participants to the meeting, the Executive Director of the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation, Ann Iyone (Photo below), highlighted some of the challenges to democracy.
“No country can claim to be democratic or to run a representative system of government that does not have elections as one of the permanent features of its political calendar. Alarmingly, there has, on aggregate, been a deterioration of the quality of elections in a growing number of West African countries.”
She also acknowledged that : “the integrity of the vote has been negatively impacted by incidence of electoral violence, the abridgment of the autonomy of elections management bodies, the “securitisation” of the electoral process, and the “judicialisation” of the election outcomes.”
Iyone expressed concern that “the implications of the decline in the quality of elections witnessed in several countries are many but of particular importance is the growing risk that sections of the populace might conclude that elections no longer offer a viable path for peacefully and legally changing governments and voting out incumbents”.
Chairman of WAEF, former President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan, expressed the organization’s belief in preventive diplomacy and noted that one of the objectives of the Forum is to shore up the democratic gains of the West African region by meaningfully engaging different stakeholders, in a pragmatic and responsible manner.
President Jonathan added that: “Meetings like these serve as an opportunity to review the gains, challenges and threats to peace and democracy in our sub-region and help us strategize on how to mediate, so that threats do not degenerate into conflicts.”
The former Nigerian leader reiterated Iyone’s sentiments that elections are the cornerstone of democracy, and the activities surrounding the process could either make or mar the developmental aspirations of a nation.
He also noted that elections afford citizens the opportunity to have a say in their nation and give them the opportunity to participate in the leadership recruitment process of their country.
“From recent events in Africa, we can draw a lesson on the relationship between peaceful elections, democratic sustenance, and national stability. This is why every process leading to an election is very important to the outcome of the poll,” said former President Jonathan.
The WAEF chairman concluded that it is the responsibility of the ‘Elders’ to identify threats to the transition programmes in the sub-region and seek ways of proactively engaging relevant stakeholders towards resolving such challenges. (Photo below: R-L Fmr Pres. of Benin, H.E. Thomas Boni Yayi, Fmr president of SL. H. E. Ernest Bai Koroma and Fmr Pres. of Nigeria. H.E. Goodluck Jonathan).
Speaking to the Ivorian state television, Sierra Leone’s former President Ernest Bai Koroma, acknowledged the democratic strives being made on the continent but lamented on the increasing decline in the quality of democracy across Africa. He pointed out to that resurgence of military coups in Africa is an indication that Democracy in West Africa is in crisis, which he associated to the absence of the democratic dividend and the manipulation of the electoral process.
President Koroma drew attention to the fact that three West African states are due to hold multi-tier elections next year, noting that the WAEF Strategy Meeting is timely especially also in view of the fact that several legislative elections are slated for 2023.
The Sierra Leonean statesman, like his peers in the Forum, gracefully handed over power after completing his constitutional two terms from 2007-2018.
The Meeting has proceeded into closed session.