President Bio addresses questions of unconstitutional political change in the region

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 31 July 2022:

Last Thursday, President Dr Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone chaired a special virtual summit of the second African Peer Review (APR) Forum of Heads of State and Government, discussing peer review efforts and unconstitutional changes in Africa.

“At a time when our continent is being buffeted by new winds of political instability, our commitment to the APRM is more than just a critical affirmation of our own agency and an endorsement of institutional building. It also demonstrates our resolve to address questions of unconstitutional changes of government, peaceful dissent, and free and fair elections.

“We are meeting today, virtually, to peer review the reports of the Republic of Kenya. I commend my brother President Uhuru Kenyatta for opening up his country to the review team from the APRM Continental Secretariat,” he said.

He noted that the continent is disproportionately affected by a conflict to which Africa is not a party, adding that the African Union’s position has been clear from the beginning that it would refuse to take sides but would encourage belligerents to negotiate with a view to ending a war that could have devastating ramifications way beyond the theatre of war.

“I am encouraged by the calls for peace made by my peers across the continent. I particularly want to commend the robust diplomatic initiative, spearheaded by the Chairperson of our African Union, His Excellency Macky Sall, to seek an amicable settlement and, therefore, attenuate the severe effects of the conflict on our continent.

“The APRM team analysed progress on the Big Four Agenda and other salient issues in Kenya. Additionally, it is also noteworthy that Kenya has conducted the most targeted reviews at once.

“From the growing number of targeted and country reviews undertaken by the APRM, I am heartened that there is an inflexible focus by African countries on accelerating progress towards the achievement of the goals and priority areas of our AU’s Agenda 2063. Indeed, there is a growing recognition that we can realise our continent’s big dreams and untapped potentials,” he noted.

Read President Bio’s full speech here:

I would like to start by welcoming all of you to this 2nd Special Summit of the APR Forum of Heads of State and Government. I am delighted to participate in my new capacity as Chairperson of the APR Forum of Heads of State and Government.

I am especially grateful and humbled that you have entrusted my country, Sierra Leone, with the leadership of this multi-layered organisation for the next two years. Your collaboration and support will help all of us maximise the APRM’s impact as we collectively assess and propose effective solutions to various governance challenges.

Excellencies, Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen, we are meeting today, virtually, to peer review the reports of the Republic of Kenya. I commend my brother President Uhuru Kenyatta for opening up his country to the review team from the APRM Continental Secretariat.

The APRM team analysed progress on the Big Four Agenda and other salient issues in Kenya. Additionally, it is also noteworthy that Kenya has conducted the most targeted reviews at once.  From the growing number of targeted and country reviews undertaken by the APRM, I am heartened that there is an inflexible focus by African countries on accelerating progress towards the achievement of the goals and priority areas of our AU’s Agenda 2063. Indeed, there is a growing recognition that we can realise our continent’s big dreams and untapped potentials.

The increasing number of voluntary country and targeted reviews also demonstrates that African countries no longer need to be enticed into assessing the impact of governance in their respective nations. This impetus and dynamism is encouraging. I am confident it will drive the momentum to achieve universal accession to the APRM in the near future.

Certainly, the APRM may have faced challenges, but the regular appraisal of the efforts of African countries to translate well[1]meaning policies into improved living conditions underlie the APRM’s relevance. Its work has unfurled complex governance questions, lifted the discomfort around discussions of good governance, and revived great optimism across the continent. Excellencies, distinguished ladies and gentlemen.

You will recall that, in an effort to to make our conversations more constructive, the Forum resorted to a format that pairs leaders from different regions of our continent. These paired engagements on a report’s peer review will ensure impartiality, openness, and greater depth.

I am confident that this new format will enhance the quality of our future Summits by helping to deepen the review process, and to enrich views and perspectives that would be expressed transparently and candidly. Excellencies, distinguished ladies and gentlemen.

At a time when our continent is being buffeted by new winds of political instability, our commitment to the APRM is more than just a critical affirmation of our own agency and an endorsement of institutional building. It also demonstrates our resolve to address questions of unconstitutional changes of government, peaceful dissent, and free and fair elections.

In Malabo, during the AU Extraordinary Summit on terrorism and unconstitutional changes of government, I solicited support from the Assembly of Heads of State and Government for a change of the 2023 Africa Governance Report’s theme. Indeed, recent political developments in some countries and regions on the continent have necessitated a particular focus on unconstitutional changes of government. That phenomenon has a capacity to inflict great damage on our fragile governance systems. The APRM Continental Secretariat is equally concerned about this phenomenon and has approached my office in that regard.

Letters have been dispatched to leaders of selected countries asking for the deployment of teams to assess institutional capacities — at the national level –, to prevent and respond to unconstitutional changes of government. I am hopeful that these requests will be positively considered and that the APRM Continental Secretariat will soon send review teams to these countries.

The African Union, as well as the international community, should strive to support countries rocked by unconstitutional changes of government in order to ensure their speedy reintegration into their regional, continental, and global communities. The African Union’s position should not be rigid and dogmatic. It should work with authorities in affected countries to restore constitutional order.

We should employ our human, political, and financial resources to build bridges and not erect walls. We must engage countries in a sustained manner to both avert further unconstitutional changes of government and to dispel mistrust about our positions as impartial interlocutors.

I therefore welcome the recent lifting of sanctions imposed on Mali by the Economic Community of West African States. This is a step in the right direction. It is my hope that similar leniency will be displayed towards other countries in other regions to facilitate transition processes and hasten the return to constitutional order.

Your Excellencies, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, we should be uniform and consistent in our engagement with countries under sanctions for unconstitutional changes of Government. Regional Economic Communities and the African Union should be in lockstep and adopt flexible strategies to deal with unconstitutional changes of government while always condemning such unlawful methods of gaining power.

Africa cannot afford disunity amid global shocks that have already unravelled much of the progress we have made over the last twenty years. Africa’s economic development has been hardest hit by the global volatility and other trade and supply constraints intensified by the war in Ukraine following hard on from the immense impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Africa is disproportionately affected by a conflict to which Africa is not a party. The African Union’s position has been clear from the beginning: it has adamantly refused to take sides and encourages belligerents to negotiate with a view to ending a war that has devastating ramifications way beyond the theatre of war.

I am encouraged by the calls for peace made by my peers across the continent. I particularly want to commend the robust diplomatic initiative, spearheaded by the Chairperson of our African Union, His Excellency Macky Sall, to seek an amicable settlement and therefore attenuate the severe effects of the conflict on our continent.

His visit to Sochi, in June, alongside His Excellency Moussa Faki Mahamat, Chairperson of the African Union Commission, to meet with His Excellency Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, reflects consummate statesmanship and great moral courage.

The world, particularly our continent, seeks immediate relief from this devastating war. There has been a sharp impact on the costs of fuel, food, and investment financing. There has been a marked spike in inflationary pressures in our countries. The scarcity of fertilizers and wheat have further imperilled food security and economic recovery across our continent.

Your Excellencies, distinguished ladies and gentlemen, in spite of these acute economic, political, and health upheavals faced by our continent and the world in general, we should not despair. With persistent diplomacy and our unshakeable faith in multilateralism, we can collectively find the solutions we need to prevail over the current geopolitical storms. I thank you for your kind attention.

 

1 Comment

  1. In the last few years we’ve have witness how some political leaders in Africa have tried to change their country’s constitution to extend their two term limits as written in their constitution.From Tunisia ,to the West African sub-region and East Africa.Uganda under their dinosaur President Musenveni have succeeded in suppressing the opposition like the constant detention of the main challenger to his rule Bobi wine. During his student days at Mareke university , he was a firm advocate of the two term Presidential limit.But since he led his NRA rebel group to power in 1986, he had shed all pretence of his democratic believes that power belongs to the people not to one man and his family as is the case under his rule .The recent spate of coups we had in Guinea, Burkina Fasso ,and Mali are all direct result of the failure of the civilian political leadership getting a grip on the cost of living crises affecting peoples lives and failing to deliver on their core promises .

    It is no accident that democratic deficiency and lack of transparency and accountability , and leaders wanting to hang on to power by changing the constitutional arrangements in their countries is more common in the ECOWAS sub -region and countries that saddled the Great Lakes region. As Senegal goes to the polls for parliamentary elections,the main opposition challenger to Mikay Sall presidency in 2024 , is languishing in jail accused amongst other things of rape .Rumours doing the rounds President Sall wants to change the constitution so he can run for a third term . Although he and his party can neither confirm it or deny it to be the case. President Bio who’s Democratic credentials are at best dubious , it will be a hard sell for him to preach to his fellow leaders about respecting the Constitutional order of their countries ,whilst he trampled on the opposition .

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