Amidst the ongoing political unrest in Niger, a coalition of six civil society organizations (CSOs) spanning West Africa has publicly cautioned the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) against pushing the sub-region into armed conflict.
The coalition posits that this approach would only exacerbate the suffering endured by the population. In a collective statement, Dr. Zikirullahi Mualeem Ibrahim, the convener of the alliance, conveyed, “The coalition firmly opposes any efforts by decision-makers to steer the subregion towards armed conflict, a course of action that would undoubtedly intensify the hardship faced by ordinary citizens.”
Hence, the coalition contends that both the threat of war and the actual deployment of military measures within the context of the political crisis do not serve the interests of the people of Niger, Nigeria, and the broader ECOWAS community.
Dr. Ibrahim called upon ECOWAS to earnestly embrace democracy both in its essence and in practice as a means to reinstate harmony and stability within the region.
The CSO coalition consists of various organizations including the Resource Centre for Human Rights & Civic Education (CHRICED), the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), the Human and Environment Development Agenda (HEDA), and the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD). Others within the coalition are the Centre Africain d’Appui au Leadership aux Droits Humains et à l’innovation Sociale (CALDHIS) and the Network of Nigerien Organizations for the Defense of Democracy and Human Rights (RONIDDEDH).
Dr. Ibrahim criticized ECOWAS for its previous lack of response to undemocratic practices within its member states. He pointed out, “It’s noteworthy that ECOWAS chose silence when some of its member leaders resorted to undemocratic tactics to prolong their rule.”
Furthermore, he urged the military junta in Niger to present a clearly defined and feasible plan for transitioning back to democracy and the restoration of constitutional order. Dr. Ibrahim emphasized, “State actors must govern justly, equitably, constitutionally, and inclusively. If they fail to adhere to democratic principles, the optimal recourse is the electoral process, which facilitates periodic changes of leadership.”
Dr. Ibrahim also identified factors such as the disregard for democratic values, widespread poverty, elevated unemployment rates, and exclusion as the underlying forces behind banditry, insurgency, terrorism, and the recent surge in coups across the West African subregion.
While expressing optimism for the future, he noted, “While we anticipate that all parties involved in this unfortunate crisis have gleaned valuable insights from the events in Niger, we remain hopeful that a return to democracy through open, impartial, and credible elections will help rebuild trust and address the concerns of both the people and the international community.”
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