The network members of West Africa Democracy Solidarity Network (WADEMOS), pro-democracy actors and democracy and governance experts in the region, and Ecowas have expressed concern over the growing discontent among West African citizens regarding the process and outcomes of democratic governance.
The officials of the network convened in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire from August 1st to 2nd, 2023, to discuss democratic reversals in the sub-region, with a special focus on francophone West Africa and the ongoing political transitions including the recent military takeover in Niger. The meeting also discussed the growing discontent among West African citizens regarding the processes and outcomes of democratic governance against popular expectations that democracy would promote economic well-being for ordinary citizens.
It acknowledged that the region since the beginning of the last decade has consistently experienced democratic reversals and is now home to four military coups over the last three years (Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, Niger), and a failed attempt in Guinea Bissau, which, among others, were triggered and accompanied by a widespread disregard for political and civil liberties, coupled with the worsening insecurity and growing economic hardship.
The Network also disclosed that the spate of deterioration in Francophone West Africa is even more alarming over the last decade.
“Despite initial progress in democratisation, almost all the eight countries in the region have experienced major setbacks, including the return of military coups, manipulation of constitutions and electoral outcomes for term extensions, the threat of violent extremism particularly in the Sahel, and the emergence of external forces and influence and its impacts on the region’s democratic consolidation,” it added.
The network also conceded that despite the many challenges, support for democracy and democratic governance remains very strong at the regional level.
“It is noteworthy that while support for democratic governance remains higher, satisfaction with the expected dividends of democracy remains low and on the decline since the last decade. This is even more concerning, especially in Francophone countries, where a significant two-thirds of citizens express dissatisfaction with the state of democratic governance,” it noted.
The network also recognised efforts by Ecowas to respond to key threats and reversals experienced in the region and enhance democratic resilience.
“Notably, we recognise efforts to revise the regional protocol on democracy and good governance particularly enforcing term limits in West Africa and strengthening regional security and stability including the unconstitutional changes of government in West Africa,” it concluded.