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Experts Call For Youth Participation in Politics



…Emphasise Separation Of Opposition Parties From A Rulling Party

…Link Incessant Coups To Power Abuse

By Linda Ike

Experts have stressed the need for the youth participation in political activities in the African region.

This according to them, will give the youths sense of belonging and proffer solutions to the unconstitutional regime change and survival of democracy in the ECOWAS member states and Africa at large.

They made the call at the 3-day high-level parliamentary seminar on “The Challenges Of Unconstitutional Regime Change And Presidential Term Limits In West Africa – The Role Of ECOWAS Parliament”, organised by the Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States in Winneba, Ghana.

In his presentation on “Promoting the role of political parties in the democratic consolidation of the West African sub-region”, Director General of National Institute for Legislative and Democratic Studies, (NILDS) Nigeria, Prof. Abubakar Sulaiman, said there is need to strengthen the role of political parties, as it has become difficult to identify and differentiate the opposition parties from the ruling party.

Prof. Sulaiman made a call to support the process of internal democracy in political parties which has become major issues and play down the influence of money bags hijacking political parties.

“Internal democracy has been an issue, most of the litigation arising from election has to do with pre-election matters. How you ensure internal democracy, how do you make sure that no single person or group of people weakens the political structure in a way that hijacks the entire political party.

“The opposition party in Africa or west Africa, have desecrated them on daily basis, they are no where to be found, you cannot even identify the opposition party from the ruling party.

“The populace must be able to distinguish between competing political parties and not be left feeling that they are all the same, that is the perception today in most African countries.

“Electorates are losing interest, feelings and affection in the entire political process, after all they are the same thing and that is why we have a lot of apathy.

“Party reforms should be encouraged from time to time to create room for the inclusion, there must be reform from time to time of party structure, this I believe are the panacea toward ensuring that political parties play their roles in deepening and consolidating democracy in West Africa”.

He further called for a look into the challenges faced by the political parties and democracy in the sub-region and the continent at large, stating that If all these are not addressed, then it is an invitation for military takeover.

“Yes there are challenges facing political parties that have threatened political parties and democracy in Africa. If all these challenges are not been looked into, then while we believe we are having our ways as ruling party, we should know that we are not having our way because anytime the military structure responds, the electorates have to jubilate.

“We need to look at the challenges one there is suspicion by the people of the political parties based on the behaviours of politicians, abuse of political process, how election is been rigged, how politicians hijack the whole process, lack of internal democracy, non performance of West African economies under democratic parties increasing insecurity. All these are threats to party formations in Africa and all these are threats to democracy in Africa.

“The only panacea toward getting our democracy right is for our politicians to look into all these and see how we can really reform our political parties in a way that they are able to perform the role they are supposed to perform in line with the founders of political parties in a democracy”, Prof. Suleiman said.

A Human Rights Lawyer from Sierra Leone, Emmanuel Abdulai stressed the need for collaborative efforts among various stakeholders to promote democratic consolidation.

Abdulai said West African has made progress with democracy but it’s faced with difficult challenges like corruption and electoral fraud.

He added that Political parties as formal organisations seeking political powers through elections and governance participation, have various roles including representation of mobilisation, honesty crafting, providing voter choices as to what policies are on the table, governance participation and legislative criticism.

He said: “Parties serve as agents for the government by ensuring political stability, facilitating governance and promoting social cohesion among others.

“Political parties in West Africa face challenges such as weak institutions, limited internal democracy and insufficient resources.

“Collaboration among political parties and civil societies and international actors is crucial. It is important to emphasize the purpose, strategies and recommendations are not one sided but fits all because the countries are different and can be applied for various countries as at when necessary.”

Abdulai cautioned, ” to overcome the struggles, firstly, political parties must ensure there is transparency in disclosure within their political parties, there should be rules and regulations, campaign financing should be reformed and regulated both at national and intra-party level, electoral reforms should also take place at the country level which ensures that the processes are transparent and we must strengthen oversight mechanisms and ensure that public funding of political parties is introduced based on the strength of these political parties.

“It is important to learn from these institutions and it is very crucial for us to tighten the legal and regulatory framework that ensures transparency and accountability for free and fair elections, encourage political parties to engage in constructive dialogue consensus and negotiations, promoting engagement and collaboration with civil society organizations and fostering the culture of inclusively public participation and accountability in decision making.”

Benedict Sannoh, former Attorney General, Ministry of justice, Liberia, who spoke on “Ensuring the demilitarisation of political power and the subordination of the military to legal civilian rule”, said military coups will remain an option for the restless youths in the sub-region and Africa unless the root causes of failure within the government is dealt with outside the traditional methods of handling them.

“The sub-region is changing not only in terms of population but also in the calibre of its citizenry, the bulk of the population is young and restless, many are traveling more extensively within and without the subregion, have seen the development in other countries many of which have used their natural resources, they want change. Many of the young are restless, without jobs and skills, they are watching, therefore it’s incumbent upon the ECOWAS and all of us to see the moment and facilitate a change, otherwise change will be imposed the way they will consider as not democratic. Military intervention has so far, remained an attractive instrumentality for change.

“ECOWAS therefore must not delude itself to believing that sanctions and choice of intervention will reverse this trend amidst its being undemocratic. Military coups and military rule remains a viable option for the young and restless unless we deal with the underlying causes of the failures within our government by departing from traditional ways”. He stated.

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