At a summit in Botswana, African leaders are calling for

The International Conference on Constitutionalism began on Wednesday, July 6, in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana. Organized by the National Democratic Institute, this event brings together former heads of state and civil society to strengthen democracy in Africa, at a time when democracy is declining on the continent, several African leaders have modified or tried to change the constitutions to retain power.

With our special correspondent in Gaborone, Christina Okello

“Africa would be better served by strong institutions than by strong men,” he said Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi in his opening speech. This is a message shared by former Nigerian leader Mahamadou Issoufou and former Central African President Catherine Samba Panza attending the summit.

Everyone agrees: we must redouble our efforts to prevent unconstitutional changes. To begin with, curbing acts of corruption by political leaders, said Mohamed Sidiye, Kenya’s ambassador to Botswana:

“It is terrible to see African leaders greedily destroying what we have acquired. I have seen some heads of state change the constitution simply to satisfy their whims, which unfortunately calls into question the democratic achievements, the rule of law and social justice. of course it will be a dictatorship and we will lose peace and stability. “

“Weak institutions, because they are corrupt, can not meet such challenges” At the last summit, he expressed his desire to do not seek a third term, an attitude that has made former Nigerian President Mahamadou Issoufou considered a model for democracy in Africa. Absent this time due to a setback, it was through a televised speech that the former head of state appealed to strong democratic institutions:

“Our summit is being held in a context where our continent, Africa, is still facing serious challenges: a security challenge, a climate challenge, a demographic challenge. I am still convinced that weak institutions, because they are corrupt, cannot meet such challenges.”

“Development is impossible” in “military-led systems” A message that comes when several African countries have changed or are trying to change the constitution to remove the restriction of two presidential terms. the the most recent is the Central African Republic.

“We see democratic gains declining,” said Mohamed Sidiye, Kenya’s ambassador to Botswana. It exposes the African people to a system run by the military, in which constitutional principles are repealed, in which parliament is disrupted and things go from bad to worse. In such a context, development is impossible, and that is what needs to change. “

According to researcher Nic Cheeseman, repeated military coups, especially in West Africa, benefit from the absence of good governance.

With the third term of office of Guinea, Togo and Côte d’Ivoire, young people have taken to the streets to demonstrate. Some protests have even been violent, while, according to Amanda Jacobson, Chargé d’Affaires at the US Embassy, ​​these young people could play a role in these democratic setbacks: “Youth is our greatest asset, because they have so much energy and She represents all aspects of society: 70% of Africa’s population is under the age of 30 and is involved in issues that are important to Africa’s future. ”

A future that, according to the participants, depends on respect for democratic institutions.

Since Botswana’s independence in 1966, the country has had a multi – party system, it has held free and fair elections on a regular basis, and Botswana has had no problems implementing political change, so we believe we have experience of talking about democracy, despite the threats hanging over it. What makes our democracy special is that it is rooted in our cultural identity. In our culture, we believe in dialogue, in resolving conflicts by consensus. We believe that words play a role and opinions also, no matter what the other person thinks or what I myself think, all opinions are important. It is on these grounds that we have founded our system of government.

For Gladys Mokhawa, Permanent Secretary of International Affairs of the Government of Botswana, the culture of democracy must be nurtured

Also to listen to:“Coups in Africa find a certain audience among the population”

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