Urgent Call for Democracy and Inclusivity in Africa on International Day of Democracy
On this International Day of Democracy, the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD West Africa) reaffirms its commitment to the preservation and promotion of democracy and reflects on the challenges democracy faces worldwide. This year's theme, "Empowering the next generation," highlights the vital role that young people play in advancing democracy and underscores the need to ensure equal opportunities for all to participate in democratic processes.
As we mark this occasion, we reflect on recent elections in Gabon, Sierra Leone, and Nigeria where citizens exercised their right to vote. While these elections are a testament to the enduring spirit of democracy, they were not without their challenges. For example, in Nigeria the opposition went to court to contest the victory of the incumbent party while in Gabon the military seized power claiming irregularities in the electoral process. We hope that these experiences serve as a reminder of the importance of continually improving democratic processes, ensuring that everyone is given equal opportunities to cast their ballots, and that human rights are fully respected.
Furthermore, as we countdown to the forthcoming election in Liberia, we call on stakeholders to remain resolute in ensuring that the elections are free, fair and with fervent hope that it will embody the core tenets of democratic principles and values, and that the invaluable lessons gleaned from past electoral experiences will help in ensuring these polls are a shining example of inclusivity and transparency.
When democratic institutions are abused and disregarded, people find other means to seek legitimacy - and they are often unconstitutional, rash, and unsustainable. It is why we use this day to reflect on the challenges to democracy in states that have recently experienced coups - Burkina Faso, Gabon, Guinea, Mali and Niger. These actions have undermined the democratic progress that many in the region have worked tirelessly to achieve. CDD will continue to caution that a military takeover of the political and governance spaces would never be the solution to the challenges facing democratic governance and development on the African continent.
In a similar vein, CDD urges governments to implement good governance measure in a full respect of their constitutions, including term limits when applicable and the principles of the rule of law, and in alignment with international conventions to which they are signatories. Good governance plays a vital role in sustaining a robust democracy beyond the electoral process.
In the spirit of inclusivity, we emphasise the importance of empowering women and youth, and persons living with disability in the democratic process. Their participation is essential for building robust and representative democracies. Recent elections in Nigeria saw a concerning reduction in women elected to office, which does not bode well for a representative democracy. We urge governments, civil society organisations, and international partners to take meaningful steps to ensure that women and young people have equal access to political participation, leadership roles, and decision-making processes.
Democracy is a shared responsibility, and its strength lies in the active engagement of all citizens. On this International Day of Democracy, let us reaffirm our commitment to upholding democratic values, promoting inclusivity, and working together to overcome the challenges that threaten our shared democratic ideals. Together, we can build a brighter future where democracy flourishes, human rights are protected, and all voices are heard and valued.
Director, CDD West Africa