ECOWAS / Stakeholders Express Concern At Prevalence Of Divisive Politics In The Region

ABUJA – West Africa is still plagued by politics defined by the “use of ethnicity, gender, religion and other differences as instruments of politics”, and would need to move in the direction of promoting ‘gender equality, inclusiveness and equity”, participants at a two-day meeting that examined the state of political parties have said.

A communiqué released at the end of the meeting on 23rd July 2010 in Abidjan said “the participants expressed concern at the persistence of ethnicity, religious and gender discrimination and sectarianism that plague party organization and practice in the religion”.

The participants, who were drawn from political parties, electoral commissions, governance experts, research institutions and the media, also included governance experts.

The meeting was called by the ECOWAS Commission to review the organization of political parties in the region, particularly their internal organization, financing and ability to articulate visions and agenda.

The participants also expressed concern at the fragility of government institutions and their adverse impact on the democratization process, warning that this could leave them susceptible to reversals. They therefore expressed the need for political parties to discharge their responsibilities towards the consolidation and promotion of a culture of good governance in the region.

In spite of this worrying situation, the participants acknowledged that “substantial progress” has been made in the promotion and consolidation of multi-party democracy in the last 20 years as manifested in the growing number of democratically-elected governments, the steady liberalization of the political space and the improvements in the quality of elections conducted in Member States.

In this regard, they praised the ECOWAS Commission for its role in the promotion of democracy, good governance, peace and security through effective preventive diplomacy and the implementation of the relevant Community instruments in these areas.

They also noted the positive roles of the region’s political parties in governance even though their effectiveness is hampered by the challenges of internal organization, financial sustainability, probity and accountability as well as their ability to function between elections and implement development-oriented policies.

In order to address these challenges, they agreed to create a Forum of West African Political Parties (FOWAPP) as a platform for interaction and mutual assistance.

The broad mandate of the forum includes the facilitation of capacity building, particularly in the areas conflict management, internal party organization, resource mobilization and management.