(JollofNews) – West Africa is witnessing a rebirth in the quest to establish sustainable democratic systems across the region. From Senegal to Ghana; Ivory Coast to Benin and most recently Nigeria, tremendous successes are being registered where power changed hands through the ballot box.
In some of these cases, opposition parties turned the tide by wresting power from ruling parties through keenly contested general elections. This goes to show that when the playing field is levelled, and the due process respected, victory can go either way.
The recent electoral successes in Nigeria by the opposition All Progressive Congress (APC) is pointer to this. And let me take this opportunity to profoundly thank the people of Nigeria and indeed the APC party on their success in the just concluded general elections.
I have tried as much to go beyond the academic exercise of this issue by bringing out the interconnectedness of other opportunistic factors that have direct bearing or shall I say that breed insecurity leading to pervasive impact on politics generally. They include:
The Influence Of State Repression And Lack Of Respect For Due Process And Their Attendant Consequences On Peaceful Politics In The Region
In many West African countries, there is hardly a distinction between the state and the ruling party. Quite often, ruling parties in their quest to remain in power, put in place deliberate policies in guise of protecting national security to systematically suppress dissent; muzzle freedom of expression and of the media; and deny citizens their basic and fundamental rights.
In some countries, a mere attempt by the opposition to organise political rallies at the very least, receive puzzle response from the authorities. In more severe cases, heavy handed security tactics are used to clamp down on the opposition as a deliberate ploy to distance the opposition from its constituent supporters.
Independent journalism is also crushed and in some countries where even a free media flourishes, underhand tactics are deployed to starve the media of the much needed income to stay vibrant. This is always a deliberate attempt to suppress and keep the unsuspecting populace in the dark.
Rule of law is also hardy respected characterised by a persistent disregard for the due process. Electoral reforms that could bring about credible, transparent, free and fair elections are always frowned upon. Where they are put under pressure, ruling parties accept reforms that are only but cosmetic. In such situations distinguish ladies and gentlemen, resentments against the established order are strong that normally translates into violent conflict and confrontation.
The Twin Evils Of Poverty And Corruption
Behind the competition for political dominance in the countries of West Africa, reveals some deep seated cowardly facades by the political class particularly those in charge of the nations’ coffers to perpetually keep the messes in poverty. Deliberately, some governments will even deny development programmes to their own citizens because they are deemed to be opposition supporters. In most of these communities, unemployment is unbearably high and they also lack the basic of opportunities.
In addition, national resources are plundered and State coffers looted. In a situation where people lack hope and opportunities, and are deliberately downtrodden, they resort to measures that could have profound consequence on peace and security talk less of peaceful politicking.
Thus, the twin evils of poverty and corruption that our governments continue to perpetuate are important factors that we should not ignore when we discuss politics and insecurity in West Africa.
A new shockwave that should serve as a wakeup call, like other parts of the continent, is grappling with a new cancer that is feeding on the fallout from the unrestrained public corruption, poverty and state repression. From Mali to Niger, Mauritania to Nigeria, tragic as it were, Islamist insurgents are using our fault lines of ethnicity and religion as well as resentment against repressive regimes to recruit and turn our young people into potential jihadists and martyrs.
Terrorist networks and sleeper cells are capitalizing on our governments’ repressive and flourished corrupt practices as magnets to recruit our children who are consumed by hopelessness and lack of opportunities. In some of the countries where our education systems especially Islamic education are left at the mercy of foreign benevolence, our children are being fed with new ideologies that are inimical to peaceful coexistence. The broken education systems caused by neglect and official corruption are becoming the new feeding points for recruitment.
In a situation where minimal state supervision and funding is provided to religious schools, their survival entirely deponent on outside funding by mainly charitable NGOs from countries whose curriculum is very much oriented on radical teachings. And this is where the problem lies as far as the influence of terrorism among young people is concerned because from the very beginning, the children are brainwashed and taught certain principles that make them see the society differently.
Where young people are taught to despise the very political institutions and systems from the very beginning, they will certainly grow up to be handfuls.
Surviving On Organised Crimes
Organised crime is another serious concern in West Africa that is pushing new boundaries. Because of endemic corruption and weak governance prevalent in the region, organized criminal cartels are increasingly targeting West Africa for their illicit activities. And these cartels have found willing and unholy alliances among our security forces, judiciary, financial institutions and more scarily among our young people.
West Africa, being a region synonymous to civil wars and proxy military coups fuelled mainly by bad governance, organised criminal networks are asserting their influence and control of the region. For example in Guinea Bissau from 2007 to 2011 at the height of the drug trade engineered by Latin American cartels, the street value of the monthly export of cocaine trade to mainly European countries was estimated to worth more than the yearly international aid to that country.
In 2010, an estimated two tons cocaine mule was discovered in the Gambia worth over US$1 billion. The alleged owners of the drug being Latin American and some European nationals were apparently prosecuted and jail for more than 50 years. Over the last three years, in Senegal, Ghana, and Sierra Leone, cargo ships were intercepted on which huge amount of drugs were found. In the desert region of the border between Mali and Niger, a passenger plane was found abandoned and disabled after it was apparently used to smuggle drugs from the desert regions of the Sahara to Northern Europe.The effects of arms trafficking through organised crime have been having its toll on West Africa with often devastating consequences of deaths and untold destruction. Most of these arms are used in the conflicts in the region. In the past two decades alone, West Africa had endured three brutal civil wars in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast with a combine death toll of more than 250 000 people. The current conflict in Northern Nigeria is mainly fuelled thanks to proceeds from organized criminal activities which are particularly used to buy weapons for the Islamists insurgents linked to Al-Qaida. All these have profound effects on peaceful and democratic politicking in our sub-region.
What is happening in our region regarding insecurity should serve as a wakeup call for all of us. If West Africa and indeed the entire continent is to is to be successful in countering the influence of insecurity on our body politics, the States and indeed “WE” should develop strong interest in establishing just societies, fight corruption in all its forms and manifestations, respect the rule of law, human rights and put in place programmes that will bring about sustainable development and poverty reduction..The alternatives, ladies and gentlemen would continue to be costly for the sub-region in terms of not only the lost of human life but also of property.
Lawyer Darboe, leader of the Gambia’s main opposition United Democratic Party (UDP), was speaking at the Bamako international Conference on Security, Democracy, and Development for the People of Africa