Washington, DC — “Democracy and Security In West Africa” – Address by the President of the Republic of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, at the United States Institute Of Peace in Washington D.C.
I am privileged and honoured to be here with you this morning at the United States Institute of Peace, having the opportunity to deliver this speech in front of a distinguished audience, which, I believe, is willing to engage in an open and frank discussion about our shared commitments, and to address the issues that affect the survival and prosperity of this and future generations.
I am aware that I have come to Washington at a sensitive time in the life of this great city, for, apart from the daily preoccupations of having to deal with the consequences of Russia’s eighteen (18) month old aggression against the sovereign nation of Ukraine, the city has now to cope, also, this week, with the effects of Hamas’ violent invasion of Israel, with all its repercussions for peace in the Middle East.
It is against this background that I have come here from Accra to speak on this prestigious platform about “Democracy and Security in West Africa”. I am, however, comforted in doing so in the knowledge that the inhabitants of this city are aware of the global responsibilities of their nation in upholding freedom, democracy and security not just here at home in America, but also across the whole world.
Ladies and gentlemen, there should be no disagreement about the intensity and scale of the challenges that confront our world, and the urgent need to address them. We are all agreed that the world is in turmoil, and we are confronted with perilous situations. Terrorism and violent extremism, climate change, food insecurity, political instability in parts of Africa, post-election violence, health pandemics, energy crises, rising commodity prices, geopolitical tensions, the conflicts in the Middle East and the needless war in Ukraine, amongst others, have weakened the foundational pillars of multilateralism.
There has never been a time where all these malevolent forces have combined in such a manner to bring hardships to the world. We are, indeed, operating in the most challenging and difficult of times. The interlocking challenges and the convergence of crises we face pose existential threats that require our immediate solidarity and collective action.
The most significant issues testing the African continent’s resolve are terrorism and violent extremism in the Sahel and coastal West Africa and the regression of democracy in parts of Africa.
The challenges we face are many and diverse, but I intend to use this morning’s opportunity to highlight briefly two of the most significant issues testing the African continent’s resolve: terrorism and violent extremism in the Sahel and coastal West Africa and its impact on security, and the regression of democracy in parts of Africa.
I have chosen to focus on these issues because we have, virtually, run out of time to work together in the spirit of multilateralism. If we do not renew our commitments to build, keep and consolidate peace and democracy all over the world, we would have to brace ourselves to live in a new and more dangerous world today and in the future.
In Ghana, political instability described much of the early decades of our independence, and we became notorious for sampling every and any type of political experiment. The instability was coupled with the collapse of the economy, and led to the exodus from the country of many of our citizens and professionals.
Ghana has political stability under a liberal, democratic constitution and has experienced three peaceful transfers of power from one political party to another.
I am happy to state, however, that, for the past thirty (30) years of the 4th Republic, we have enjoyed political stability under a liberal, democratic constitution, and experienced the longest period of stable, constitutional governance in our hitherto tumultuous history. The separation of powers is now a real phenomenon in Ghanaian life, promoting accountable governance.
The fight against corruption has gone beyond propaganda, and is demanding of public officials higher levels of acceptable conduct. Efficient public services are now within reach.
We have, in this period, experienced, through the ballot box, the transfer of power from one ruling political party to another on three different occasions in conditions of peace and stability, without threatening the foundations of the state.
The Ghanaian people have manifested in this era their deep attachment to the principles of democratic accountability, respect for individual liberties and human rights, and the rule of law.
It has also brought with it more or less systematic economic growth, and boosted immensely our self-confidence. We are making systematic advances, especially if you consider that we have just celebrated our 66th independence anniversary, and we are able to say that we are making significant progress.
For the first time in a long while, young people can make long term plans, and live out their dreams without interruption. In much the same way, businesses can think ahead, begin to think big, and be certain that the laws of the country are not subject to capricious changes. We are all much more relaxed in the knowledge that we live under a regime of the rule of law, and, that, when disputes arise, as they would in all human endeavours, they would be settled fairly.
We have not got to this stage easily, and without difficulties. If I were pressed, I would mention in particular the electoral process as the greatest source of potential instability. The trigger for many wars and disputes around the continent can be traced to dissatisfaction with the conduct of elections.
We, in Ghana, have gone through our own traumas about elections – there have been boycotts, there has been anger, and there have been famous election petitions before the courts. I say, however, we have a reliable electoral system which is systematically improving, and deserving of the growing confidence of the people. We know that the electoral process remains, for many African countries, one of the weak links that pose security threats to our democracies and the stability of our governance.
But, ladies and gentlemen, one of the greatest threats to our democracy has to be the proliferation and sophistication of terrorist networks in Africa. They should not only be a source of great concern to the continent of Africa, but they should also be of concern to the rest of the world. Even more concerning is the fact that these terrorist groups are evolving by the day, as they scramble to control more territories and natural resources, especially in peripheral communities where the lack of effective State presence and control creates conditions for penetration and, ultimately, radicalisation.
Africa has become the centre of attraction for terrorist groups which are multiplying in the region, following defeats suffered in other parts of the world. Nowhere is this more evident than in the Sahel. In addition to the numerous attacks orchestrated by these armed criminal groups, their presence in the region fuels violence along communal and sectarian lines in countries such as we are witnessing in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. And the insecurity engendered by the armed groups has resulted in rising levels of displacement of populations in many parts of the Sahel.
The fight against terrorism has to be a global fight. We must pull our resources together to confront a common enemy. The resources dedicated to counter terrorism have to match the resources available to the terrorist groups. The menace caused by terrorism is such that we must share the burden of the fight to be able to incapacitate the terrorists. Our failure to do so leaves the entire world in danger of a spillover effect of terrorism and violent extremism. This is the time for a global coalition of democracies, a coalition of the willing, determined to banish the spectre of terrorism and violent extremism.
The eleven Member States of the fifteen Member States of ECOWAS, the four military-led States having been suspended, despite the considerable economic difficulties confronting each of them, have made clear their willingness to take the fight to the terrorists, if they were sufficiently empowered.
The terrorists, as we all know, were chased out of the Middle East and Afghanistan before taking refuge in Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya, from where they fled across the Sahara to find refuge in northern Mali after Gaddafi’s downfall. They have spread their pernicious influence eastwards and southwards, with the coastal states of West Africa their ultimate destination. They can be chased out of West Africa and the Sahel too. Foreign troops would not have to be involved. West African troops can do the job.
U.S., EU and UK assistance for Ukraine has totaled $228 billion since the Russian invasion began while security assistance for Ecowas has totaled $29.6 million for the same period.
The Accra Initiative is a good example of indigenous self-help. Comparisons, they say, are odious, but some cannot be ignored. The Russian war on Ukraine has elicited, according to my information, some seventy three-point-six billion United States dollars (US$73.6 billion) in American support for Ukraine, one hundred and thirty-eight point eight billion United States dollars (US$138.8 billion) from the European Union and its Institutions, and fourteen-point-five billion United States dollars (US$14.5 billion) from the United Kingdom.
On the other hand, the security assistance from the US, the EU and the UK to ECOWAS have, in total, in the same period, amounted to twenty-nine-point-six million dollars (US$29.6 million).
Unfortunately, the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on developing countries has left many countries and regional bodies, particularly in the Sahel, in very dire economic situations. This has compounded the challenges we face in the mobilisation of resources to fight terrorists in our backyards. This is the time we must, therefore, insist that the provisions of Chapters VII (seven) and VIII (eight) of the UN Charter are put into full effect to help provide the support required to defeat terrorism and violent extremism. It is certainly not the time for the Security Council to be downplaying its commitments in the area.
Ladies and gentlemen, we cannot also gloss over recent happenings in the democratic space when discussing the challenges of our time. The resurgence of unconstitutional changes of governments in some parts of Africa creates a leadership vacuum, which inhibits our efforts to address the security problems facing the continent. We have seen military takeovers in Guinea, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Gabon, and a failed coup attempt in Guinea Bissau. Military takeovers expose further the fragilities of democratic governance in Africa, with these takeovers taking on a now common pattern.
Africa has a growing dynamic, restless young population that is not in the mood to wait for slow economic growth.
The problem we have, and this would apply to most countries on the continent, is that we have already lost so much time that we cannot afford a slow period of growth. We have a dynamic, restless young population who demand and deserve the best in the world. They are not in a mood to wait for the dividends from a slow progression, as the trek across the Sahara vividly illustrates.
The pressing challenge for us in Africa is how we negotiate successfully the interface between elections and democratic governance, institution-building and development, poverty and economic-growth, stability and jobs, with the overriding objective being enhancing the dignity of the African.
There is little doubt that the extension of term limits by some leaders to strengthen their grip on power creates fertile grounds for military interventions to feed on discontent. Dealing with the problem of coups, therefore, may well start from the civilian governments which have the primary responsibility to build trust in the democratic dispensation even in these challenging times.
There should be no backsliding in support for democratic values anchored on the promotion of the rule of law and respect for human rights. And when the coups do happen, we must extend collectively the needed support to the transition process, including in the Sahel, where the military, having tasted power, seem reluctant to restore democratic rule.
There is also little doubt about the malevolent influence that is coming from abroad, especially in digital mediums and, sometimes, offline mediums, to assail democratic institutions and practices through ongoing misinformation and disinformation campaigns. It appears to be the prelude for another great power scramble for Africa.
Ladies and gentlemen, the United Nation’s Security Council has a most important role to play in confronting the challenges I have highlighted. Regrettably, the Council is constrained by its anachronistic structure and methods, which undermine efforts to tackle contemporary challenges in the most effective manner.
The conversations around reforms, which have been going on for three decades without an end in sight, must, therefore, yield real changes to the structures of the Council to make them innovative in approach.
Africa should be represented on the UN Security Council. The multilateral financial institutions reflect old realities and are in deep crisis.
The current structure of the UN Security Council represents a long-standing injustice toward the countries of Africa, and the time is long overdue to address it. It is obvious that the contemporary world has moved on significantly from the post-1945 world, which gave rise to the birth of the United Nations and the structure of the Security Council.
The world of 2023, and even less that of 2050, is not the world of 1945. The crisis of the multilateral financial institutions and the United Nations system, which were born from the rubble of the Second World War, is a deep crisis. It will continue until a fair system is put in place; a system that reflects the new balances, no longer based on who lost or won the Second World War, but on the major contemporary and future balances. These balances must take into account new realities such as demographic dynamics or access to resources, in a context of scarcity.
In its current state, the Council is finding it increasingly difficult to propagate the rule of law and democratic principles. The use of the veto as an instrument of great power interest is denuding the Security Council of a great deal of legitimacy as the principal instrument for the maintenance of international peace and security. The African Common Position on UN Reform, based on the Ezulwini Consensus, is of even greater relevance today than it has ever been. It is essential that it be brought back to the centre of global discourse.
It is only through the reforms that are set-out in the African Common Position that will enable the Security Council to be effective in meeting the challenges of our time. And it is only through its effectiveness at maintaining international peace and security that the Council can remain credible, legitimate and relevant.
Africa is on the cusp of building a new civilization that will unleash the huge potential of the African peoples, so they can make their unique contribution to the world.
I believe strongly that, despite its numerous challenges, Africa is on the cusp of building a great, new civilisation, which will unleash the considerable energies and huge potential of the African peoples, so that they can make their own unique contribution to the growth of world civilisation.
By 2050, the population of Africa will be 2.5 billion, all things being equal, up from the current figure of 1.3 billion, which will mean that one in four people on the planet will be an African.
The median age of this population will be twenty five (25) years. A dynamic, young, active population, sitting on the resources of the world’s richest continent in mineral resources and arable land, would be a powerful magnet for transformative investment and co-operation. Its potential to generate unprecedented levels of global prosperity are immense. Pax Africana is to be welcomed and cherished.
I thank you.