President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana has warned leaders of West African countries against staying in office beyond the provisions of their constitutions.

Akufo-Addo, who is also the chair of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), gave the warning on Wednesday, during the opening of the ECOWAS high-level parliamentary seminar in Winneba, Ghana.

According to him, leaders staying in power beyond the limits of the constitution is the major cause of political instability in the sub-region.

“Good governance should and must imperatively exclude political maneuvers to maintain power beyond constitutional requirements,” he said.

“Let us all be aware that beyond that, the marriage between the elected and the electorate becomes forced, the environment becomes toxic, the mandates become queried.

“It is for this reason that the ECOWAS authority of heads of state and government and my chairmanship, in its last extraordinary summit on 16 September, 2021, in Accra, on the Guinean and Malian situations, authorised the ECOWAS commission to take steps towards the urgent review of the ECOWAS protocol on democracy and good governance to take account of contemporary developments.

“I also call on you members of parliaments to contribute to the process of this review. I welcome this decision and hope that the review will be swift and pointed,”

Sidie Tunis, speaker of the ECOWAS parliament, also cautioned incumbent West African presidents against amending their constitutions to prolong their tenure.

Tunis said this phenomenon has been the leading cause of opposition by citizens which often results in political instability and undermining of democratic rules.

He noted that if firm and decisive actions are not urgently taken against the trend, ECOWAS will become a failed state.

“It is very important that we give serious attention to the new phenomenon of amending the constitution of a state before an election or before the expiration of the tenure of an incumbent president,” Tunis said.
“Amending a constitution to conform to current realities is not in itself a problem. However, when the proposed amendments to the constitution protect the governing elites at the expense of citizens or will undermine the very nature of constitutional democracy, thereby granting the incumbent undue advantage to extend his mandate, then we have a problem.

“The truth is, this practice is eroding the gains we have made as a community, sinking the region into more chaos, and creating a serious reputational risk for ECOWAS as an institution.

“If we do not take firm and very decisive actions against this ugly trend, ECOWAS will not only be perceived as a body of failed states, but will indeed fail.”