Trends in Democracy, Elections, and Governance in Africa: Spotlight on West Africa

The Cyrus R. Vance Center for International Justice of the New York City Bar Association, the West African Bar Association, the West African Civil Society Forum, and Pan African Lawyers Union invites you to its four-part webinar series on Democracy, Elections, and Governance (DEG) to discuss democratic backsliding and resurgence of coups in Africa. This is part of a broader Africa-wide review of DEG to contribute to current discussions on democratic governance issues in Africa.

Date: May 19, 2022

Time: 12-1:30 pm WAT/11-12:30 pm GMT/ 7-8:30 am EST 

Topic: The Role of the International Community in Democracy, Elections, and governance in West Africa




The African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance (ACDEG) and the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance (the ECOWAS Protocol) create an accountability framework for governance. Both aim to ensure free, fair, and credible elections as the basis of legitimate government, build democratic institutions, and ensure the rule of law. ACDEG requires state parties to establish and strengthen democratic institutions, the rule of law, human and peoples’ rights, and independent electoral systems. Further, the ECOWAS Protocol focuses on developing a constitutional state based on the rule of law, strengthening democracy, and adopting common principles of good governance within ECOWAS’ 15-member States. In addition, the courts have reinforced States’ obligations and commitments to the ACDEG- See, for instance, the following Decisions of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights: Applic. No. 004 of 2013: Lohe Issa Konate v Burkina Faso; Applic. No. 009 and 011 of 2011 (Consolidated): Tanganyika Law Society, Legal and Human Rights Centre – Tanzania and Rev Christopher R Mtikila v United Republic of Tanzania; and Applic. No. 001 of 2014: APDH v Côte d’Ivoire. Ref. also Advisory Opinion No. 001 of 2020: In the matter of a Request by the Pan African Lawyers Union (on COVID-19 and the right to participate in governance.)

Despite the broad objectives that signatories to these frameworks have agreed to pursue and presumably be held accountable for fulfilling, events over the past 18 months have shown disregard of these commitments; military leaders have toppled the governments of Mali, Chad, Guinea, Sudan, Burkina Faso and failed in such an attempt in Guinea Bissau. Most of these nations are members of the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS.).

Civil Society Organizations have called for ECOWAS to commit to review and strengthen the ECOWAS Protocol to respond to the declining democratic governance in the region. They have pointed out the failure of ECOWAS and the African Union to condemn recurrent corrupt elections and called on ECOWAS to take a preventive and active role in dealing with threats to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law that have contributed to the recurring coups and unconstitutional changes in government in many countries.

Webinar Series:  

The Vance Center, the West African Bar Association, the West African Civil Society Forum, and the Pan African Lawyers Union’s four-part webinar series will evaluate the implications of these developments and the role of lawyers, bar associations, and NGOs in supporting credible elections and good governance in the continent. The discussions will analyze the issues and provide guidelines or action points for institutions interested in DEG in West Africa. In addition, the outcomes will also be synthesized into a message that will be presented to the African Union’s upcoming Extra-Ordinary Summit on Unconstitutional Changes of Government and Terrorism in Africa, scheduled in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea, from 27 to 29 May 2022.

The first installment (May 5, 2022) will focus on the role of governments and intergovernmental institutions, the gaps in DEG implementation, and how it has affected democratic principles in Africa.

The second installment (May 10, 2022) will examine the role of the private sector and professionals (private sector associations, lawyers, law societies and bar associations, etc.) in ensuring accountability for DEG.
The third installment (May 17, 2022) will look at the DEG and civil society in ensuring the full implementation and protection of civic space.

The fourth installment (May 19, 2022) will discuss the international community’s role in increasing accountability and enforcement.