In a passionate and compelling address, Alexander Kwamena Afenyo-Markin, Deputy Majority Leader of Ghana’s Parliament and Leader of Ghana’s Delegation to the ECOWAS Parliament, delivered a stirring speech at the opening ceremony of the High-Level Interactive Seminar and the Extraordinary Session of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament on September 29, 2023, held at the University of Education, Winneba.
Speaking to a distinguished audience that included His Excellency Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana, Honourable Speaker S.M. Tunis of the ECOWAS Parliament, His Majesty Neenyi Ghartey VII, the Paramount Chief of Effutu, as well as other esteemed guests, experts, and students, Afenyo-Markin set the stage by invoking the historical significance of Winneba, where historical roots converge with aspirations for a prosperous future.
“Once again, under the nurturing embrace of the African sky, we reconvene here in the vibrant heart of Effutu. It feels as if the sands and seas of Winneba, a stronghold of unity and resilience, have awaited our return. In this place where our historical roots intertwine with our fervent aspirations for a prosperous future, we stand united, ready to foster peace, solidarity, and an unyielding drive towards unlimited potential,” Afenyo-Markin declared.
A Call to Action
Addressing the pressing theme, “The Challenges of Tenure Elongation and Unconstitutional Regime Change in West Africa – The Critical Role of the ECOWAS Parliament,” Afenyo-Markin stressed the urgency of the situation: “We find ourselves at a pivotal moment in history where the pillars of democracy are being challenged and shaken, but we must stand resolute.” He added that the theme for the meeting was “not just a call for reflection, but a clarion call for action.”
The remarks from the leader of Ghana’s delegation to the ECOWAS Parliament come at a time when West Africa faces a new wave of instability. In recent years, the region has witnessed a series of military upheavals. Over the past three years, rogue military forces have successfully overthrown the presidents of Mali in August 2020 and May 2021, Guinea in September 2021, and Burkina Faso in both January and September 2022.
The most recent coup in the region occurred in Niger on July 26, 2023, resulting in the removal of the country’s President, Mohamed Bazoum. This development prompted ECOWAS to issue an ultimatum to the coup leaders, threatening military intervention if Bazoum was not reinstated. Regrettably, this ultimatum has been defied.
Acknowledging that democracy in West Africa is in peril, Afenyo-Markin made a bold statement: “We stand at a crossroads where the path we choose will determine the future of our great region. The recent resurgence of military coups threatens to regress us to an era we have fought tirelessly to transcend.” He added, “Now, more than ever, we are called upon to be guardians of justice, champions of the values that define democratic governance. Our unity must be our shield, protecting the flames of democracy and freedom from being extinguished by the icy winds of despotism and tyranny.”
Global Crises and Regional Impact
Recognizing the global crises that have affected the region, Afenyo-Markin stated, “The COVID-19 pandemic, followed closely by the tragic events unfolding in Ukraine and Russia, have brought untold hardships, thrusting millions into poverty, squalor, and immense suffering. Citizens across West Africa, and indeed Africa, have not been spared from this global ordeal, bearing the brunt with profound grace and resilience.”
He echoed the World Food Programme’s warning that “the number of hungry people in Central and West Africa could rise to 48 million this year alone.” He continued, “Yet, it is with a heavy heart that we acknowledge another glaring crisis that tears at the fabric of our communities – the barbaric onslaught from jihadists and terrorists. With their crude weapons of horror, they continue to bring death and despair to many parts of West Africa. However, we must firmly assert that these activities should in no way provide a justification for military coups to overthrow democratically elected regimes. We must insist, fervently, that the answer to these acts of terror lies within our democratic institutions, standing as bastions of hope and fortitude amidst the turmoil.”
Condemnation of Military Coups
Turning his attention to the core issue, Afenyo-Markin passionately condemned the recent military coups and unconstitutional regime changes: “We must firmly condemn the coups in Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Chad, and Gabon, along with the hostilities in Sudan. These actions are a betrayal of the democratic principles we hold dear, and we demand a swift return to constitutional rule.”
He went on, “We must affirm, unequivocally, that regression is not the solution. Our golden age lies ahead of us, not in the shadows of the 1960s to 1980s.” He added, “Indeed, no form of governance has ever been perfect, yet history has proven time and again that democracy stands as the best option for nations seeking development in peace and harmony. Even in its imperfections, it carries within its structures the capacity to rise above the ills that afflict it, fostering environments where innovation, justice, and freedom thrive. It is incumbent upon us, the custodians of this sacred trust, to continually refine and enhance these structures, ensuring that they remain resilient in the face of the ever-changing challenges that our societies encounter.”
Democracy as the Path to Progress
Afenyo-Markin emphasized the importance of democracy: “Indeed, no form of governance has ever been perfect, yet history has proven to Parliament time and again that democracy stands as the best option for nations seeking development in peace and harmony.” He urged attendees to stand firm against the erosion of democratic principles.
In his words: “It is under the shade of democracy that we can cultivate the progress we aspire to. It is here that we can construct the schools that will nurture the minds of our future leaders. It is here that we can build modern hospitals to heal our people and foster technology to propel Africa into an era of supreme industrialization in the wake of the AfCFTA.”
“We must acknowledge the tests our values continue to face,” Afenyo-Markin affirmed. “Yet, they must remain unbroken, urging us forward towards a brighter and more prosperous future.” He called on participants to be stalwarts of justice and champions of democratic values.
A Vision for West Africa
In conclusion, Afenyo-Markin left attendees with a resounding message of hope and unity: “Let us stand united, ready to foster and protect the sacred flames of democracy and freedom, guided by the enduring spirit of collaboration, resilience, and progress.” He invoked the spirit of the ancient Ghanaian baobab trees deeply rooted in unity, democracy, and human dignity. As the event concluded, participants left with a renewed sense of purpose, carrying with them the vibrant spirit of Winneba and the conviction that, together, West Africa can overcome all challenges and triumph as one united, resilient, and prosperous community.
The meeting of the ECOWAS Parliament in Winneba, the second time in two years, is scheduled to last for 10 days. It started on Friday and has already seen the regional legislature receive a series of papers from about a dozen experts from across West Africa on how to deepen democracy and end the new age of coups in the region.