ECOWAS Court set to address unconstitutional change of government

By Temitope Ponle

The ECOWAS Community Court of Justice is set to hold a conference to address unconstitutional change of government in some member states.

Justice Edward Asante, President of the court made the disclosure, when he visited the Chief Justice of The Gambia, Hassan Jallow, on May 19.

The visit was ahead of the regional court’s 2023 international conference scheduled to hold in Banjul between May 22 and May 25.

Asante, who briefed the chief justice on preparations for the conference with the theme “ECOWAS’ Zero Tolerance for Unconstitutional Change of Government”, used the opportunity to provide further details about the four-day conference.

The conference is expected to examine the ECOWAS’ zero tolerance for unconstitutional change of government policy.

“This is an opportunity for academics, jurists and lawyers to discuss this subject against the background of the worrisome democratic reversals in Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali following the military takeover in those countries,” he said.

He described the conference as one of the flagship programmes of the court which enabled it to provide a platform to discuss contemporary issue in the community and proffer suggestions that could help resolve the identified challenge.

According to him, we are concerned about the risk posed to the region’s fragile democracy by the unfortunate development, and believe we all need to work together to address this drift.”

Asante, said the theme was carefully chosen against the background of the threat to the region’s evolving democracy.

He also said the theme would be examined by the presenters, mainly academics, jurists and lawyers, under than seven broad sub-themes.

He also said it would give them an opportunity to assess the dimensions of the policy, the implications of recent political developments and propose measures for addressing the drift.

“We hope the outcome of the conference will help the process of democratic consolidation in the region which will further deepen respect for the rule of law and human rights, both important issues for the judiciary,” he said.

He also used the opportunity to thank the Chief Justice, who agreed to participate in the opening ceremony of the conference, on his contribution to the efforts to ensure a successful conference.

He also expressed the court’s willingness to work with the authorities of the government and the country’s judiciary in resolving the recurring issue of the low rate of enforcement of the decisions of the regional court.

In his response, Justice Jallow commended the ECOWAS Court for its choice of The Gambia to host its 2023 international conference.

He noted that the conference was the first to be held in the country, and gave assurance of the willingness of The Gambia’s judiciary to contribute towards the success of the conference.

Meanwhile, Prof. Chidi Odinkalu, a professor of Human Rights Law, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in the United States of America, is expected to deliver the keynote address at the conference.

Odinkalu, a lawyer, human rights activist and writer would speak on “Zero Tolerance for Unconstitutional Change in Government in West Africa: Democracy and Rule of Law for Sustainable Development” at the opening of the four-day conference.

No fewer than 24 papers are expected to be delivered during the conference under seven sub-themes expected to examine the region’s constitutional convergence principles, the policy on unconstitutional change of government and the role of the military in a democracy.

Participants at the conference are expected to discuss the various dimensions of the ECOWAS security architecture and human rights as a factor for democracy, peace and security.

This would include the role of member states to respect, protect and fulfill their human rights obligations, as well as the role of elections as a trigger for conflicts.

The other presentations would examine the role of the national and the ECOWAS court in upholding human rights, rule of law and constitutional democracy.

The conference, which would be opened by President Adama Barrow, would be attended by chief justices of the Supreme Courts of member states, and the President of the ECOWAS Commission.

Also in attendance would be Attorney-Generals and Ministers of Justices of member states, presidents of regional courts, presidents of the bar associations of member states, international developments partners and heads of ECOWAS national units of member states. (NAN)