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Coups linked to toying with national constitutions – Liberia’s Weah

Liberia's President George Weah has weighed in on the issue of frequent military coups in West Africa, observing that there…

Liberia’s President George Weah has weighed in on the issue of frequent military coups in West Africa, observing that there could be a connection between incumbents tinkering with their national constitutions to cling onto power and such events.Speaking during Wednesday’s extraordinary virtual summit of heads of state of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) on Guinea and Mali, Mr. Weah told his peers to interrogate the root causes of frequent military takeovers in the region particularly in light of the coup in Conakry last weekend.

“Is it possible that there could be a correlation between these events and the political situations where constitutions are amended by incumbents to remove term limits through referendums?” he inquired.

He added: “Or could this be a mere coincidence? If the removal of term limits are serving as a trigger for the overthrow of constitutionally-elected governments, then perhaps we in ECOWAS should exert our best efforts to ensure that term limits in the constitutions of all member states should be respected”.

Weah came to power in democratic elections in Liberia, a country which has witnessed major political upheavels including military coups and a protracted civil war.

Sunday’s military takeover in Guinea which saw the overthrow of President Alpha Conde is West Africa’s third coup in the space of twelve months.

There have been two coups in neighbouring Mali, one last year when Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the civilian incumbent was overthrown despite not finishing his second five-year term and the other in May 2021.

These frequent coups are casting a spotlight on the long term commitment to political pluralism and the rule of law in West African countries, analysts say.

There is an open-ended debate about whether leaders who have exhausted their term limits should amend their national constitutions to allow them to run again.

Last year, Cote d’Ivoire witnessed widespread street protests by politicians and activists opposed to President Alassane Ouattara’s bid for a third term at the end of his two terms in office.

After amending the Ivorian constitution, Ouattara sought and secured a third term but at the expense of his reputation as a respecter of the rights of Ivorians scores of whom died in the streets protesting “this affront on democracy”.  

Conde took the same route in neighbouring Guinea where hundreds had died trying to stop him from securing a controversial third term. 

Meanwhile the West African regional grouping has not stopped at condemning the coup which ousted him.

Regional leaders have announced that Guinea has been suspended as a member of the bloc until firm steps are taken by the military leaders in the country to restore civilian constitutional rule in the shortest possible time. 

Meanwhile, coup leader Mamady Doumbouya has released hundreds of political prisoners incarcerated last year for being members of a street movement against Conde’s controversial bid for a third term.

 

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