Rights Defenders Want Early Interventions in the Political Tensions in West Africa

Cllr. Alfred Brownell

– Condemn Shooting of Protesters in Nigeria


With the rising political tensions witnessed in the West African sub-region in recent times, the Mano River Union Civil Society Natural Resources Rights and Governance Platform (MRU CSO Platform) has called for an early intervention to prevent further escalation of the emerging situation.

Of specific concerns are the prevailing situations that have marred the election in Guinea, the killing of protesters in Nigeria, and the looming fears ahead of the upcoming elections in Côte D’Ivoire and Liberia.

The MRU Platform is a network of environmental and human rights defenders, indigenous people and grassroots activists, women, and workers’ unions, representing nine countries in West Africa and committed to improving and defending lives in communities affected by corporate and government operations relative to land and natural resource exploitations.

In separate letters written to the ECOWAS Commission, UN High Commission on Human Rights, and the Secretary-General of the Mano River Union Secretariat, the Platform recalled past rowdy elections in the region which replay must be ‘nipped in the bud.’

The MRU CSO Platform also recalled the protests against the constitutional review of 22 March 2020 in Guinea that allowed the current President, Alpha Conde, to run for a third term resulting in considerable material damage, injuries, and deaths.  

Guinea has been on the edge since, with authorities deploying troops and closing the borders on the frontiers with Sierra Leone, Senegal, and Guinea Bissau.

Following the October 18 polls, gunshots were heard in the Capital, Conakry, as supporters of the opposition candidate, Cellou Diallo took to the streets to celebrate after he declared himself the winner of the first ballot.

“We are in this release further reinforcing our appeal for ECOWAS to act swiftly in forestalling bloodbath in the region by activating the ECOWAS Early Warning and Response Network consistent with Article 58 of the revised 1993 ECOWAS Treaty as defined by the Protocol, Relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention of December 1999,” said the group.

“Our concern is especially about the humanitarian situation that comes with these political tensions, the loss of the lives of ordinary citizens, physical injuries, destruction of properties, the displacement and movement of refugees across the borders.  It is in this vein we are calling for early robust interventions and monitoring,” the release noted.

The Lead Campaigner for Green Advocates International (GAI) and 2019 Goldman Environmental Prize Winner for Africa, Alfred Lahai Brownell, Sr., lamented that “Many defenders of the 2010 constitution that opposed a 3rd term bid for the incumbent Guinean leader were arrested, imprisoned, tried and convicted on frivolous criminal charges; we, therefore, call on the United Nations and the Office for the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR) to help prevent the continuous violations of the rights of environmental and human rights defenders, including journalists, bloggers, and political activists”.

Cote D’Ivoire is also a concern as the country heads towards the presidential election scheduled for 31st October 2020. According to the group, the opposition has threatened to boycott the polls to be followed by actions of “Peaceful civil disobedience.”

Sadly, the group indicated that the situation in Cote D’Ivoire is triggered by another case of the incumbent – President Alassane Ouattara who is controversially seeking a third term in office. 

President Ouattara’s ascendancy in 2011 was marred by months of bloody violence that led to the arrest of former President Laurent Gbagbo by the French troops and turned over to the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

“We are encouraging the Mano River Union Secretariat and other stakeholders to act now to prevent these countries from undermining the peace, security and stability of a region that has suffered from historic conflicts,” Dr. Michel Yoboue, Executive Director, Extractive Industries Research and Advocacy Group of Cote D’Ivoire, added.

Elsewhere in Liberia, the MRU CSO Platform is equally worried by the growing incidents of electoral violence and disputes over the voters’ roll clean-up prompting a planned opposition protest ahead of the mid-term senatorial elections on December 8, 2020.

“These combined power plays in an already fragile region could potentially explode and destabilize the region and therefore requires the immediate attention of stakeholders in the region and the international community,” the release noted. 

Abu Brima of the Network Movement for Justice and Development (NMJD) of Sierra Leone said: “Our worries are not just about the lives of the struggling citizens across the borders who are grappling with socio-economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, but also about the long-term political stability and development aspirations of the sister countries.” 

“West Africa is a classic example of how conflicts and instability starting in one country can spill over across borders. Urgent steps must be taken to stop any possible conflict that would further worsen human suffering in the region,” the release noted further.

The release indicated that the MRU CSO Platform unequivocally condemned the shooting and killing of protesters in Lagos, Nigeria, who are demanding police reforms.  “The reported use of live bullets by Nigerian security forces on citizens protesting against police brutality is simply an act of banditry and a crime against humanity that should not go unpunished,” says Chima Williams, Acting Executive Director of Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria.

The MRU CSO Platform urges Nigerian authorities and the Office for the High Commission for Human Rights (OHCHR), specifically the Special Rapporteur on Extra-Judicial killings to launch an immediate investigation to identify and hold accountable the perpetrators of those killings.

The MRU CSO Platform brings together defenders from Sierra Leone, Guinea, Niger, Mali, Nigeria, Ghana, Cote D’Ivoire, Senegal, and Liberia. For any further information please contact the Secretariat at Green Advocates International -Liberia.

Alvin Worzi is a Liberian journalist with over seven years of professional experience. For the past few years, he has been engaged in covering land issues, security, education, gender related issues, politics, and agriculture. Mr. Worzi is currently the Assistant Secretary General of the Executive Mansion Press Corps (conglomeration of reporters assigned at the Executive Mansion). Mr. Worzi is a member of the Press Union of Liberia.

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