Dr Zanetor Agyeman-Rawlings, the Member of Parliament for Korle Klottey, has urged the Heads of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to fully commit to dialogue as the primary means of resolving the Niger crisis.
She emphasized that military intervention should be a last resort, especially considering the complexities and potential consequences of such actions.
Drawing on insights from security personnel with war experience, Dr Agyeman-Rawlings highlighted the reluctance of those who have been in conflict to endorse war.
She cautioned against actions that could strain relationships among member states, particularly since military intervention could lead to further instability in the region.
“It puts us in a very unhealthy relationship with one another. Do we have what it takes to stabilize this situation should it get out of hand? Do we have enough money to spend on an intervention that might take long than we anticipate? Do we actually know what to expect on the ground? We have heard the response of some of the people in Niger; are we going in there with information that would lead us to something that we have not fully assessed?”
In an interview, Dr Agyeman-Rawlings stressed the importance of continuous dialogue to prevent loss of life and find lasting solutions to the issues in Niger and the sub-region.
She expressed concerns about the recurring shift from democracy to military rule within the sub-region and questioned the measures in place to address terrorism and violent extremism.
Dr Agyeman-Rawlings pointed out that security policies and documents in Ghana already address the driving forces behind extremism, including issues such as environmental degradation, corruption, and governance failures.
She urged member states to learn from each other’s experiences and weaknesses, emphasizing that governance gaps contribute to the rise of extremism.
“And are we learning from each other’s mistakes; the level of injustice real or perceived being one of the main things in the sub-region where you have gaps in governance?”
“It’s not enough to point fingers at coup leaders who are taking over in the sub-region; what are the weaknesses that we are witnessing with democratically elected governments that are making it so weak and possible for all these interruptions in democratic rule to happen?”
Addressing the issue of constitutional changes and disruptions to democratic processes, Dr Agyeman-Rawlings questioned whether altering constitutions to favour incumbents undermines people’s rights to choose their leaders.
She emphasized that democratic elections alone are insufficient if equitable resource distribution, access to justice, and dignified living standards are not upheld between election cycles.
“If you have a constitution in place and you have given people the hope that after two terms if you are not happy with a particular government or president, they have that option to change; and now you take that away by changing the constitution for an incumbent, is that also not another form of undermining the rights of the people to decide for themselves?”
“Again, it is not enough if, in the name of democracy, elections are conducted every four, five or seven years, but there is no equitable distribution of resources; people are not allowed to seek redress when they feel unfairly treated, and you do not ensure people are able to make ends meet and live in a dignified manner,” she stressed.
“When you are not ensuring that the pillars of good governance are translating into the lives of people between elections, but you having the bragging right that you are having elections every cycle, that is not enough,” Dr Zanetor added.
The Deputy Ranking of Parliament’s Defence and Interior Committee stressed the need for youth empowerment and leadership succession, highlighting that a lack of hope for the future and limited opportunities could contribute to instability.
She called for an inclusive dialogue that brings various stakeholders to the table, acknowledging that while the means of attaining power might be disputed, those in authority need to be engaged in finding solutions.
“So if they have a system of government that is not agreeing with the golden standards of democracy but they are there now, we need to find a way of bringing them to the table because if we all understand the root causes of what we are witnessing, we will be able to find the correct remedies for the problems we have diagnosed”.
“They need to approach this whole problem with dialogue absolutely”.