CDD cautions against power sharing in the Ivory Coast
The Ghana Center for Democratic Development (CDD-Ghana) joins other supporters of free and fair elections as well as democratic governance in condemning the blatant act of political vandalism perpetrated by Laurent Gbagbo and his party against the Ivorian electorate.
We are heartened by the nearly unanimous and unequivocal manner in which the international community, and especially the regional organizations, the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), have repudiated the brazen power grab by Laurent Gbagbo and his henchmen.
We are happy to note that the position taken on the matter by the United Nations and the International Community is consistent with the letter and spirit of the Ouagadougou Accord and the Security Council resolution 1765 (2007) which requires the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) to certify that all stages of the electoral process are in accordance with international standards. This was discharged fully on the on 29th November 2010, when the SRSG declared the Ivorian elections as free and fair and subsequently endorsed the verdict on 2nd December 2010.
We are hopeful that the International Community, in general, and the AU and ECOWAS, in particular, will sustain their objections to the violations of the Ivorian electoral process and steadfastly pursue a just and democratic conclusion to the debacle.
Key lessons for future elections in Ghana in particular and Africa in general arising from this retrograde development in political development in the Ivory Coast include the following:
Respecting the will of the electorate
1. It is extremely important that parties and candidates respect the will of the electorate and concede defeat when they have failed to win competitive multi-party elections, notwithstanding any idiosyncratic reservations they may have.
2. It is absolutely important that incumbents and other contestants understand that they can still contribute to the development of their societies whether they are in power or not; and that life beyond the presidency could be more productive and rewarding than an indefinite cling to power.
The importance of unanimity among actors in the international community, particularly, regional leadership when it comes to the enforcement of applicable agreements and protocols and the application of principles---that is the only hope for sustaining the pressure on those who usurp political power in the region.
Avoid any recourse to gun-point “power sharing” recipes
Any recourse to “power sharing” in the Ivory Coast a la Kenya or Zimbabwe must be studiously avoided, lest we institutionalize the practice of rewarding incumbents who refuse to abide by the will of the people.
De-concentrate power in order to reduce the attraction to “state capture”
Nonetheless, when all is said and done, not much can be done to prevent the emergence of intransigent and small-minded political leaders who would rather destroy their country and society than to concede power to their opponents. Therefore, in order to minimize the attraction to “state capture” among political leaders in Africa (ruling and opposition), we must seek to:
• Diffuse the over-concentration of power at the center of the state and presidencies;
• Radically decentralize political, administrative/bureaucratic, economic and symbolic/social power;
• Create alternative avenues to power;
• Impose checks on the exercise of presidential power, particularly discretionary use of power; and
• Strengthen the independence of governance institutions
Finally, Ghanaians must see the Ivorian crisis as a warning signal. We must draw the correct lessons from the Ivorian crisis and frontally address our own problem of the over-concentration of power in the executive branch/presidency in the 1992 Constitution. We must seriously take up the issue of power de-concentration as the central challenge in our ongoing constitutional review exercise.