Leaders are the problem, not people – Kufuor

J. A. Kufuor

Former President John Agyekum Kufuor on Wednesday laid the blame for political unrest and instability at the doorstep of leaders who subverted their countries’ constitutions to extend their stay in office.

“I have witnessed from across Africa, the determination of citizens to exercise their democratic rights. Everywhere people are given the vote, they treasure it. It is not the citizens but their leaders who are too often the obstacle to democracy,” former President Kufuor said.

This was contained in a speech read for him by his Spokesperson, Mr. Frank Agyekum, at the opening of an international conference on “Elections and Political Stability in West Africa,” at Praia, the capital of the island state of Cape Verde.

The three-day conference opened by Cape Verdean Prime Minister, Jose Maria Neves, is being attended by about 200 delegates drawn from across Africa and organized by the Economic Community of West African States, the African Union and the United Nations.

Former President Kufuor said there was a huge appetite for democracy across Africa but the hopes of the people had often been dashed because “constitutions have been ignored, elections manipulated and results rigged”.

He said constitutions defined the framework of how states were run, the type of governments that were established, how long leaders had to stay in office, how they were removed, when and how elections were held, among others.

“Elections give legitimacy to a government and its leadership. Elections therefore become sacrosanct and when leaders cut corners to entrench themselves in power, it sets in motion a dangerous precept that leads to conflict and destruction.”

Former President Kufuor said the public had a responsibility to help elections to take place in a fair and stable manner, adding: “We must use all our influence to persuade political leaders that progress, prosperity and stability will stem from respecting their democratic rights.”

He asked the international community to support the use of electronic voting systems in Africa to help check electoral malpractices adding that the cost of resolving conflicts in a country because of rigged elections is much higher than that invested in acquiring electronic technology.

Mr Neves praised Ghana’s role in entrenching democracy on the continent and described President Kufuor as a “moral reference for democracy in Africa”.

He said the stability achieved by Cape Verde in the last two decades had been because of tolerance of views of opposing parties and a consensus by all to use the ballot box as the means for changing governments.

General Salou Djibo, the former military head of state of Niger, who supervised that country’s transition to democracy, asked for clearly defined rules in the political process and respect for the results of elections to ensure peace and stability.

The conference ends on Friday, May 20, 2011.

Source: GNA

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