Akufo-Addo calls for political will to transform West Africa Featured

By Nana Yaw Dwamena October 22, 2019 1644 55 comments

President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has charged leaders of West African countries to demonstrate strong political will to make the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) an economic and political success.

“We need leadership that is focused on the region, and not on individual countries. The European Union took off because the political leadership of France and Germany decided to make it work. Once the political will is evident, we can then work together to make ECOWAS a true regional community,” he said.

President Akufo-Addo said this yesterday when he formally opened the four-day annual International Conference of the ECOWAS Court of Justice in Accra.

The conference is under the theme, “Economic Integration of West Africa: Challenges and Prospects.”

One voice

He explained that there is a clear recognition that the countries of West Africa will be a more effective economic bloc and have a stronger political voice if they come together.

He bemoaned the manner in which ECOWAS has not lived up to expectation, unlike the EU, which has played important role in the lives of its citizens.

“Subsequently, provision was also made for solving inter-state conflicts, as well as grave intra-state ones too. Today, however, while the EU is central to the lives of Europeans, ECOWAS is, still, somewhat peripheral to the lives of most West Africans.
“And it is not for the lack of plans or even rules and regulations. It is simply that the political will to make integration real has been less evident than in Europe,” he said.

However, with ECOWAS having realised some of its aims and objectives, and consolidating its institutional framework, he stated that the process of integration can be expedited if ECOWAS states mainstream the rule of law, democracy and good governance in the development of the project.

Court of Justice

That is why, according to President Akufo-Addo, the ECOWAS Court of Justice must be empowered to play this role as the principal legal organ of the community.

“Since the Court has exclusive responsibility for the interpretation and application of the ECOWAS Revised Treaty, courts of member states must be encouraged to refer questions of interpretation of the ECOWAS Revised Treaty and other community texts, in cases before them involving questions of the Treaty and community texts, to the ECOWAS Court of Justice, in order to ensure uniformity in the interpretation of the Treaty and the texts,” he added.

The President stressed the importance of member states complying with judgements of the Court, explaining that “the ECOWAS Revised Treaty provides that judgements of the Court are binding on all member states, institutions, corporate bodies and individuals.”

Indeed, the Protocol on the Court, as amended, gives member states the sole responsibility for the enforcement of the judgements of the Court, in accordance with their Rules of Civil Procedure.  It also requires each member state to appoint a competent national authority for the enforcement of the judgements of the Court.

With only five ECOWAS member states currently enforcing judgements of the Court of Justice, President Akufo-Addo told the gathering, “I am happy to inform you that I have designated the Office of the Attorney General as the competent national authority for the enforcement, in Ghana, of the judgments of the ECOWAS Court of Justice. All other member states must quickly do the same.”

Call for support

He continued, “What makes ECOWAS better will make each of our individual countries better and more prosperous. It is time for those who believe in regional integration to give enthusiastic support to Community decisions, and inspire confidence and integrity in the structural organs of ECOWAS, such as the ECOWAS Court of Justice. Our people deserve no less, and the dream of prosperity will be within our grasp.”

This year's event, the seventh since its introduction by the Court in October 2004, will appraise the legal aspects of the economic integration agenda of ECOWAS, the enabling legal environment, the community legal order, the challenges and prospects for the realisation of the community objectives and the role of the ECOWAS Court of Justice in the integration process.

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