Abuja, Nigeria. Members of Parliament and former Heads of State from across Africa joined members of civil society, academia and youth in Abuja, Nigeria, for a two-day conference on the challenges and opportunities inherent in the democratic system. The goals of the conference were to explore challenges and opportunities for emerging democracies in Africa, as well as share experiences of the democratic experiment, so that government representatives are better equipped to deal with particular challenges and opportunities for democratization in their home countries.
Immediately following the opening ceremony, Miet Smet, President of the Association of European Parliamentarians with Africa, signed two Memoranda of Understanding: one with the National Institute for Legislative Studies (NILS), and the other with the Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS-P). These documents mark a milestone in the relationship of AWEPA with each of these institutions, and determine that the overall objective of cooperation is to strengthen parliamentary capacity in the West-African sub-region to ensure each country is able to make significant progress towards the MDGs. This includes the active involvement of Parliaments in the post-2015 framework. According to the letter of these agreements, AWEPA will strive to support each of these institutions in working to reduce poverty, enhance the democratic process and strengthen democratic institutions in Nigeria and the ECOWAS sub-region.
Distinguished guests included H.E. former President of Ghana Jerry J. Rowlings; H.E. former Head of State of Nigeria Chief Ernest Shonekan; H.E. President of Nigeria’s National Assembly Dr. David Mark and many others. All mentioned the superiority of democracy and the arduous, lengthy nature of the democratization process. All also remarked on the importance of strong, independent institutions to safeguard fragile, nascent democracies in Africa; the imperative to sustain national, ideology-based political parties; the prime role of the legislative and judiciary in checking the power of the executive branch; the scourge of corruption across the continent; and the need to empower women and youth. Africa’s abundant resources, including its people, are key to the potential of Africans to take their destiny into their own hands, including by defining for themselves the nature of their own democracies.