THE Alliance for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (ASDA), a continental civil society organisation which promotes credible elections and participatory democracy on the continent, is seeking international pressure in forms of sanctions to restore ‘democracy’ in Benin.
The ASDA, is therefore, pleading with President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo to lead the charge to return Benin to constitutional rule like he is doing in Togo.
The West African country has been in political turmoil following the disputed April 27, 2019 parliamentary elections in which all but two opposition parties loyal to the President, Patrice Talon, were excluded.
This was because the introduction of a new law, as part of electoral reforms, meant that political parties must pay about US$424,000 to field a list for the 83-seat Parliament.
Despite rejection of the law by the opposition, the elections went ahead and recorded 27 per cent voter turn out, said to be the lowest in the country’s history in any national election.
Since then, protests to put pressure on Mr Talon for the expulsion of the law and for new elections to be held had not yielded positive results, amidst security crackdowns which had left at least ten people dead.
At a press conference in Accra on Saturday to call the world’s attention to the crisis in Benin, Chairman of the ASDA, Ladisla Prosper Agbesi, said the only way to avert President Tolon’s bid to cling on to power and also restore Benin to normalcy without bloodshed was to apply non-violent pressure.
“This means combination of passive civil disobedience at home and international pressure in the form of sanctions from abroad,” Mr Agbesi said.
According to him, sanctions from international community had proved to be an effective way of persuading repressive regimes to conform to internationally accepted standards of conduct.
International pressure, Mr Agbesi said, would be the right antidote to Benin’s political impasse because “the economy is highly dependent, especially on trade investment and official economic assistance from the European Union”.
Noting that developments in the country had not attracted global attention because of its small size, Mr Agbesi said, “That small economy size is also what makes it possible for economic sanctions to have the desired result.”
For instance, he said, Benin relied heavily on Ghana for power supply and on transit trade and re-exports to land-lock neighbours for its economic performance.
“Therefore, sanctions targeting specific members of government – President Tolon himself most particularly – are the very best option, with the scope of sanctions being expanded based on the practicalities of implementation and the need for them to have the desired effect as quickly as possible,” he suggested, adding that “the tightly focused the proposed sanctions, the better”.
The opposition in Benin, he said, desired a change of government at the executive level, followed by a new inclusive legislative election accompanied by the “restoration of civil liberties that have gradually been eroded since Tolon took office”.
“The future of Benin and its people now lies largely in the hands of the international community” he said; adding that they were “hopefully looking forward for immediate [intervention]”.
BY JULIUS YAO PETETSI