A former justice minister from Liberia has called for independent judiciaries in West Africa to prevent post-election crises.
Benedict Sannoh said that the way elections are adjudicated by the judiciary is the foundation for peace or crises.
He stressed the need for the independence of the judiciary and for political parties to play active and proactive roles in the use of the judiciary.
“The judiciary through the supreme court should ensure that the constitution mandate is upheld,” Sannoh said. “The role of the supreme court in the adjudication of these cases should be to ensure that the opinions enhance, promote and entrench the respect, protection of the will of the people.”
He also called for political parties to play a more proactive role in the use of the judiciary, monitoring every statutory and administrative action taken by the elections commission, the legislature, or the institutions within the executive branch.
“Political parties should also collaborate in in raising issues that require judicial determination, referendum, cleaning of the voters roll,” Sannoh said.
In separate interventions, some ECOWAS Member of Parliament lamented the executive control of the judiciary, recommending that judges be voted by citizens rather than being appointed by the executive.
Hon. Ladi Ayamba, Member of Parliament from Ghana said that the decisions of some courts in West Africa have at several times been influenced by the executive, which makes justice denied in most cases.
“When Judges are appointed by the executive, they can get them to say anything in their favor,” Ayamba said. “I think this is something that we must look at changing in our various country’s constitutions. For me, I would recommend that judges should be voted for by the people.”
The call for independent judiciaries in West Africa is timely, as the region has a history of post-election violence. In 2010, for example, post-election violence in Côte d’Ivoire killed more than 3,000 people.
In order to prevent future crises, it is essential that the judiciaries in West Africa be independent and impartial. This will ensure that the will of the people is respected and that elections are conducted fairly.