News / Africa

West African Presidents Share Ordeals of Democracy

The four West African leaders said U.S. support for democracy has been crucial in recent years.
The four West African leaders said U.S. support for democracy has been crucial in recent years.

Multimedia

Development, security and sleeping in a secret location are some of the tenets four West African leaders are advancing to defend democracy in their turbulent region.

The event at the United States Institute of Peace Thursday was called Assessing Progress Toward Democracy in Francophone Africa.

Tara Sonenshine was the host. She greeted the four participants, the presidents of Niger, Guinea, Benin and Ivory Coast.

"Your presence here as a group is very powerful. And I know, individually, you hail from nations that have endured great pain and suffering, political instability, ethnic divisions and fragility. But as a group you challenge all the old stereotypes about the African continent." Sonenshine said.

She said the four represented a new hope that the will of the people can prevail.

Long-time opposition leader turned elected president of Guinea, Alpha Conde, warned that without development for impoverished communities, democracy could become what he called a dead-end.

He also described an attack against him and his home earlier this month.

He explained his room was targeted by shots fired with bazookas and rocket launchers, but he says he knows not to always sleep in the same room, from all his years as an opposition activist.

Conde said he is angering high-ranking military officials by preventing some of their previously enjoyed corrupt practices and taking away their control of large parts of the country's resource-rich economy.

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara described how he spent more than four months trapped in a hotel after the now jailed incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo refused to leave power after losing elections last year.  The impasse led to more deadly violence in a country which had already been divided for years by a rebellion.

Mr. Ouattara said democracy is not just about having democratic elections but making sure laws and freedom of choice are respected.

The elected president of Niger, who also spent decades in the opposition, Mahamadou Issoufou, said it was also important to have regional security to defend democracy.

He said Niger along with other countries in desert regions face the threats of cross-border networks of rebels, terrorists, arms traders and drug dealers who roam in difficult to police areas. He said this situation was worsening with the ongoing conflict in Libya.

The president of Benin, Boni Yayi, now in his second elected term, also pointed to increased piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, and said he would bring up the issue in a scheduled Friday White House meeting with U.S. President Barack Obama.

But he said he felt invigorated by the joint visit and the hope it brings for a democratic future in West Africa.

Yayi said democracy is a long voyage, with a destination that is never reached.  He said in Benin he has noticed how important and difficult it is to get rid of widespread corruption and impunity.  

The four presidents also appealed for the help of their diasporas to come back to their countries and invest in the private sector, as well as help from the international community for debt relief and more development aid.

You May Like

Is Air Travel Safe?

Aviation expert says despite tragic losses of Malaysian Airlines flights 370 and 17, industry experienced lowest fatality rate in recorded history last year More

Multimedia 100 Days Later, Nigerian Girls Still Held

Activists holding rallies in Nigeria and several other countries to mark 100th day of captivity for more than 200 schoolgirls being held by Boko Haram More

Chocolate Too Bitter? Swap Sugar for Mushrooms

US food technology company develops fermentation process using mushrooms to reduce bitterness in cocoa beans, believes it will cut sugar content in candy More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Formi
X
July 22, 2014 10:26 AM
Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.

AppleAndroid