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

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub 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.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More