By Temitope Ponle
Members of the ECOWAS Parliament has expressed displeasure in the political situation in Benin following the presentation of the Country Report from the Beninese delegation of the parliament.
The members expressed their displeasure at the ongoing ordinary session of the parliament in Abuja.
Members said that the stable and vibrant political scene of Benin had long made it a model for democracy in the region.
However, there were reports of violence in the course of the country’s parliamentary elections held on April 28 which caught the attention of civil society and rights groups inside and outside Benin.
Amnesty International, ahead of the elections, stated that the wave of arbitrary arrests of political activists and journalists, and the crackdown on peaceful protests, had reached an alarming level.
The country had, reportedly, been undergoing political reforms designed to deepen the democratic practice in the nation.
Members said the reforms, or the revised electoral rules, led to a reduction of parties from more than 250 to just two that took part in the election, and both aligned with President Patrice Talon.
The representative of the Beninese delegation, Mr Youssoufou Nouhoume, however, explained that out of the many parties that applied for registration, only a few were successful both at the Ministry of Interior and the National Electoral Commission.
“There were two parties that took part in the elections.
“With the new law, out of 259 parties 10 parties registered with the Ministry of Interior and out of these 10, six met the requirements and applied to contest.
“All our constitutional and democratic institutions are working as they ought to and all parties that could not meet the requirements approached the court so this is a phase we are not used to.
“We have problems but not enough to question the law. I suggest that the ECOWAS Parliament should send a delegation to Benin and find out the truth on what really transpired.”
Furthermore, the members of parliament argued on whether or not to adopt the Country Report presented by Benin.
In his reaction, Mr Edwin Snowe representing Liberia proposed that the parliament send a fact-finding mission to Benin and the findings reported to the ECOWAS Parliament.
“The situation in Benin is grave that where the Executive arm of government begin to crack down on Members of Parliament that represent the direct interest of the people you know it is even more serious.
“I suggest we do not adopt the Benin report and that we send a fact-finding mission to come back and report to this parliament so that appropriate resolution can be taken to protect democracy in Benin and our region.”
Mr Mahama Ayariga representing Ghana, nevertheless, proposed that the parliamentarians be mindful of the procedures of the parliament.
“We can raise objections about a Country Report on the grounds that we think the report is incomplete, inadequate but we also have an opportunity to fill in gaps.
“When the report was read, we all asked questions so that the gaps that existed in the report would be filled in by the delegation from that country, so they have answered the questions and attempted to fill in the gaps.
“Let us channel our issues through the right procedure otherwise, this house will cease its reputation as a parliament.”
Ayariga appealed with members of the parliament to adopt the report and move the motion to set up a group to investigate in that country and report back to the parliament.
He also suggested that a resolution condemning what happened in that country be passed and have it communicated to the country’s leadership.