The international forum on civic space organized by Tournons La Page Niger was held in Niamey from June 2 to 4, 2023. Against a global backdrop of civic space restrictions and attacks on democracy, the event brought together over fifty experts and civil society actors from seven West African and Sahelian countries.
At the end of this forum, we, the participants :
Regrettably, in many of the countries represented, there are still enormous challenges to the establishment of an open civic space, and thus to a solid democracy based on trust between citizens and the state. These restrictions are illustrated by the fact that Ibrahima Diallo from Guinea, who was due to take part in the forum, was banned from leaving the country. The adoption of freedom-destroying laws, the criminalization of civil society actors, bad governance, military and constitutional coups d'état, terrorism and armed conflicts are all problems undermining our countries and seriously restricting the emergence of true democracy;
In many countries, we are witnessing the seizure of power. The instrumentalization of justice is such that it has become a tool of repression, subject to the will of the executive rather than a power that protects citizens;
It should be remembered that civic space is not the prerogative of civil society organizations, but is the keystone of a democratic society;
Condemn the increasing restriction of the civic space and all the consequences this situation has on the citizens' lives. We therefore strongly condemn the arbitrary arrest and imprisonment of Tournons La Page members Jean Rémy YAMA in Gabon, Prince FADEL in Togo, Floriane IRANGABIYE in Burundi and Abdoulaye SEYDOU in Niger, arrested for their work as citizens' observers and denouncers of violations. We unanimously call for their unconditional release and reaffirm our full support for them. These dissuasive and repressive practices initiated by certain governments will neither discourage us, nor prevent us from continuing our citizen actions in favor of democracy, the rule of law, respect for constitutional principles and the equality of citizens before the law;
Condemn the desire of certain leaders to remain in power by amending their constitutions, creating climates of social crisis and leading their countries towards disastrous destinies, in the image of the current situation created by President Macky Sall in Senegal;
Let us decide to launch, at the end of this forum, the West African and Sahelian network for the protection and promotion of the civic space.
From all the above:
- We renew our commitment to the creation, expansion and protection of the civic space, democracy, the rule of law and the equality of all before the law;
- We call on the governments of Burundi, Gabon, Niger and Togo to release our colleagues Floriane IRANGABIYE, Jean Rémy YAMA, Abdoulaye SEYDOU and Prince FADEL, who are currently in prison, prosecuted for their work in defending human rights and democracy;
- We call on governments and National Human Rights Institutions to put in place mechanisms to ensure respect for fundamental freedoms, and to work with civil society to popularize laws relating to civic space;
- We call on civil society organizations to raise awareness among all citizens of civic responsibility and their fundamental rights and freedoms, particularly in the digital sphere, and to step up their advocacy work on these issues with political decision-makers and national and international institutions;
- We call on our partners to provide support for reinforcing capacities and supporting documentation, expertise and strategic litigation related to human rights and fundamental freedoms;
- We encourage all actors whose rights are violated to favor the culture of litigation in front of national and international jurisdictions in order to set precedents and secure the application of fundamental freedoms;
- We call on countries and regional organizations to make term limits a priority objective, in order to make such limits a reality and calm the already crisis-ridden region;
- We call on intellectuals and academics to commit themselves to the defense of democratic and republican values, and to organize days for reflection and a scientific colloquium on civic space, in order to create advocacy documents for political leaders;
- We call on the United Nations special procedures, in particular the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association, to monitor the situation of the civic space in West Africa and the Sahel, and to enjoin refractory states to respect their commitments;
- We call on the ECOWAS, in consultation with civil society, to update the Protocol on Good Governance and Democracy to include term limits;
- Finally, we call on civil society to join forces with all social actors, including universities, syndicates and artists, to defend the individual and collective freedoms that make up the civic space.