Accra, Nov. 24, GNA - Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, Executive Secretary of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), on Thursday lauded the Judiciary as a major institution in the process of establishing a democratic order and constructing the norms of good governance.
"The Judiciary is the last hope of the common man and the hope of the ECOWAS citizenry. We must seek to claim law on behalf of the people, for ultimate sovereignty and the survival of States," he said. Dr Chambas made the observation at the opening of first ever Conference for ECOWAS Chief Justices and ECOWAS Court of Justice in Accra.
The two-day conference, which has attracted 15 West African States, is on the theme: "The Judiciary as the Partner in the Regional Integration Process."
He said the Judiciary was not only charged with upholding the rule of law and protecting fundamental human rights but also promoting the due process and constitutionalism in a democracy. He said anywhere the Judiciary had failed, the confidence of citizens withered and the possibility of social conflicts became imminent.
He described the conference as timely because most West Africans were now emerging from political conflict and were also seeking ways of establishing new democratic order.
"Countries like Sierra Leone and Liberia are in a fragile post-conflict phase, grappling with the challenge of building a nascent democracy," he said.
He mentioned insecurity, political disorder and systematic state collapse as some of the challenges facing the ECOWAS whose objectives were facilitating regional economic cooperation, integration and development of member states.
"The simple realisation is that without political stability and rule of law, there can be no economic process and development, and without democracy and good governance, wrong policy choices are likely to be made and the people's participation in the economy would be limited."
He said political dictatorship was also hindering development of the private sector and did not allow the rule of law to thrive. He expressed regret that since the establishment of the ECOWAS Court of Justice much had not been done and urged the Chief Justices to ensure the successful implementation of the ECOWAS programmes in an appropriate legal and judicial environment.
Dr Chambas, therefore, tasked Chief Justices to familiarise themselves with the ECOWAS supplementary protocol on democracy and good governance to facilitate judicial autonomy and reforms necessary for effective dispensation of justice.
Mr Justice H. N. Donli, President of ECOWAS Court of Justice, observed that although the court was established four years ago, many community citizens were not aware of its existence. Justice Donli said the court was, therefore, embarking on sensitisation missions in order to become a virile and independent organ of ECOWAS.