By Mama A. Touray
Professor Chidi Odinkalu, Professor of Practice at Tuft University in the United States has said recently at the Sir Dawda Kairaba Jawara International Conference Center that what is threatening to happen in Senegal is a constitutional coup.
Professor Chidi made this remark at the just concluded International Conference on Economic Community of West African States Court of Justice under the theme Zero Tolerance For Unconstitutional Change of Government.
Dilating on the theme, Professor Chidi said “There is every reason to condemn soldiers but today we have military coups and constitutional coups. What is threatening to happen in Senegal is a constitutional coup, it affects all of us this is our region that is why I am not here as a lawyer but here as a citizen of West Africa because this is my region, we will come here to fight for it”.
The Professor added that currently, Senegal is going through their own contact with the third term, adding that the only West African country that proves to be an exception to the general rule is Cape Verd which he said is a subject matter that affects absolutely all countries without exceptions.
“Let me try and say this, there is not one norm against unconstitutional change in government, there are three norms in one, I heard that a lot has been said about military coups but when you look at the trajectory of the evolution of the norms in both AU and OAU and ECOWAS this is what has happened,” he said.
He highlighted that there is a norm for legitimate access to power through elections; there is a norm on precluding and prohibiting presidential indeterminacy of tenure, and that When you have acquired a power legitimately and you have observed the limit on tenure the norm on unconstitutional change of government protects you in power.
He went on that the norm on unconstitutional change in government is not a norm to rig election to stay in power, it is not a norm to change the constitution like the former president of Guinea did, instead it is a norm to make sure that there is legitimate political contestation and respect for the right participation of the people.
“This is why coups have returned because instead of observing the three parts of the norm in incumbent have converted the third part of the norm and subverted the first two, they have subverted the first two norms converted the third part to protection and have therefore endangered regional stability, we have to return to what the norm was meant to be” he commented.
Professor Chidi however, stated that there is a continuous trajectory from the unset of colonial occupation to what is called a coup today and that as a matter of fact what is called a coup is a symbolism that has its origin in the colonial context.
“Human history has a deal with coups, the evolution we are dealing with is recent but needs to be consolidated because its benefit far outweighs whatever we have seen particularly the instability associated with coups. But that is to say, it has been normative over history on how humanity has dealt with coups and unconstitutional changes of government, the instrumentalization through unconstitutional has also evolved and the functionality of par and its foundation has evolved” the Professor said.