Former President Goodluck Jonathan has enlisted the support of other ex-presidents and Prime Ministers in West Africa to mitigate elections related conflicts to promote peace in the area.
Mrs Ann Iyonu, Executive Director, Goodluck Jonathan Foundation (GJF) announced this in a News Conference in Yenagoa on Friday.
She said that the former leaders’ group christened West African Elders Forum (WAEF) was inaugurated by Jonathan in a virtual meeting held on Thursday.
Iyonu said that WAEF was an initiative of the GJF aimed at harnessing the goodwill, expertise and experiences of former leaders to promote peaceful elections and to deepen democracy in West Africa.
According to her, the forum comprises three former leaders of Nigeria, Ex-President Jonathan, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo, Gen Abdulsalam Abubakar, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf of Liberia, Ernest Bai Koroma of Sierra Leone and Pedro Pires of Cape Verde.
Other leaders that participated in the event are Aminata Toure of Senegal, Amos Sawyer of Liberia, Kadre Desire Ouedraogo of Burkina Faso, Thomas Yayi Boni of Benin Republic and Dioncounda Traore of Mali.
Iyonu said the former leaders pledged to join forces with the foundation to deepen democracy and work proactively with other established institutions to ensure credible and acceptable elections to avert electoral violence.
She noted that they agreed to adopt a strategy of being proactive in the use of preventive diplomacy to nip election related violence in the bud.
Jonathan regretted that the inauguration could not hold at a physical venue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is an event we would have loved to hold, with everyone in one venue, to allow for more robust interactions but safety considerations due to the COVID-19 pandemic have limited us to hosting this meeting virtually.
“The West African Elders Forum is an initiative of the GJF aimed at leveraging the rich resources of eminent personalities in West Africa to promote peace by supporting processes that enhance sustainable democracy and good governance.
“My vision is to harness the experience and wisdom of our region’s eminent leaders to advance the course of political stability and the quest for economic progress and prosperity in our countries.
“It is evident that as former heads of State, we have not relented in our individual efforts in maintaining stability in Africa and expanding the democratic space.
“We have worked towards fostering free and fair elections as well as peaceful transfer of power from one administration to another.
“But with this Forum, we can collectively work as a team to reduce political violence and electoral conflicts in West Africa.
“This is consistent with the goal of the Goodluck Jonathan foundation to support democratic transitions and manage political emergencies within the continent.
“Over the last few decades, the West African region has demonstrated leadership and the political will by setting the pace in transforming a regional group of states into a ‘secured community’ on the continent,” Jonathan said.
He recalled that few years ago, the region was relatively peaceful and was projected to contribute immensely to the continent’s overall economic growth that saw Africa as one of the global emerging economies.
Jonathan however regretted that the peace and stability of the region is being eroded because of many reasons including political contestation for power, spread of terrorism and the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He observed that the region had issues of national unrests, occasioned by disputed elections and power struggles in some countries like Mali, where he mediated to restore peace.
Obasanjo applauded Jonathan for driving the peace process and noted that the experiences of the elders will go a long way in fostering peace and development in Africa.
Sirleaf of Liberia in her contributions commended Jonathan for his untiring efforts as an ‘icon of peace’ and his role in advancing the cause of violence free polls.
All the participants who took turns to speak in solidarity pledged to work with the foundation.