African lawyers must protect democracy, rule of law - Jonathan

Jonathan, Sirleaf, others set for AFBA conference on ending conflicts in Africa

Dr. Goodluck Jonathan

Former President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan has charged African lawyers to work to protect democracy, good governance, human rights, as a means of bringing an end to growing conflicts and violence in the continent.

In this regard, he urged them to advocate for the establishment of a strong rule of law, describing it as a basis for accountable governance which would help prevent and mitigate violent crimes.

Jonathan stated this in a speech titled ‘Accountable Governance as a Panacea for the Unending Conflicts in Africa: The Legal Profession as the Driver,’ which he presented on Monday as the guest speaker at the 2021 Annual African Bar Association (AFBA) Conference holding in Niamey, Niger Republic.

In establishing a correlation between functional governance and security, the former President noted that “lack of accountability leads to conflicts and insecurity while accountable governance almost always leads to peace, stability and development.”

He further noted that all actors within the judicial system have a critical role to play in advancing the course of justice towards bringing peace and development to the society.

He averred that one of the most critical purposes of law in the society is to preserve the moral sanctity that binds the people, describing law as the upholder and provider of order.

According to him: “The rule of law is more potent in preserving societies than the rule of man. A functional legal system should therefore serve as a hope enabler and catalyst for peace, societal order, growth and development.”

“African lawyers both at the bar and the bench, therefore have a great role to play in advocating for the rule of law in our nations. In fact, the role of the state attorneys is critical, if Africa will witness reduced conflicts. I urge lawyers and judicial officers not to compromise their integrity in the process of upholding the rule of law and resolving disputes either in the courts, or via the various alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms.”

The former President also made a case for free, fair and credible elections and urged legal professionals to lend their weight towards deepening democracy in Africa.

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He said: “There is no doubt that the independence of the electoral management bodies, is the key plank upon which a thriving democracy rests. I have always made the case that a truly democratic system narrows the space for strife and conflicts.

“It is therefore the prerogative of the legal professionals to not only protect the independence of the electoral management bodies, but also seek to ensure the integrity of electoral processes.”
Dr. Jonathan also decried the spate of poverty on the continent, noting that “ if we tackle poverty through good governance, conflicts on the continent will be drastically reduced.”

Pointing out the importance of education in fighting poverty, the former President said: “One of the key remedies for poverty is education which, I believe, countries should provide for as a matter of right.

“I charge the executives and members of the African Bar Association, in their stated objective of using the legal profession to drive down the instances of violent conflicts in Africa, to return to their individual countries and push for the implementation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for all Africans.

“One of those rights is the right to education. Education is not a privilege. It is a right. And you, gentlemen, are in the best position to see to the actualization of that right.

As Nelson Mandela said, ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.’ Notice Madiba did not say tool. He said ‘weapon’. The war on terror requires weapons, and whether from Nigeria to Niger Republic, or from Cape to Cairo, the best weapon with which to fight terror is education.

“It is a long-term strategy. And it is scientifically proven to work. Education is the greatest equalizer known to man. According to the Global Partnership for Education, every year of education a person receives considerably reduces the risk that they would be involved in conflict.

“It is obvious that countries with high knowledge intensity and human capacity development enjoy higher per capita profiles than others.

“African lawyers both at the bar and the bench, therefore have a great role to play in advocating for the rule of law in our states. I urge lawyers and judicial officers not to compromise their integrity in the process of resolving disputes either in the courts, or via the various alternative dispute resolution (ADR) mechanisms.”
We must all work together to put in place a sustainable, equitable and inclusive system of governance that delivers justice, peace and progress to our people.