ECOWAS Court Strikes out Case Involving an NGO Seeking the Removal of Obstacles to Free Participation in Elections in Republic of Benin

The ECOWAS Court has struck out a case filed by a Republic of Benin based international non governmental organization, challenging two new texts adopted by the country’s national assembly in 2018 to regulate the framework for the functioning of political parties and the organization of elections.

Le Groupe d’Etude Et De Recherches Sur La Démocratie Et Le Développement Economique Et Social En Afrique/Centre International De Recherches Sur La Démocratie Et Le Développement (GERDDES-CIRD) said that the 17th September 2018 Charter of Political Parties and 9th October 2018 electoral code violated two community instruments.

These are the ECOWAS Protocol A/SP1/12/01 on Democracy and Good Governance and the Supplementary to the Protocol relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security, notably the obligation to establish independent electoral bodies; the obligation not to amend the electoral laws six (6) months before the elections and the violation of the principle of rule of law.

In dismissing the suit, Honourable Justice Edward Asante, presiding judge said the Court took notice of the motion for discontinuance at the instance of the NGO as the proceeding had lost its essence.

In  suit no ECW/CCJ/APP/17/19 filed on the 9th of March 2019, GERDDES-CIRD sought  the orders of the Court to compel the defendant –Republic of Benin – “to remove all the hindrances to the free participation of all the political parties desirous of taking part in the next legislative elections leading to the establishment of the Eighth Legislature, and again order it to take all necessary steps to ensure that all persons and political parties desiring to participate in the said elections do so.”                                                                         

The Plaintiff, GERDDES-CIRD, also filed two supplementary applications for provisional measures and an accelerated procedure which were not successful before the legislative elections of 28 April 2019 in Benin.

Mr. Sadikou Ayo Alao, President of GERDDES-CIRD added in his correspondence that, following the resumption of new legislators following the elections, the proceeding before the Court has become devoid of purpose and therefore notified the Court of its discontinuance in this matter.

In the initiating application, the plaintiff urged the Court to hold the defendant liable for conferring on the Ministry of Interior,  the status of an electoral body in the process of organization of the legislative elections; for the unilateral amendment of the electoral laws without a political majority less than six months to election, thereby violating the plaintiff’s right to free and direct participation in public affairs of his country, and protection of rights to equality before the law and non-discrimination among others.

The Plaintiff had urged the Court to declare it has jurisdiction to hear the matter, declare the defendant liable for the violations, and order the defendant to remove all obstacles to free participation of all political parties in the elections and order the defendant to bear the costs of litigation.

On their part, the defendants averred that the Charter of Political Parties and the Electoral Code of the Republic of Benin which were in contention were properly adopted by the Parliament of the Republic of Benin.