Centre For Democracy & Development (Cdd-Westafrica) & Partners Present Citizens’ Proposal On The Proposed New Constitution To Members Of Constitutional Commission In Burkina Faso
The official inauguration of members of Constitutional Commission in September 29, 2016 by President Marc Christina Kabore Rock has in no doubt set Burkina Faso on the path of re-defining its political order. It would be recalled that in the prelude to the popular presidential election of 2015, the President pledged to ‘...rebuild the State through the adoption of a new constitution, that of the Fifth republic.’
The inauguration of the Commission is one of the very first steps taken by the President to fulfill one of its numerous election pledges.
The Commission’s mandate is to draft a new constitution for Burkinabes within two months. To make the new constitution a citizen constitution, the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD-West Africa), together with its local partners Centre for Democratic Governance (CGD-Burkina Faso), Dakonia (Burkina Faso) and the Convention for Domestic Election Observation (CODEL-Burkina Faso), with the support of the Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), collected priorities and views of citizens on the proposed constitution. The three weeks exercise by the partners culminated into a working document titled: Citizens’ View on the Proposed Development of a New Constitution.
Official presentation of the report to members of the Constitutional Commission on November 7, 2016, at Royal Beach Hotel, Ouagadougou, is historic and hopefully would shape conversation around the drafting of the new constitution for Burkinabes. The meeting had in attendance government officials, traditional chief, religious leaders, parliamentarian, President of Constitutional Court, Chairman of the Constitutional Commission and its members, representative of the President du Faso, civil society organizations, the media, security personnel, and Burkinabes.
A welcome remark was delivered on behalf of the partners by the Director of the Centre for Democratic Governance (CGD-Burkina Faso), Dr. Thomas Ouedraogo. Professor Balima S. T. made presentation of the citizens’ priorities and views on the proposed new constitution to the Chairman of the Constitutional Commission, Mr. Halidou Ouedraogo.
The report covered key issues germane for inclusion into the proposed new constitution from the citizens’ perspective. The issues includes eligibility requirements for Presidential elections, term of office with emphasis on duration of presidential term in office, separation of power (relationship between the judiciary and the executive, in particular), political regime (parliamentary Vs presidential), citizens’ participation, to mention a few.
The report from the field highlights the citizens’ perception on the following issues:
Eligibility requirements: The report reveals that most of the sampled voices express support for a review of the conditions of eligibility in the new constitution. Amongst what they think should be considered are:
1. That anyone contesting for position of the President must have at least exercised a mandate as a deputy or municipal councilor;
2. Be of good character without any criminal record or previous allegations of election rigging, (there must be a thorough investigation of all presidential candidates);
3. Pay tax as at when due; and,
4. Must be married.
However, there is no uniform opinion on what constitutes the minimum age to contest elections.
Terms of office: The report reveals that most of the sampled population asked for the retention of the five year single term reneawable once. However, some opined that the term of office should be increased to seven or ten years but not renewable. Another school of thought called for a reduction of the current term to four year reneweable once.
Forms of Government: Majority of sampled population supported the continuous adoption of presidential system of government arguing that the parliamentary elections can be chaotic and the country cannot afford any form of political instability attendant in a parliamentary system of government.
Seperation of Power: Citizens emphasized the need for genuine separation of power between the executive and the judiciary. Most of the participants in the survey argued that this is germane against the background of previous adminstration of Blaise Campaore where the judicary and executive often colluded. Following this, Burkinabes demand that the new constitution should provide for:
1. Right of opposition parties’ leaders to appoint members to the Constitutional Council;
2. Magistrates should elect President of the Superior Council of Magistrate and the body should manage its own affair;
3. Attorney General should be elected by Prosecutors;.
4. That the procedures for the recruitment of judges should be reviewed
5. That the age of judges should be reviewed
6. That the possibility of electing some judges should be explored as this will make them accountable to the people; and,
7. Anyone to be elected should be investigated.
Multi Party Democracy: While Burkinabes acknowledged the need for a multi-party democracy, most of the sampled population argued for a reduction in the number of existing political parties in the country. In setting criteria for cutting-down on political parties, they asked that the following conditions should be considered:
1. Percentage Score/seats obtained in the various elections; and ,
2. A party that cannot attain national outlook by establishing presence in the 13 provinces after five years of its establishment should be deregistered.
Citizens Participation: To strengthen citizens’ participation in the proposed fifth republic, most of the sampled opinions asked for creation of a permanent framework for dialogue between elected officials and the population. The framework for dialogue, as the report revealed, must transcend political differences for it to fulfill its aspiration.
Gender Parity: When asked if the 30% quota to women presently existing in the current constitution should be retained, 1 out of 6 of sampled populations openly requested its deletion from the new Constitution in order to promote ‘meritocracy’ and not ‘mediocrity.’
Additionally, most of the sampled population emphasized the need for any President of Burkina Faso to place one hand on the new Constitution while swearing an oath. This, to them, is to ensure that President keeps his/her word and commit not to subvert the spirit and letters of the Constitution
The following recommendations were made to the constitution drafting commission.
1. The Commission should mobilize its energies to deal first with the current priorities including securing territory, national reconciliation, judgment in pending court cases and ease the social front edge to initiate the process of adoption of the new constitution.
2. Sufficient time should be given to the constitution commission to conduct all necessary consultations so that the constitution to be adopted reflects the real aspirations of the people.
3. The National Assembly should mobilise citizens on the proposed draft constitution before it is adopted.
4. The Commission is enjoined to have the interest of the people as the only guide in the preparation of the draft of the constitution, systematically gather people’s view and ensure that the draft reflect their aspiration, make the constitution applicable to the authorities in place, and take into account the achievements of the popular uprising in the drafting of the new.
An official presentation of the report was presented to Mr. Halidou Ouedraogo by the Centre for Democracy and Development and her local partners. Mr. Halidou applauded the partner organizations for this historic move and expressed the commitment of the Commission to take cognizance of some of the issues narrated in the report given the need to deepen democracy in the country.
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