The Guest Speaker at the 2023 international conference of the ECOWAS Court, Professor Chidi Odinkalu, has urged African Union Member States to ratify the 2014 Malabo  Protocol of the African Union which extends the jurisdiction of the yet to be established African Court of Justice on Human Rights (ACJHR) to include crimes under international law and translational crimes.

The Protocol invests the Court with the jurisdiction to try 14  different crimes, including genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes and emerged from a rigorous process designed to enhance the jurisdiction of the Court in response to the dynamics of the international environment.

In his keynote address at the opening of the conference on Monday, 22nd May 2023, he  lamented that no African country has ratified the Protocol, which will create a third section in the  ACJHR with responsibility for international law in the Court.

The Guest Speaker, who spoke on Zero tolerance for unconstitutional change in government in West Africa: democracy and rule of law for sustainable development, challenged the Republic of The Gambia to take the lead in the ratification, as host for the conference and the headquarters of the African for Human and Peoples’ Rights.

Professor Odinkalu, who is an activist and former Chair of Nigeria’s National Human Rights Commission, said the ratification of the Protocol will pave the way for its operationalization, noting that Africa accounted for 48.3 per cent of all successful coups since 1950 with West Africa alone accounting for 169 of the coups.

According to him, Burkina Faso enjoys the dubious distinction of the most coups in the continent, with eight successful coups out of nine followed by other countries including the Republic of Benin the and Federal Republic of Nigeria with Cape Verde being the only exception in the phenomena of coups in the continent.

While he argued for jettisoning the notion of a military coup as a ‘self-legalizing illegality,’  as the continent continues its search for solutions to the resurgence of the military in politics and alluded to the difficulties with the efficacy of existing legal frameworks  for preventing such incursions, adding that the continent should deal with popular uprisings and ensure the protection of judges to insulate them from being intimidated into acquiescence.

Additionally, the guest speaker  said that it was not enough to condemn soldiers for encroaching on the democratic space, this should be extended to political adventurers who carry out constitutional and political coups or use court orders for tenure elongation and the subversion of national constitutions.

The four day 2023 international conference of the Court is on the theme: ECOWAS’ zero tolerance for unconstitutional change of government and is being attended by about 150 academics, jurists and lawyers. The conference was declared open on Monday, 22nd May 2023 by the Vice President of The Gambia, Mr. Muhammad BS Jallow.