The Chairman of the Alliance for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (ASDA), Dr Prosper Ladislas Agbesi, has called on the leadership of the ECOWAS Sub-region and the international community to step into the political situation in Benin and bring order in the interest of the people.
To this end, he suggested the establishment of a government of National Unity so as to return the country to true democracy.
Dr. Agbesi – a leading opposition political figure and the presidential Candidate of the Alliance for New Congress (ANC) in the 2016 elections told journalists in an interview that, President Patrice Tolon, has failed the people and so must step aside for new elections to bring the country back its former glory.
He has given the incumbent president up to 90 days to resign because the people of Benin have demonstrated clearly that they do not want him as their president. He said security has failed in the country and businesses are suffering, coupled with the rising bad image of the country internationally, are good reasons for any president who truly cares for his people to take a decent bow for a more competent person to take over and help the people.
“He has been a president for only three years but the people have demonstrated clearly that they are not comfortable with him. By the constitution of Benin, he is not our president. He is creating fear in the country. Many people have gone on exile because they are in fear,” he stated.
Dr. Agbesi was at pain that a country which was once seen as a leading democracy in Africa could be reduced to an almost one party state, where opposition parties do not have a representation even in parliament. He said there are evidence that President Patrice Tolon has become very unpopular in the country, for which reason he is making moves to change the constitution through strange and unconventional means.
About a month to the recent parliamentary elections in Benin, the Electoral Commission of that country promulgated a new law that disqualified all other political parties excerpt the President’s party. This led to huge apathy with only a fraction of the people turning up to vote on the Election Day.
The electoral authorities ruled in March that only two parties - both loyal to President Patrice Talon - met the requirements to take part. New electoral laws meant a party had to pay about $424,000 (£328,000) to field a list for the 83-seat parliament.
“So we are saying that you can’t have a country that excludes the opposition in decision making. Less than 10 percent of the population voted in the parliamentary elections and so it is not a representation of the people,” he stated.
Dr Ladislas Prosper Agbesi, Executive Chairman, Pan African Business Forum
According to Dr Agbesi, for causing the abuse of the democratic rights of the people of Benin, President Tolon must resign from office immediately. He called on the ECOWAS not to recognise him as the President of Benin. He also urged the formation of a government of unity which would include all leading political figures who have gone on exile because of intimidation from President Tolon.
“I want ECOWAS, the African Union and the United Nations to take serious sanctions against this man. I am giving him 90 days to resign. I want the EU to take serious actions against him because the people are not happy with him,” Dr. Agbesi stated.
Among others, Dr Agbesi accused President Tolon of being in an alliance with terrorists groups in the sub-region, which according to him is one of the reasons he does not want to leave the country.
“He wants to bring the terrorists to come for our oil. If we don’t take the country away from him, Benin will soon become a centre of terrorists. The international community must do something quickly to take the country away from him. It is very important for the UN and ECOWAS to do something quickly before it becomes worse. “We don’t want our country to become a base for terrorists and that is what this man wants to do. That is why we have to take the country from him now,” he stated.
Benin has witnessed post-election violence in recent times with a group of armed soldiers in an uneasy standoff with unarmed civilians on the streets of the capital – Cotonou. Security forces have been put on high alert following days of post-election violence.
This was after the parliamentary election that took place in April this year but without any of the opposition parties contesting. Military men allegedly scattered demonstrations when the members of the opposition called for the annulment of the parliamentary election.
More than 2000 cases of Ebola have been recorded in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) since last August. Now, despite authorities’ efforts – such as screening millions of travellers moving between the DRC and its neighbours – the disease has spread.
The World Health Organisation announced on 12 June that a five-year-old boy had died in Uganda after testing positive for Ebola. A day later, his grandmother died. It’s believed he contracted Ebola when they attended the funeral of his grandfather (who died of Ebola) in the DRC. The Conversation Africa’s Natasha Joseph asked Professor Mosoka Fallah to explain the implications.
There have now been two Ebola deaths in Uganda. Do we know anything more about these cases?
We now know that a family of 14 travelled from the DRC to Uganda. Most of them crossed at the formal border, but five evaded the main port of entry. Instead they crossed over informally. Those five arrived with symptoms that included diarrhoea and bleeding. This implies a period of illness in the DRC and that they were most likely symptomatic while travelling.
It appears they knowingly evaded the official check point that would have monitored their temperature and physical signs to pick them up as possible Ebola cases.
In some ways this is a replica of the cross-border import and export of Ebola cases between Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone that were hit by the 2014 outbreak. Many borders between countries in the region are porous: people are in fact much more likely to cross into a neighbouring country without even going through a formal border crossing.
People cross for all sorts of reasons. One of them is funeral rites. The spread of the cases from Guinea to Liberia and eventually to Sierra Leone centred around funeral rites.
Authorities have worked hard to keep Ebola from spreading beyond the DRC. Does the spread mean they need to do more, or do things differently?
The response teams from both the DRC and Uganda must be commended for preventing the mass cross-border export of Ebola cases given the complex nature of the current outbreak.
There are a lot more informal crossings than the formal ones. The surveillance system for scanning people who are crossing into Uganda are at these formal crossings. This isn’t always foolproof. When I was working in Liberia during the West African epidemic between 2014 and 2016, we found that some people would take antipyretic medications to avoid being detected at the formal border crossings. These drugs bring fevers down so that scanners don’t detect a high temperature.
You may wonder why people would do this. The reality is that people across geographical boundaries don’t have any physical boundaries in their minds. When they are in the DRC and fall ill, they will do what anyone would: seek support from their relatives and friends, some of whom are in border towns.
All of this means that health authorities’ interventions must be strategic. They cannot physically monitor all of the informal porous borders between these countries.
What they need to do now is to mobilise all of the towns and villages that share border points with the regions of DRC that are at high risk for the export of Ebola. These villages and towns can physically monitor their individual crossing points. The local leaders and chiefs can keep a visitor log and identify a common building to keep new visitors from the DRC for observation. These logs should be reported to the regional response team daily.
The visitors can then be tracked back to their village of origin to investigate any linkage to a cluster of cases. Coordinating visitors’ movements across the multiple borders will be the greatest strategic intervention. If possible, mobile application can be deployed to local youths to enter these data for real time reporting and coordination.
This strategy was employed in Liberia during the latter part of the Ebola crisis in the region and was critical in preventing the cross-border import of cases. Even within Liberia some counties – sub-regional division – did this to prevent the import of cases from Monrovia or neighbouring counties. When Lofa county went to zero in November of 2014, it was able to maintain that status by using these methods.
What is being done now to try and ensure the cases in Uganda do not lead to more Ebola infections?
Health workers are tracking the cases, finding out who the five people came in contact with and then taking them to a treatment centre immediately. From the recent situation report from Uganda, they have tracked down 98 contacts which is very impressive. As the average number of contacts per case is 10-12. But they have gone beyond that average.
These are very critical response steps in any epidemic. The surveillance team has to enter the mind of a typical villager from the DRC who knows they’re infected and is trying to escape to relatives in Uganda. They will have to figure out whether the infected people visited traditional healers or local medicine stores. How long were they in Uganda before they were picked up? In this way they’ll be able to identify all the contacts and monitor them.
Ebola is a very difficult disease to contain because of human social and behavioural factors. But it can be easily contained if 100% of the infected people’s contacts are identified and monitored and if cases are quickly removed into treatment units. The sooner you are treated, the higher your chances of surviving Ebola. And the more survivors there are, the more the community will trust response workers.