Benin’s constitutional justice system is 30 years old. On this occasion, various legal practitioners in Benin and the West African sub-region have been meeting since Tuesday 7 June at the Palais des Congrès in Cotonou to make a thorough assessment and define the prospects for strengthening the rule of law in Benin and Africa. The event was coupled with the first meetings of West African high courts in charge of electoral disputes under the auspices of ECOWAS.
The presidents of the constitutional courts and councils of the West African sub-region, presidents of institutions, university professors and other legal figures had three days of work in the blue room of the Palais des Congrès in Cotonou. The focus of the conference is twofold.
30th anniversary of Benin’s constitutional justice system
The first is the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the Constitutional Court of Benin. To this end, the various presidents of this high court as well as legal actors marked with their presence the official events of this celebration. The current president of this high decision-making body took the opportunity to assess the results of these 30 years of operation. Pognon, the late Conceptia Denis Ouinsou, Messrs Robert Dossou and Théodore Holo, have dared to lay the jurisprudential foundations of the rule of law and nascent democracy,” said Joseph Djogbénou, the current president of the Constitutional Court of Benin.
With these successive presidencies,” he continues, “the Constitutional Court has helped to establish the rule of law as a founding requirement and democracy as an indispensable horizon for the full development of the individual and the strengthening of the State.
What can we learn from the first meetings of West African high courts in charge of electoral disputes?
In addition, the second aspect of these meetings is the opportunity given to West African jurisdictions in charge of elections to discuss electoral disputes. Indeed, in view of the specificities of jurisdictions in Africa depending on whether we are in the French-speaking, English-speaking or Portuguese-speaking system, ECOWAS joined forces with the Constitutional Court of Benin to initiate this meeting. The meeting provides an opportunity to discuss how to resolve electoral disputes in the region. It is therefore a network of jurisdictions in charge of electoral disputes in West Africa.
On this occasion, the Vice President of Benin, Mariam Chabi Talata, who opened the ceremony, emphasised the need to set up this network in a context where electoral disputes are legion. “As far as networking is concerned, to deprive ourselves of this strategy in the face of their current difficulties is to deny our institutions any possibility of progress. By networking, our constitutional courts can take maximum advantage of their plurality, diversity and proximity to improve their statutes, their standards, their tools, their functioning and their performance for the benefit of the people and our respective States,” she said.
At the end of the meeting on Thursday, the various courts present adopted by consensus the creation of a network of West African constitutional courts in charge of electoral disputes. In the same vein, a monitoring committee made up of member jurisdictions from the different language areas has been set up. The said committee is responsible for appointing a team of consultants to draft the basic texts (status, rules of procedure) of this body. It will also be responsible for preparing and convening the second meetings of the constitutional courts in charge of electoral disputes in order to approve the texts.
Finally, it should be noted that the election management bodies of Benin, Ivory Coast, Niger, Togo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Gambia, Guinea Bissau and Ghana were present at this meeting. Not to mention experts with proven experience in the management of electoral disputes in English, French and Portuguese speaking countries.