B. ECONOMIC COMMUNITY OF CENTRAL AFRICAN STATES (ECCAS)
Bata Declaration for the Promotion of Lasting Democracy, Peace and Development in Central Africa (adopted by the Subregional Conference on Democratic Institutions and Peace in Central Africa )
1. Participants in the Subregional Conference on Democratic Institutions and Peace in Central Africa, bringing together members of government, representatives of opposition parties, senior officers of the armed forces and security forces, parliamentarians and representatives of civil society from the Central African countries, met in Bata, Equatorial Guinea, from 18 to 21 May 1998, under the auspices of the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa, to consider issues related to the democratic process and peace in Central Africa.
2. Participants expressed their deep concern at the persistence of crises and conflicts in Central Africa , which had caused such loss of life, destruction and suffering in the subregion. They saw that precarious situation as a threat to the democratic process and to development in what was potentially a rich subregion.
3. They emphasized the historic opportunity offered by the Conference, which was being held during a period of major changes in Africa , characterized by the still difficult transition from an era of single political parties to one of pluralist democracy.
4. Participants noted that the Conference had made it possible for different social and political sectors to work together in the search for ways and means of strengthening peace and democracy within States and throughout the Central African subregion. In that regard, they warmly thanked the Secretary-General of the United Nations for his firm support and for the material assistance which the Organization had provided to the Committee to permit the holding of that important Conference. Participants expressed the hope that more such meetings would be held.
5. They also thanked the Secretary-General for providing constant support and encouragement to the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa , a key political mechanism for building confidence and enhancing cooperation for peace and stability in a turbulent subregion.
6. Participants recognized unanimously that, as the Secretary-General of the United Nations had stressed in his report to the General Assembly and the Security Council on the causes of conflict and the promotion of durable peace and sustainable development in Africa, democratic government helped to guarantee political rights, protect economic freedoms and foster an environment where peace and development could flourish.
7. Accordingly, and convinced of the need to establish in their subregion open political systems which permitted the full participation of all social and political forces, they reiterated their firm commitment to promoting democracy in their own States and to contributing to the stability of the Central African subregion as a whole.
8. They reaffirmed the sovereign right of each State to establish a political, social and economic system appropriate to its own culture and to determine the rate at which its institutions would be democratized, while respecting universal principles, particularly those set forth in regional and international instruments such as the Charter of the United Nations, the Charter of the Organization of African Unity, the African Charter of Human and Peoples' Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
9. They recognized that the establishment of solid democratic foundations in each member State , and in the subregion as a whole, would help to increase stability, strengthen the bases for conflict prevention and promote sustainable socio-economic development in Central Africa .
10. They emphasized that, despite all the pitfalls, it was necessary to persevere on the road to democratization, which was not an isolated event but a continuing process, in order to create the ideal conditions for the prosperity of the States and peoples of the entire subregion.
11. While reaffirming the sovereign right of each nation to determine the nature and rate of democratization of its institutions, they recognized unanimously that that process must inevitably lead to the development of a dynamic political system capable of allowing the full expression of the people's will and based on the following principles:
- respect for the rule of law;
- efforts to combat impunity;
- political pluralism;
- the organization of free, transparent and honest elections;
- freedom of the press;
- independence of the judiciary;
- respect for human rights and human dignity;
-promotion of a genuine, essentially non-violent democratic culture; and
- the practice of dialogue and tolerance.
12. In order to provide a sustainable basis for the democratization process and to strengthen peace in the Central African subregion, participants adopted the following measures and recommended the creation of the following mechanisms at the inter-State and internal levels:
At the inter-State level
(a) In response to a proposal by His Excellency Mr. Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, Head of State of Equatorial Guinea, the Conference recommended that a subregional parliament should be established in Central Africa as soon as possible. That parliament, which would be responsible for dealing with issues of common interest designed to strengthen confidence-building measures and peace in the subregion, would be composed of parliamentarians elected in pluralist, democratic elections in their respective countries and appointed by their national parliaments. The subregional parliament would serve as a key mechanism for cooperation and for the promotion of democratic values and the democratic experiment in Central Africa and would meet in the member countries on a rotating basis.
(b) Convinced that the democratization process involved not only politicians but also peoples, and in order to give the subregional parliament all the support that it deserved, participants recommended that representatives of civil society, particularly organizations for the protection and promotion of human rights, organizations for enhancing the status of women and youth movements, should be given permanent observer status in the parliament.
(c) Participants instructed the Government of Equatorial Guinea, in consultation with the current President of the Bureau of the United Nations Standing Advisory Committee on Security Questions in Central Africa , to notify the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the international community as a whole in order to facilitate the early establishment of the subregional parliament.
(d) Participants reiterated that it was urgently necessary for all States of the Central African subregion to sign and scrupulously observe the Non-Aggression Pact jointly negotiated, adopted and signed by them in order to avoid resorting to the use of force in their reciprocal relations. They again called upon Angola and Rwanda to sign the Pact and invited signatory States to ratify it.
(e) Aware of the vital importance of establishing and ensuring the effectiveness of democratic institutions in the subregion, participants appealed to the international community to help train competent national personnel, particularly in the areas of election organization and the proper functioning of democratic institutions.
(f) In order to give the peoples of the subregion a better understanding of the ideals of peace and a democratic culture in Central Africa , the Conference requested the Secretary-General of the United Nations to facilitate the publication and wide dissemination of the results of the historic Bata Conference.
At the internal level
(a) Stressing the need for scrupulous respect for the rule of law, participants unequivocally condemned the use of armed force as a means of winning and retaining political power.
(b) Participants recalled that the role of the armed forces was to guarantee republican institutions, due respect for the law and the stability of the State governed by the rule of law.
(c) Convinced that good governance and transparent management of public affairs would promote public well-being and improved economic performance in the subregion as a whole, participants stressed the need to combat corruption and impunity.
(d) Participants reaffirmed that respect for the civil and political rights of individuals, human rights and the rule of law as a guarantor of equity and social justice was the best safeguard against threats to the peace and internal security of States and to the strengthening of democracy.
13. Participants recommended that there should be more frequent contacts between politicians and civil society both within and among the various member countries of the Committee, in order to build public confidence in State institutions and to make elected officials accountable once more to the State and the general public.
Done at Bata on 21 May 1998