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Although some West African countries have made positive gains in consolidating peace and human rights, such strides are being undercut by the paucity of good governance, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon writes in a new report.

“The resurgence of coups d'état in West Africa, which I have consistently denounced, and the major role played by the armed forces in these coups, are a reflection of the difficult civil-military relationships in situations of bad governance,” he says.

In February, a military ruling council in Niger dissolved the Government, seized the President and suspended a contested constitution that would have allowed then President Mamadou Tandja to remain in power beyond the stipulated term.

Meanwhile in Guinea, unrest erupted last year after the forces of Moussa Dadis Camara, who seized power in a coup in 2008 following the death of long-time president Lansana Conté, opened fire on unarmed protesters at a rally, killing at least 150 people.

The Secretary-General says that he is “encouraged” by developments in both countries, with the Government of Niger working to restore democratic rule and address the country's humanitarian crisis, while Guinea's transitional authorities remained committed to holding presidential polls late last month.

Although most countries in the region have been politically stable in the past six months, Mr. Ban notes in his latest report on the UN Office in West Africa (UNOWA) that increased election-related tension and violence, as well as weaknesses in armed and security forces, have threatened democratic processes.

The limited availability of credible and up-to-date data on population trends often leads to disputes over voter registration, hampering efforts to promote democratic governance, the report says.

In it, the Secretary-General also calls on West African leaders to bolster their national policies and for greater regional cooperation to fight cross-border criminal activities and terrorist threats.

In addition, he voices concern over human rights violations. “Given the sensitivity of faith and ethnic-based violence, I urge governments, civil society organizations and community leaders to develop mechanisms, with the support of the international community, for addressing situations of tensions.”

Accra / Ghana/ Africa /