Gerald Bareebe & Emmanuel Gyezaho Kampala The Executive Council of the African Union yesterday piled pressure on African leaders to ratify the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance as an instrument of improving governance on the continent. The Council, which is comprised of ministers, expressed concern over the delay in ratifying the charter, which they believe will provide a major step in the democratic process of Africa and act as a key remedy to internal conflicts which often lead to forced displacement of people. The ministers are currently charting proposals to deal with Africas worrying refugee and IDP crisis at a special summit of the AU in Kampala. Since its adoption during the AUs Eighth Summit held in Ethiopia in 2007, only two of 29 African countries have ratified the charter, a matter that appears to indicate a general lack of political will. The charter can only come into force once ratified by at least 15 member states. The controversial charter points out that political pluralism and free elections are essential for democracy and underlines the principles of the role, rights and responsibilities of political parties, including opposition parties. Internal power struggles on the continent have been at the centre of political instability in several African countries which has led to armed conflicts and the resulting problems of displacing citizens and creating refugees. AU Director of Political Affairs Ambassador Emile Ognimba expressed his frustration with the delay in ratifying the Charter which he said can go along way in helping address Africas political woes. We needed 15 members to ratify it but so far we have only two, Mr Ognimba said. I cannot tell why we only have two. Can we say that they do not want it? I believe they have not been sensitised about it. According to the Charter, member states commit themselves to establishing and strengthening independent and impartial national electoral bodies. Mr Ognimba said if ratified, the Charter would go a long way in helping to deal with the vice of vote rigging which has been at the centre of Africas conflicts. It also emerged that Africas heads of state will debate the draft charter on Thursdays special Heads of State Summit.