The accidental ecowas citizen 22082011

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The accidental ecowas citizen 22082011

  1. 1. “The Accidental Ecowas & AU Citizen” By E.K.Bensah Jr As West African leaders got together for a series of important meetings last week at ECOWAS headquarters in Abuja, I could not help but wonder how many of our Ghanaian journalists were monitoring the meetings. According to the ECOWAS website, many of the meetings centred on ECOWAS getting serious on the ratification of its protocols, including that of free movement; as well as strengthening the ECOWAS Parliament to move from an advisory role to a legislative one. Given the furore in the country of the unavailability of gas, I could not help but wonder how many Ghanaian journalists were equally monitoring what our policy-makers were saying about the necessity of the ECOWAS-backed West Africa Gas Pipeline coming on board as quickly as possible to help alleviate the gas shortage supply. When The Chairman of Ghanaian Parliamentary Committee for Energy and Mines (Oil & Gas), Mr. Moses Asaga, lamented the inability of the West Africa Gas Pipeline project to deliver at the stipulated period, saying the Independent Power Projects built to the West Africa Gas Pipeline (WAGP), how many of our media practitioners took note? How many even knew that he was speaking at the Petroleum Club meeting -- a forum for the Nigerian indigenous oil and gas players in the upstream sector of the nation’s petroleum industry only last week? Still, how many of the media houses know that the WAGP is the first sub-regional natural gas project in sub-Saharan Africa, and that it was initiated by governments of Nigeria, Benin, Ghana and Togo to supply gas from the Escravos region of Niger Delta to feed gas-fired generating plants of the three participating countries. Then there’s the 17 June bombing in Abuja, where the UK-based “Daily Telegraph” reported that an AlQaeda-linked suicide bomber was behind the bombing of the police station in the home of the ECOWAS’s major institutions. While the BBC and the Nigerian media were reporting it was the Islamic sect Boko Haram that was behind the bombing, I was expecting its small neighbor in the Ghanaian media to read between the lines and speculate what it would mean for regional peace and security. Regrettably, that did not happen. Given Ghana’s instrumentality in the Ivorian civil war—not to mention its proximity to that country (with all the attendant peace and security implications), it beggars belief why Ghanaians did not go further to interrogate the impact of peace and security, and its implications for the region. Even if one can forgive the media for this lack of foresight as the world moves increasingly from a national to regional, I believe it is important that now that the dust has settled, we take a moment to look back briefly at the Ivorian crisis as a moment to reflect on how better to think about ECOWAS. 1
  2. 2. Back in January this year, I was heartened by the fact that there was a lot of interesting discussion around Ivory Coast, but I want to try to put paid to erroneous theories that were being bandied around. First, Nigeria: those who were associating military intervention with a whim of Nigeria were woefully wrong. Goodluck Jonathon was only toeing the ECOWAS line. According to p.15 of the ECOWAS Framework for Conflict Prevention (ECOWAS, 2008), military intervention is the last resort "in the broader framework of peace and security architecture”. Jonathan just happened to be chairing ECOWAS at the time of the crisis. It could have been any of the other fourteen members proposing it as a last resort. Secondly, ECOWAS’s ability to intervene: ECOWAS set a precedent of military intervention back in 1989 when it intervened in Liberia. The force was called ECOMOG, and 70% of it was indeed Nigerian. They went in with the mandate of peace enforcement. There were problems, but it was not an illegal intervention. Chapter VII of the Security Council enjoins regional organisations to utilise regional organisations "in the maintenance of international peace and security for which the Security Council is primarily responsible". Third, ECOMOG vs Ecowas Standby Force: ECOWAS has had missions in Liberia (ECOMOG); Cote d'Ivoire(2002); Sierra Leone; Guinea-Bissau. These had different acronyms and were not all known as ECOMOG. In 2010, the African Standby Force (ASF) was born, under which the ECOWAS Standby Force(ESF) is a regional node, a kind of rapid reaction force. Each African region has one (there are five in total). This is what would have likely been used to intervene to depose Gbagbo. They trained in October 2010, and have the experience to avoid maximum bloodshed. Regrettably, even Ivory Coast correspondent for the BBC—John James—erroneously called the force “ECOMOG”. Fourth, human rights abuses: there were many being perpetrated by both pro-Gbagbo and Outarra supporters, including attacks of UN forces whose sole mandate was to protect Golf Hotel and Outtara. It remains unclear what the justification in attacking UN forces was? ECOWAS has a Community Court, which would have had full competence to hear cases of abuses of human rights. Finally, the prospect of hot war vs cold war: fears about a war notwithstanding, without a qualification of what "military intervention" would mean for Cote d'Ivoire, we were all making assumptions about a "hot war", which might not have been the case at all. In March 2008, the AU, deploying a surgical objective of removing a dictator in the island of Comoros, went in (without South African or Nigerian troops) with AU troops in what has been termed a "successful operation." While that island is small--and cannot be compared to Ivory Coast--it reflects the fact that the AU has a precedent in "military intervention". Research from Swedish Foreign Ministry about the Comoros intervention maintains there were no deaths, but some 11 civilians wounded. Point is: before Gbagbo’s capture in April, there had been much talk about ECOWAS intervention, through ECOMOG, in Liberia in 1989. The arguments are sound about the need to avoid a direct 2
  3. 3. comparison of the situations. What we should have been asking, though, was why ECOWAS and the AU did not come out to clarify what military intervention would mean, given that ECOWAS has a Standby Force of roughly 6,500 troops which could have been deployed. That Ghana stated publicly about being unable to deploy troops never foreclosed the use of intervention by other ECOWAS member states. The rhetoric of force in Cote d'ivoire ironically came a couple of months after the AU declared 2010 to be the Year of Peace and Security. But what the AU failed to also do was provide sufficient information to the wider public about what this means about Africa having a "Peace and Security Architecture", under which regional standby forces, including the ECOWAS Standby Force, be deployed. Even more importantly, I find it curious that neither the AU nor ECOWAS sought to correct perceptions that there might be the prospect of an ECOMOG force--as in Liberia. I would have hoped the two leading African protagonists be more vocal about these misperceptions. That it did not happen and why the Ghanaian media were not asking these questions as well speaks volumes of how much work needs to be done to ensure Ghanaian journalists are talking and speaking about ECOWAS and the AU. It is one of the reasons why this new column was thought-up: to respond to the dearth of analyses about ECOWAS and the AU by Ghanaian media practitioners. The real challenge now is to ensure readers begin to accept these challenges and be ready to respond to them. Secondly, ECOWAS likes to make a lot of noise about the sub-region moving from an ECOWAS of States to an ECOWAS of the people – as per ECOWAS Vision 2020. For it to be realized, it is going to take all of us to get there. Will you join me? In 2009, in his capacity as a “Do More Talk Less Ambassador” of the 42 nd Generation—an NGO that promotes and discusses PanAfricanism--Emmanuel gave a series of lectures on the role of ECOWAS and the AU in facilitating a Pan-African identity. Emmanuel owns "Critiquing Regionalism" (http://www.critiquing-regionalism.org). Established in 2004 as an initiative to respond to the dearth of 3
  4. 4. knowledge on global regional integration initiatives worldwide, this non-profit blog features regional integration initiatives on MERCOSUR/EU/Africa/Asia and many others. You can reach him on ekbensah@ekbensah.net / Mobile: 0268.687.653. 4

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