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The Economic Community of West African States since its promulgation has failed to live up to its mandate hence the recent Coup d’etats that has swept parts of West African States is not a surprise but eminent.
ECOWAS was established with the aims of establishing economic Union among West African States in order to raise the living standards of its people, to maintain and enhance economic stability among member states, and to contribute to the progress and development of the African continent especially West Africa with the objectives of promoting regional cooperation and development among member states, Harmonization of Agricultural, economic, monetary and industrial policies as well as abolishing trades restrictions and customs duties across the boarders of member states.
But these aims and objectives of ECOWAS has been in futility and ECOWAS is gradually becoming a laughing stock because it has failed to address the socio economic needs of the people and in worst case scenario institutionalized corruption amongst its Leaders has rendered many people to live in abject poverty because its Leaders instead of promoting economic stability that will raise the living standards of the people are rather focusing on amassing wealth at the blind side of citizens depriving them of their social and economic needs.
To this end, JIHADIST activities has been on the rise in the sub region and if care is not taken, these JIHADIST activities could spread the more in the sub region because the JIHADIST has taken advantage of the vulnerability of those living in abject poverty to recruit them and provide safe haven for them thereby preparing them for terrorists attacks across the sub region in recent times. This is the more reason why the Military of these vulnerable states have taken it upon themselves to rescue their countries and protect their territorial integrity against Jihadism because the civilian governments have failed to provide the needed resources for them to fight Jihadism.
This could be said about Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad and recently Niger. All these Coup d’etats resonates with the good people of these affected states so more or less it’s a popular uprising and the reason why any attempt by ECOWAS to use military intervention to restore civilian rule in Niger could distabilized sub region the more whiçh will in effect trigger more Jihadist activities in the sub region.
Of Course the Sovereignty of every state is its Security, Economic stability and Social Development. But in the case of West and central Africa, there is nothing to show when it comes to Security of States because of threats of Jihadism, lack of economic stability and Social Development as a result of bad Governance, social repression, economic mismanagement and institutionalized corruption. The irony of it all is that these Coup d’etats have taken place in Francophone West Africa where there is growing perception that France have failed to protect the Sovereignty of these States against external aggression of Jihadism and rather focusing on the economic benefits they could gain from their former colonies by taking commanding heights of mineral and natural resources. This perception is sinking deep amongst the francophone West Africa amidst corruption amongst its Leaders. So the perceived involvement of Russia Wagner groups occupying parts of the sub region providing intelligence for the military is not a surprise. This is because Leadership have failed to address the issues and concerns raised by the military against Jihadism as well as the plight of the ordinary citizen faced with economic hardship. So it’s perceived that the Wagner has entered West Africa to protect the interest of the ordinary citizen against bad Governance and to fight terrorism which the political leaders have failed to do so. To the people, this is in the right direction so they intend to cut ties with the West to focus on their sustainable livelihood development and Their security.
What is the Military Fighting?
Until the Military take over in Mali, the country was divided among the government and Jihadist. Northern Mali was under the control of Jihadist and South under the control of government. All attempt to coerse the government to support the army to fight Jihadism failed. There was a growing state of insecurity in northern parts with rampant terrorist attacks which the government failed to address upon several pleas by the military. At the time the Military needed financial support and requisite logistics to fight Jihadism, the President awarded contract to his son to purchase a Presidential Jet.
In Guinea, it was perceived that when Doumboya and his men were calling for better condition of service in the military, the government was embarking on pay cuts in civil and public servants while increasing the salaries of the executive and more so Alpha Conde intention to subvert the constitution to run for a third term.
In Burkina Faso and Niger there is perceived corruption amongst the political elite whiles majority of citizens lives in abject poverty and also government failure to address Jihadism.
So in the circumstances, Fighting Jihadism and institutionalized corruption Is key to the military take overs and no institution can suppress the will of the Military because their actions resonate with the masses. It is the masses who calls for that . The Military of the affected regions of Jihadism are united in purpose ie Mali, Niger, Guinea and Burkina Faso fighting a common course and no amount of intimidation or threat by ECOWAS can undermine their will to protect the territorial integrity of their countries by Air, Land Sea.
What is more suspicious is that the defunct Tuareg Ethnic Army whom for years Gaddafi paid them to protect the Sahara desert against external aggression and to maintain security in the Maghreb regions have broken loose and joined Jihadist groups since the overthrow of Gaddafi by perceived western influence . So the overthrow of Gaddafi was needless since it has rather created instability not only in Libya but in the sub region as well. This situation has distabilized the Maghreb regions which has become a safe haven for Jihadist to mobilize themselves to attack. So, a Military intervention by ECOWAS to restore civilian rule in these affected regions could trigger war which the Jihadist could take advantage to advance their Course. Without diplomacy and dialogue ECOWAS can never bring the United Military front of Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Niger and Guinea on its knees. ECOWAS decision to give ultimatum to Niger to restore civilian rule was in a haste and needless and creates the suspicion that its Leadership are not ready to address the concerns of the ordinary people who the military has become their voice. If ECOWAS is interested in the security of the sub region then it must as well address the concerns of the people of Senegal where there is political oppression and the people are fighting to protect their democracy because the President have chosen to overthrow the constitution to run for a 3rd Term against the Will of the people same as Guinea and La Cote D’Ivoire.
To conclude, it is reiterated that the solution against Military take over in West Africa is not military intervention or sanctions but a diplomatic one. ECOWAS should rather find reasons behind these coups and address them. Some of these reasons have been stated here So, ECOWAS must do a self introspection to diagnose the challenges of member states and address them. The focus must be on fighting Terrorism and enhancing economic stability among member states that could raise the living standards of the people by formulating and implementing policies that will have direct impact on sustainable livelihood development of the people. ECOWAS must also take steps to address the issues of Institutionalized corruption within member states, social repression and political oppression as well must be addressed. If ECOWAS fails to address these numerous economic challenges, insecurity and threats of Jihadism, there could be More popular uprising which could distabilized the sub region that would render Many more people to live in abject poverty and loss of lives. It is a passing torch and who fix it knows!!
Dr. Michael Richmond Smart-Abbey is a Security Intelligence and Counter Terrorism Expert and Political Analyst, Writer and Author from Ghana.
Author, Terrorism, A Threat To Global Peace And Security.