[BLOG] “The Accidental Ecowas & AU Citizen”: Why Ghana’s Ministry of FA & Regional Integration Must Do More Celebrating ECOWAS/AU (2)
At the beginning of May, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration issued a release to the Ghanaian media, which sought to underscore the sector-Ministry’s continued engagement with African integration initiatives, such as those of ECOWAS and the African Union, which will be celebrating its tenth anniversary this September.
One of the objectives of the release was to equally-emphasize how committed the ministry continues to be in its engagement with the sub-region, through ECOWAS, and the AU. That Africa Day and ECOWAS Day are celebrated on 25 and 28 May respectively made it timely and necessary to remind Ghanaians about the symbolism behind the declaration of May as “Regional Integration Month.”.
What has happened since the release
Since the statement, there has been scant regard to ECOWAS and AU matters in the media. Much has happened within and outside Africa, including the election of President-elect of France Francois Hollande; the dispatching of 300 UN observers to Syria; a G8 meeting to which both the AU Chair—Benin President Yaya Boni—and President Mills were both invited. Also in the news was the rise of the dollar and how that negatively impacts the cedi. Finally, there was a call by the Minister of Trade and Industry Hanna Tetteh on EU day for Ghana to sign the Economic partnership agreements—despite the fact that she has publicly supported the establishment of an ECOWAS Solidarity Fund. Regrettably, even news of Mali has fallen off behind the headlines—all prompting speculation about the lack of a coordinated response by the media in general and ministry of foreign affairs and regional integration in particular around ECOWAS and AU matters.
In my view, here’s how the aforementioned developments could have played out.
First the election of Hollande as French president could have brought out the media-shy and Accra-based ECOWAS agency –tasked with the oversight of criteria for the six West Africa Monetary Zone countries (Ghana; Guinea; the Gambia; Nigeria; Sierra Leone; and Liberia) and the establishment of the “Eco” common currency – also known as the West Africa Monetary Institute (located at the Tetteh-Quarshie interchange, on the Gulf House compound) to intensify its engagement with the media on what the election of Hollande might mean to Francophone African relations, especially the CFA, which the WAMZ countries have planned to merge with the CFA by 2015, when Hollande will still be in office! Even if the media might have had their attentions deflected by all the usual politicking, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration could have facilitated this. After all, these are very topical issues that merit thought, consideration, and some long-term thinking and planning by this Ministry!
Second, the dispatching of 300 UN observers to Syria might have prompted the Ministry to come out with some significant latitude to beef up ECOWAS and AU matters. Whether we like it or not, the fact remains that ECOWAS was able to mobilize and send a standby force to Guinea-Bissau—as per its resolutions, and delivered even on a defined date of 18 May. While not all ECOWAS member states contributed, that there are no less than five countries speaks to ECOWAS’s resolve to nip the Guinea-Bissau conflict in the bud. Conversely, both the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council have not had the testicular fortitude to deal with the Syrian crisis in the manner in which ECOWAS has done by sending troops. UN observers are a far cry from a standby force comprising civilian police and military elements. The ministry seems to have forgotten that the AU has an African Peace and Security Architecture(APSA), through which regional standby forces, such as ECOWAS, are able to deploy troops totalling 6500 troops in total. The Arab League was established in 1945—some thirty years before ECOWAS—yet has not been able to establish a similar structure for its grouping. These developments, in my view, are the kind of developments that ought to serve as fodder to the naysayers of African integration to chew and mull over.
Third, the G8 meeting to which both the AU Chair—Benin President Yaya Boni—and President Mills were both invited. Elsewhere, a suchlike meeting might have prompted reflections on why Ghana and the AU was invited—but not the AU. There are groups in this country, such as the Ghana Trade Livelihoods Coalition that are working with the grassroots to promulgate the ECOWAP, or regional agricultural policy for ECOWAS. The AU has its own NEPAD-supported Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme—which Ghana signed to in October 2009, becoming the 10th country to do so. The Ministry, surely, could have used the opportunity to raise awareness of the impact of CAADP on Ghana’s agricultural policy, long before Farmer’s Day in December!
In the final part, I will be looking at some of the other developments which has found the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration wanting.
Let it be reiterated that until ordinary people begin to put pressure on our governments to do the right thing in the light of important and significant developments like African integration initiatives that we have already begun to identify with (through ECOWAS and the AU), processes will be pushed in our name. It is unlikely we will ever get another visionary like Nkrumah, but the bunch of politicians we have now need that much extra-pressure to deliver—and account to ECOWAS and African Union citizens!
In 2009, in his capacity as a “Do More Talk Less Ambassador” of the 42nd Generation—an NGO that promotes and discusses Pan-Africanism--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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org / Mobile: 0268.687.653.
This article was originally posted on West Africa Business Communities