[BLOG] “The Accidental Ecowas & AU Citizen”: Mali's Blowback and Implications for CENSAD integration
It is 2033, and the establishment of an African Union Authority (as prescribed at AU meetings back in the early part of the naughties) is a year from being officially launched.
West Africa has been living in relative peace for the past 10 years since legislation from the Pan-African Parliament sought to ensure coherence between ECOWAS and the continental parliament on issues of peace and security. The African Standby Force was finally operationalized in 2015, as per the dictates of the historic AU Assembly back in January 2013 to celebrate five decades of the Pan-Africanism. All the five Standby Brigades of the African Union are fully financed, and while continuing to enjoy minimal and negligible donor support, are almost-fully funded by the established eight Regional Economic Communities.
The African Common Market has been launched and the AU has been enjoying a 0.5% levy on its exports through the Continental Free Trade Area, which eventually segued into a Continental Customs Union (comprising SADC-COMESA-EAC, and ECOWAS-AMU-CENSAD) in 2028 when it was established, enabling the continent to enjoy significant revenue to prosecute the continental integration agenda.
The regional economic communities have continued to streamline AU programmes through the Minimum Integration Programme (MIP). Africa is increasingly becoming an organised space. The sceptics and cynics even are beginning to talk of Fortress Africa, even as continental visas to travel through the continent are issued by designated RECs to African citizens.
In West Africa, something interesting is happening there. In the same way NEPAD was merged into AU structures in 2010, so one finds UEMOA merged in ECOWAS structures as a programme comparable to the AU's MIP. The former Economic Community of Central African States member of Chad has been a fully-fledged member of ECOWAS since 2014, following the AU and ECOWAS efforts to pull resources together to assist Mali to restore its territorial integrity through the UN Security Council-mandated AFISMA. Although West Africans have continued to travel freely in the sub-region, thanks to an MOU between ECOWAS and the Community of Sahel-Saharan States(CENSAD), ECOWAS community citizens that are a member of the now-thirty member regional economic community can freely move within the CENSAD zone.
Working towards the narrative of an effective CENSAD!
In a perfect world, this would have been the optimal narrative of how the world should be twenty years from now. While we may be cynical about the realisation of the narrative, there are important elements that point to why CENSAD could be the next important regional economic community to pay considerable attention to.
Back in October 2011, my piece “Hot Issues on the AU needing popular advocacy (I) – or Travelling Cheaply in Africa, & Southern Sudan” touched briefly on CENSAD. I started off with a history of CENSAD, going on to ask the way forward.
The Community of Sahel-Saharan States was established in 1998 by the late Colonel Qaddafi. After the rationalization of the regional economic communities in 2006, it became an AU-REC – that is one of the eight RECs mandated and recognized by the African Union. It has twenty-eight members, and Ghana is a member.
Despite many meetings that had taken place and a fully-functioning website on http://www.censad.org, the uprising that started in Libya in March threw a huge spanner in the works of the organisation, effectively throwing the regional grouping out of sync with the other RECs at its base in Tripoli. Regrettably, the conspicuous absence of the African Union itself on the future of CENSAD has not helped dispel the notion that the AU is nothing more than a “toothless” bulldog.
The passing of Qaddafi, I intoned, has effectively taken the wind out of the sails of CENSAD, probably throwing all the good work – including the Great Green Wall being built along the sub-region to protect the region from climate change; as well as the establishment of a free-trade area of ECOWAS-UEMOA-CENSAD/ECOWAS-CENSAD/ECCAS along the likes of the SADC-COMESA-EAC tripartite free trade area, which was mooted in 2008.
Going forward, I would expect to see the AU taking serious the need to engage the National Transitional Council in Libya on their commitments to the African Union. This would include discussions on Libya and where it stands on the establishment of the AU-mandated and Tripoli-hosted African Investment Bank, as well as the state of play of CEN-SAD, and how it can be factored into discussions of Africa’s ongoing discussions over Africa’s integration.
In January 2013, an organisation by the name of Centre 4S, which is based in Morocco, and which researches defence and security in the Sahelo-Saharian band /strip; armed violence and terrorism, among other subjects, released a paper in French entitled “Revitaliser le CENSAD”, or reinvigorating CENSAD.
The main idea of the paper is to look at the critical role CENSAD can play in the Sahel; ways in which cooperation and synergy can be created around the zone, and ways in which there can be strengthened cross-border cooperation.
Truth be told, the uniqueness of CENSAD is in its ability to merge ECOWAS; Arab Maghreb Union and ECCASS countries together. The article maintains that the contribution that CENSAD offers its member states ought to be re-examined. Furthermore, the crisis in Mali has set an important precedent for the member states to really get serious on what can be done to use the body as a tool for securing the region politically and diplomatically.
The paper states that “CENSAD should present itself as an institutional and diplomatic framework, of unity and action, capable of formulating a pertinent response, inclusive and varied, to current security challenges.” Even more important for a reinvigorated and re-launched CENSAD should be the aspiration to complement ECOWAS and the Arab Maghreb Union, especially as they are two RECs most-familiar with the security deficits of the Sahel region. These efforts will “equally allow for a better coherence and coordination of different initiatives on the Sahel”, such as Algeria’s Joint Military Command with Mali; Niger; and Mauritania.
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 email@example.com / Mobile: 0268.687.653.
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