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Friday, April 19, 2024
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                                                                                                                                  Ecowas ridicules itself

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It’s an indisputable fact that the Economic Community of West African Stares (ECOWAS) used to be a role model among its peers – the Regional Economics Communities (RECs) when it comes to upholding the tenets of democracy and good governance on the continent.

This is substantiated by Article 1 sub section c of the bloc’s protocol on good governance and democracy which states that there shall be “Zero tolerance for power obtained or maintained by unconstitutional means”. It’s a common knowledge that obtaining or maintaining power by unconstitutional means can be realized through both military and “constitutional” coup d’états, however, regrettably the body recognizes only the latter as unconstitutional means of ascending to the helm of power. This approach by the organization undermines the value of this very important constitutional convergence principle, thus impacting negatively on the integrity of the regional bloc as it is widely seen as a club bent on only consolidating the serving presidents’ grip on power.

The only time ECOWAS seems to actively flex its muscles is when there is a military coup in a member state. This is the time the Commission (administrative arm) of the bloc issues stern warnings and condemnations and more often than not financial and economic sanctions apparently targeting the junta leadership.  Contrary to this approach, when a president of a member state changes the constitution in his/her favour with the aim of perpetuating or extending his/her mandate albeit through national institutions (parliament/judiciary) the “mafia club” will retreat to the doldrums and even go extra mile to disregards any upheaval by citizens of the affected country.

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It’s high time the West African regional organization understands the fact that the purported financial and economic sanctions targeting the coup leaders end up hurting the ordinary citizens as they bear the greatest brunt of those disciplinary measures.

I think this is precisely the reason why amid the biggest crisis in its history, the regional body is now prioritizing dialogue over confrontation in an attempt to keep military-led countries (Mali, Niger, Guinea etc) who have threatened to quit the bloc within its camp.

Apparently, the bloc has now decided to change its strategy following months/years of tussling with the military coup leaders and also after realizing that the sanctions rather affect the ordinary citizens who are bearing the brunt. The primary aim of these political, economic and trade restrictions were to force the military to organize elections within a reasonable timeframe.

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However, the strategy fails because the economic growth of ECOWAS countries depends mainly on foreign trade. According to International Trade Centre (ITC), ECOWAS intraregional trade accounted for only 8.4% of total trade in 2014.

On the other hand, the US, five EU countries (France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, and Spain), and China account for approximately 68.3% of ECOWAS trade (UNCTAD, 2015; Olakojo: 2018).

The regional organization should therefore be wary that any financial and economic sanctions targeted at any member country will woefully fail to achieve it intended goal because of the limited intraregional trade among ECOWAS member states.

Yaya Barjo

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