ECOWAS has been in the news ever since a military junta seized power in Niger on the 26th of July, 2023.
As if reading from a newly dusted template, an emergency meeting of the ECOWAS Authority of heads of states and government, the decisive statement was made: reinstate ousted President Bazoum within a week or expect the use force to do so.
Since then, military chiefs from eligible countries have met twice, in Abuja and Accra to fashion out the modalities of going to war.
ECOWAS insists that war is its last option, preferring the diplomatic route to reaching a settlement.
Indeed, its spokesman claims they are planning for a ‘surgical strike’ to dismantle the military junta. Be that as it may, military historians will tell you every plan has its counter and the unexpected lurks around the corner at all times.
In response, the military junta in Niger has thrown in its own diplomatic response.
It has offered a transition period of three years for a return to democratic rule. No mention of reinstating ousted president, Mohammad Bazoum as demanded by ECOWAS.
In all this unfolding drama, the laughing stock in the eyes of the mass of the people in the ECOWAS region appears to be ECOWAS itself. How and why is this so?
The mantra within ECOWAS, the Authority and Commission, is to restore DEMOCRACY in Niger. As laudable as that objective is, how many people across West Africa believe that that is the case? On the basis of history and precedence, what credibility does ECOWAS have to sell this pretense to the public?
ECOWAS is made up of 15 member states. Who are the protagonists in the decision to restore democracy in Niger? Four are junta barred from decision making: Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali and Niger the newcomer. Next in line are the likes of Cote d’Ivoire, Senegal and Togo who have at some point bastardized their constitutions (or are firmly in the process) by the forceful passage of third term amendments for the incumbent to stay in power.
The masses understand that ECOWAS in principle supports civilian-perpetrated coups, given that it is seen as an exclusive club for colleague heads of states who see no evil from each other. Nigeria, the big brother has its own questionable credentials when it comes to democracy and, no wonder, the courts are still considering the results of the last elections that returned President Tinubu.
Of the rest, Cape Verde has refused to have anything to do with military intervention in Niger.
Who then are propagating this mantra of “return to democratic rule”?
Secondly, why would ECOWAS even contemplate war against one of its own, when three of its members have clearly signaled their resolve to fight on the side of Niger? Who among these economically challenged countries is going to foot the bill for the war?
Further still, why Niger? Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali staged their respective coups without the threat of war. ECOWAS engaged the military junta in the various countries and came to negotiated outcomes of a roadmap in each case. With the transitional arrangements agreed, the peaceful gradual return to democratic governance is assured over time. So why is Niger different? Is it a case of ‘least resistance’? Would ECOWAS be rushing to apply sanctions and preparing for war if the events of 26th July occurred in Nigeria?
Add the geopolitical mix and draw your conclusion about whose side ECOWAS is revving the war machine on.
Niger is one of the poorest nations in the world. All statistics point to that. The question is, why subject Niger to such a senseless and avoidable war that can only further impoverish the country? And who benefits from the military intervention?
It is not for nothing that ECOWAS has lost credibility among the people of the region. For many analysts, ECOWAS must refocus on policies and actions that will bring the love and trust of the people. What happened to “ECOWAS of the People”, as was bandied about some time ago?
Unity is strength and it will serve ECOWAS and the people better if it can mobilize governments and the people to come together to confront and renegotiate a way out of the continued subjugation and exploitation of its members. If Niger is a major producer and exporter of uranium, why can’t ECOWAS lead a collective diplomatic assault to ensure that Niger benefits substantially from its resources? Dismantling the legacies of colonial master servant relations will be more herculean, but that would be a more profitable enterprise for ECOWAS and the people it is created to serve, not war. French West Africa needs the leadership of ECOWAS to unite and confront the elephant in the room for a second independence from colonialism on the economic and military front.
Source: Kwame Tenkorang