Site icon The Journal of Africa

ECOWAS: Gnassingbé and Ouattara, the last of the Mohicans

After Mali, Guinea. After the coup in Conakry, ECOWAS suspended Guinea. Alassane Ouattara and Faure Gnassingbé seem worried and want to position themselves on the Guinean and Malian issues.

Since this Wednesday, September 8 and the Extraordinary Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) devoted in particular to the coup d'état in Guinea, Faure Gnassingbé and Alassane Ouattara are strangely silent. The two presidents have, of course, reported on their participation in the summit and delivered the conclusions of this extraordinary meeting. But unlike the Bissau-Guinean or Senegalese heads of state, “FEG” and “ADO” refuse to make personal comments on the situation in Guinea Conakry. It must be said that the situation is embarrassing: decried by their peoples, Gnassingbé and Ouattara both carelessly handled their respective constitutions and sought mandates deemed illegal by civil society.

So, the putsch which was fatal in Alpha Condé, in Guinea, worries within ECOWAS: the temptation of the third term for the Guinean president will have been fatal to him. After a controversial constitutional referendum in 2020, Condé was re-elected after an equally contested presidential election. But for some heads of state of ECOWAS, there is no question of supporting the Guinean putschists. Admittedly, the Bissau-Guinean Umaro Sissoco Embaló detonated by estimating that "sanctioning Guinea would be irresponsible and would weaken a country already in difficulty". The other presidents of the Economic Community of West African States have demanded the release of Alpha Condé before any negotiations. In the meantime, Guinea has been suspended from the decision-making bodies of ECOWAS.

The lack of reactions to the tinkering of constitutions

Alassane Ouattara was the very first ECOWAS head of state to meet with Mamady Doumbouya, the head of Guinean special forces behind the coup in Guinea. Monday afternoon, the Ivorian president expressed his concern to the military. The lieutenant-colonel and "ADO" notably mentioned the Conde case. Ouattara warned Doumbouya, telling him that ECOWAS would be attentive to the development of the situation. While the Ghanaian Nana Akufo-Addo is the current president of ECOWAS, Ouattara seems to want to take the lead. Faure Gnassingbé, for his part, is omnipresent in the Malian case despite the mediation provided for ECOWAS by Goodluck Jonathan.

What are the two most questionable presidents of West Africa looking for in the last two countries to overthrow their heads of state? On the one hand, Faure Gnassingbé is trying to play the intermediary between Bamako and Paris, which would ensure him significant support from France if the transition is successful. As for Ouattara, he hopes to play an important role in preventing the “Peul connection” from taking power in Guinea, via a transitional government. In reality, the two Ivorian and Togolese presidents have every interest in acting discreetly and quickly. To do this, they can also count on colleagues who are suspicious of their armies: Mohamed Bazoum had, for example, condemned the coup d'état in Mali. Faced with the succession of putschs in recent months, the most fragile presidencies in West Africa have every interest in choosing their side, that of accepting the “presidency for life”.

This Wednesday, while the extraordinary summit of heads of state of ECOWAS was being held, West African presidents said they wanted to send a "high-level mission", which will discuss "with the new authorities", in Guinea, before deliberate on potential sanctions. In the meantime, the heads of state reiterated their demands published in the press release of Sunday, August 5, especially concerning the release of former Guinean President Alpha Condé. According to the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Burkina Faso, Alpha Barry, ECOWAS demands that the soldiers of the National Committee for Rassemblement and Development (CNRD) "put in place a process which will allow a return to order to be achieved very quickly. constitutional normal ”. A reaction as timid as expected. And the absence of positions taken by the heads of state of ECOWAS shows how sensitive the issue is. Public opinion has heavily accused the leaders of the West African bloc of advocating autocracy. The position of the heads of state of ECOWAS vis-à-vis unconstitutional mandates seems to be the real issue of the Guinean coup today. And Alassane Ouattara and Faure Gnassingbé are undoubtedly the most concerned by this subject.

The unfulfilled political role of ECOWAS

ECOWAS decided in 2015 to take over the monitoring of elections in the sub-region. The body sends two observation missions to each country where elections are held. This political role, which the authority now avails itself of, has given rise to its share of aberrations. But above all, by confirming the results of non-transparent elections, ECOWAS actively supported the autocracy of heads of state in the eyes of the international community. It has also weakened the tendency for political alternation.

If some activists, like Alioune Tine, former regional director for West Africa of Amnesty International, consider that the current context is "an intellectual sham that conceals new forms of constitutional coup d'etat and electoral coup, creating instabilities and regressions ", other observers, such as Ivorian political scientist Sylvain N'Guessan, think that the leaders prefer" to cling, even if it means dying, to power in order to preserve, not only their heads, but also the interests of the family and their clan ”.

Where the shoe pinch, however, is that in front of the heads of state there are weak oppositions in the ECOWAS countries, which today seems to be a brake on improved governance. Assimi Goïta and Mamady Doumbouya are soldiers, whose republican duty demands apolitism. But what are the alternatives? Ensuring the continuity of the state and executing electoral programs is a challenge. And if Guinea, Mali, or any other ECOWAS country seeks a way out of the socio-political crisis, are the populations really spoiled for choice when it comes to electing their representatives?

So, when ECOWAS calls for the restoration of institutions, which institutions are we talking about? The administration, justice, public enterprises and the press are not independent in Guinea. Successive coups by international bodies have consciously brought African states to their knees. And it is virtually impossible, even in an age of globalization, to skip the steps on the road to democracy. Especially without a minimum of support from ECOWAS.

Exit the mobile version