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Guinea-Mali: has ECOWAS fallen out of favor?


Following the expulsion of the ECOWAS representative in Bamako and while the regional body is unable to do so in Guinea, ECOWAS will organize a new extraordinary summit on November 7. Objective: "To rule on Guinea and Mali".

"More powers should be given to ECOWAS because it has no legal instruments to take firm measures." The observation of the Member of Parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Awaji Abiante, is clear: ECOWAS, in recent years, has remained ineffective.

The summit of the ECOWAS parliament, which concluded in Winneba on 22 October, was disappointing. This time it is the heads of state of ECOWAS who have planned to meet. Indeed, according to French media, an extraordinary summit of ECOWAS heads of state will be held in Accra on November 7. The agenda would be, according to RFI in particular, to rule on Guinea and Mali.

The divide between ECOWAS, Mali and Guinea

After the expulsion of Hamidou Boly, the representative of ECOWAS in Mali, by the Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdoulaye Diop, can ECOWAS hope for cooperation from Bamako? Hamidou Boly was, according to Diop, "engaged with groups and individuals who undertake activities hostile to the transition and which do not fit at all with his mission". Adding a little tension to the already fragile context, Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo, current President of ECOWAS, traveled to Mali to "deliver a firm message" to the authorities.

Things are not going much better in Guinea, where the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Jean-Claude Brou, made a three-day visit which he describes as "fruitful". However, "the support of the authorities of the transition" of ECOWAS in Guinea, namely President Mamadi Doumbouya and Prime Minister Mohamed Béavogui, seems to have been anecdotal.

In view of the tone of the discussions between ECOWAS, accused of ineffectiveness by some and too great tolerance towards certain dictators by others, and the Malian and Guinean juntas, will the Accra summit be able to lead to concrete actions? Nothing is less sure.

What can an unarmed ECOWAS do?

As a matter of fact, ECOWAS no longer has any additional leverage, whether on Mali or Guinea, since it only has a limited arsenal. The sub-regional organization generally relies on three strengths to exercise a political role in member countries: first, sanctions, none of which was spared following the Malian and Guinean coups; secondly, pressure from the international community and financial bodies, a weapon also worn out; finally, a military intervention which, historically, is only possible in the event of a consensus between the presidents of the ECOWAS countries. And we are far from it.

Especially since the White Helmets of ECOWAS (Ecomog), have a track record as questionable as that of their parent organization. From the civil war from Liberia to Sierra Leone, via Guinea Bissau and the most recent intervention, that during the Gambian crisis, the Ecomog is de facto an army considered as Nigerian. Can we say that Nigeria is still assuming its role within ECOWAS? Not really. At the heart of the internal conflicts within the organization, Nigeria is at the head of a group of states - Senegal, Guinea-Bissau and The Gambia - whose relations with the regimes of Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (IBK ) and Alpha Condé were more than cold. And concretely, with the exception of Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara and his Togolese counterpart Faure Gnassingbé, who cannot afford to threaten Mali or Guinea, Nana Akufo-Addo seems alone to want to impose the will of ECOWAS on the transition states.

A simple "union of heads of state"?

The ECOWAS summit of November 7 therefore resembles the previous ones. The heads of state of ECOWAS are unable to support a strong position, because not all decisions are in fact unanimous. Officially, the economic interests of the neighboring states of Mali and Guinea are at stake. In reality, the tendency of public opinion to welcome military coups against dictatorial regimes scares some heads of state in the country. 'organization. The latter find themselves unable to act, and helpless, faced with the threat of the scenario repeating itself at home.

Already in September, the Senegalese political scientist Hamidou Anne explained that, "for ECOWAS to be more credible, the presidents who sit there must already be credible people". And Hamidou Anne to note that "we cannot make democracy without the democrats, it is not possible".

However, ECOWAS was already torn between the two camps which sit there. Already in February, Macky Sall and Umaro Sissoco Embaló contested Nana Akufo-Addo's premature desire to be reappointed to the presidency of ECOWAS. The Bissau-Guinean president spoke of a “union of heads of state”, when his Senegalese counterpart explained that ECOWAS “multiplies unfriendly gestures”. A small dispute which exposed the diplomatic conflict which does not speak its name within the body. And if this "union" seems united today, it could only be artifice. At the beginning of September, Akufo-Addo called on Muhammadu Buhari to “actively support the efforts of ECOWAS” in Mali and Guinea. A plea that will have served no purpose.

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