Monday, April 23, 2007

Monday Analysis : Of Subregional Imperatives and Regional Integration: CARICOM, IGAD, ECOWAS

J'aimerais commencer en disant "merci" a winbald, le blogger senegalais, qui frequente cette-site-ci. Meme s'il y a longtemps que j'ai visite ton site, c'est tres acceuillant--en fait, ca chauffe le coeur--qu'un blogger ouest-africain suit le site.

All that said, the primary objective of this blog has, thus far, been to raise awareness on the subject of regional integration to the casual visitor(aficionados are not excluded!).

You could say , like the WTO, regional integration is all the rage these days. I would say more specifically, free trade areas (FTAs), what with Japan signing an FTA with ASEAN, or India signing one with non-SAARC countries.

The advocacy website Bilaterals does a great job of providing an-almost daily overview of FTAs signed worldwide.

This blog, however, choses to look at the initiatives; the developments; and the trends in regional integration.

It is not a coincidence that last week, I covered IGAD and CARICOM--perhaps little-known to most Westerners, and even to those in my own backyard of ECOWAS.

Affinity in Conflict?
I find IGAD particulary interesting because from the little research I conducted on it, it looks very comparable to ECOWAS--for one prime reason: its propensity for conflict.

IGAD countries may be small, but most (c.f. Ethiopia/Eritrea/Somalia) are embroiled in some quasi-internecine conflict or other. Look at Sudan--also an IGAD member--with conflict brewing right there in Darfur.

Parallels with West Africa in that regard are uncanny. Remember the Charles Taylor days of Liberia , in 1990; Sierra Leone--before the British intervention; Togo, with its never-ending rule of Eyadema, till his demise in 2005?

Sub-regional imperatives
Armed conflict is far from new in West Africa. Thankfully, ECOWAS, by what I would call its sub-regional imperative of conflict resolution and conflict management has made serious and significant strides in this area. I can foresee IGAD going the route of maximising its experience on conflict for the benefit of the region and the continent as a whole.

CARICOM, conversely, is conflict-free. Arguably, its sub-regional imperative would be different . That said, it is very telling that in the designation, or creation, of the so-called "Single Domestic Space", as outlined below,it chose to create IMPACS--a regional-space-and-security-regulating agency. This seems to be something which appears non-existent in ECOWAS, despite de jure visa-free travel not only having been established, but being, as it were, comprehensively applicable throughout the ECOWAS countries. Like I said last week, a regional organisation that considers the security of its citizens of utmost importance is certainly a serious one!

Finally, last week, I touched on Kenya being the peacebroker for the Ethiopia-Eritrea dispute. Kenya can far from anything be called a hegemon, on account of its size, as compared to Sudan, but in the East African Community, it certainly seems to be quite a leader, among its friends of Uganda, Tanzania, and now Rwanda and Burundi--set to join the community soon.

Kenya looks set to be proactive in these two regional blocs, and I suspect one should begin to keep its eye out for it in the near future.

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